Tag Archives: showdown

Campos vs. Asensio: More on Short-Selling and The Uptick Rule

This past Tuesday afternoon, April 7, Bloomberg News featured two prominent figures in the world of finance to discuss and debate the SEC’s proposed reinstatement of the traditional uptick rule, or the imposition of a modified version. It sure was a showdown in the world of market regulation. Here’s the recap and analysis…

 

In the Blue Corner arguing in favor of the uptick rule, we have Roel “Jor-El” Campos -Former SEC Commissioner, and advocate of more regulation in the area of naked short-selling.

In the Red Corner arguing against the uptick rule (and, it turns out, any and all short-selling restrictions of any kind) we have Manuel “Lex Luthor” Asensio – Managing Director of New York based Hedge fund, Millrock, (and best Lex Luthor look alike I’ve ever seen!)

 

Slightly resembles Campos, No?

Slightly resembles Campos, No?

Campos does a great job of actually explaining what the uptick rule is and, later in the interview, the difference between legal short-selling and illegal “naked” short-selling. In case you missed it, the uptick rule or uptick “test” would mean “that a short sale [order] cannot be executed [in the market] unless there is some evidence…[by either] a price test or a bid test…as to whether the stock is rising.” Essentially, this means that stocks can only be shorted when they are actually going up at the moment you place the short sale order. He also explains that the uptick rule is a bit of “Chicken soup,” meaning it’ll make the activists and congressional members that have pressured the SEC about it feel a little bit better about the prospect of abusive short-selling being less prevalent in the markets. However, with the markets as computerized as they are today, and with more advancements on the way, it’s still very easy for savvy, sophisticated, investors to “manipulate the tape” – create the appearance that a stock is experiencing buying or selling pressure by placing strategic large orders on the order book – and still get away with the type of dubious activity that the uptick rule is essentially looking to at least hinder. So, Campos actually even concedes to what he also believes as fact, that even restoring the uptick rule or something like it really won’t do much in the way of stopping illegal short-selling activity.

In response, however, Asensio starts off throwing wild accusations at Campos. He references a letter Campos wrote supporting the regulation of short-selling by imposing the uptick rule or some modified version, which was supported by many “main street companies.” Asensio says these companies that Campos represents are “very questionable companies…that should be the targets of the investigations themselves.” He then calls for more deregulation of the markets in regard to short-selling, stating “there is no economic reason why America should cause and force short-sellers to borrow stock.” He tries to make all short-sellers look like they are all some kind of investment superheroes that short stocks purely for the purposes of stopping price manipulation on the upside and to discover true price parity, or the true value of a stock. He even advocates for the legislation of whistleblower protection for members of public companies that are sued by those companies for blowing the whistle, and tries the old guilt-by-association tactic of trying to say Campos “represents” these types of companies. This guy is some piece of work, but if you keep an eye out for the signs and read between the lines, it’s very easy to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Asensios a dead ringer!

Asensio's a dead ringer!

First of all, I’ve been searching for this supposed letter by Campos, which is supported by these “questionable companies,” and I haven’t been able to come up with much. The two that are fairly recent and deal most directly with the issue at hand that I did locate, can be found by clicking the links in this sentence. But neither really mentions nor is endorsed by any public companies…unless Asensio was talking about the companies through which the letters were published? That doesn’t make much sense either though. So, what underhanded, “questionable” organizations is he talking about? To be honest, I don’t even think he knows what companies he’s trying to implicate by saying that. His entire performance is nothing more than the typical cloak and dagger tactics you would expect from a perfidious, villainous, Lex Luthor-ian salesman, especially now, and especially in the finance industry. Is it really a wonder why we are in the mess we are in right now with guys like this running hedge funds?

Secondly, the calmly arrogant demeanor that Asensio maintains throughout the interview is simply an extension of this surreptitiously evil mind trying to maintain this bogus façade of nobility and humility, trying to lure the viewer into seeing it his way, or at least see that he is perhaps much more credible than he obviously is in reality. Saying that short-sellers shouldn’t have to borrow any stock at all and should be able to sell shares at will with absolutely no regard for the downside and the possibility of that trade going against them, is just like saying buyers shouldn’t be forced to actually pay for the stock they buy, and should be able to buy at will. If this were truly allowed to happen, the current economic recession would feel like utopia compared to the economic situation we would be in as a nation if Joe the Plumber and his band of brothers could actually participate in the market without having to actually pay for any trades that went against them. The market would have dropped to 0 if these were the rules for investing, because once the market started to drop from 14,000+ in October 2007, no one would have paid for their trades! Anyone that pretty much bought stock from then through November 20th 2008 – some until March 9th of this year – has been losing money on that trade every day since they bought it! Why the fuck would you pay a trade they were down in by 2, 5, or 10% by settlement, especially if they didn’t have to? NOBODY!

Finally, it’s obvious that borrowing is what got not just us but the entire globe into this trouble in the first place. The fact that on many stocks, mostly very volatile ones, the extent to which you have to “borrow” (to cover for settlement) is as high as 75-80%, is a means of keeping that same type of out of control leverage that was prevalent in other markets and helped get us into this, away from these markets. All trades are based on ifs, and if that trade goes against you, you’ll be glad that the higher requirements saved you from getting crushed on the entire position, because you “were forced to protect” 75-80% of that highly speculative position. Now you’re only getting crushed on 20-25% of it, but at least you’re still in business. It’s tragic when going the wrong way on one trade in Volkswagen could cause a short-seller to take his life, so I’d say this type of protection is critical on all investments, but especially on ones that are tremendously high in speculation.

The uptick rule is like warning labels on cigarette boxes. Shorting, like smoking, is the other side of a 2 sided coin. Buyer’s, like non-smoker’s, and proponents of selling (smoking) restrictions. Non-smoker’s recognize the health risks that smoking poses to the overall community, as buyers recognize that deflating prices, by shorting stocks, brings the overall economy down thereby threatening the economic health of the overall community,  along with the markets. Regardless, shorter’s are gonna short, and smokers and gonna smoke. The uptick rule, like a warning label, simply makes it a little less attractive to do it, and has been proven to have the overall effect of discouraging an action (naked short-selling and smoking) that has proven to at least inject more potential for unhealthy activity.

At the end of the day, it is clear that this was a very poor attempt by Manuel Asensio at trying to maintain the shroud of secrecy around what short-selling actually is and the market manipulation that can and does occur due to abusive naked short-selling. He does great job looking like one of the most diabolically evil genius’ of all comic book history, but is too transparent with his chicanery to truly pull off the full impersonation. In my eyes, Gene Hackman will always be the best Lex Luthor!

The one and only...

The one and only...

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American Sheep, and British Bulldogs

So it’s April Fools Day, and as soon as we woke up this morning, the joke was on us. Today, the U.S. Department of Justice, more specifically newly appointed Attorney General, Eric Holder, has decided “in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment” against recent 7-time convicted felon, ex-Senatorial Representative for Alaska, Ted “Tubes” Stevens. (Great nickname! Click to find out where it comes from) Justice? This must be a joke, right?

Wrong! [Full story as reported by Nina Totenberg of NPR here.]

 Apparently, the blame for this falls completely on the backs of the U.S. prosecutors in the case, as constant delays in Stevens’ sentencing were caused by numerous charges of prosecutorial misconduct. The genius prosecutors that were working for the DOJ and won the conviction case, did so by “concealing evidence that would have helped Stevens’ defense team,” according to FBI special agent, Chad Joy, who was also working on the case. This past February, Politico.com reported on this story and the DOJ’s decision to remove this prosecution team, led by chief prosecutor, Brenda Morris, and DOJ head of Public Integrity, William Welch. The two, along with two other lawyers from the Department of Justice, were held in contempt by the judge, Hon. Emmet Sullivan, “for failure to comply with his orders,” John Bresnahan writes.

This clip explains the circumstances of the current situation with the Stevens case, based on a great scene from the movie My Cousin Vinny. When Vincent LaGuardia Gambini (Joe Pesci) learns from his girlfriend, Mona Lisa Vito, (Marisa Tomei) – I love those names! – that although he may think that he convinced the prosecutor to share the files he had about the case, it’s written in a law book (that Vinny apparently neglected to read fully) that it’s illegal for the prosecutor not to share his files about the case. “It’s called disclosure, Dickhead!” Classic movie! I certainly suggest seeing it, if by some crazy circumstance you haven’t already. However, this scene in contrast with the announcement today by A.G. Eric Holder, shows why even though after watching the movie, one may not like the character of the prosecutor, D.A. Jim Trotter, III (Lane Smith,) at least he still has a great amount of integrity due to his unwillingness to use any real lowdown, dirty tactics, so he and Vinny could have a fair fight between litigators. Unfortunately, the government appointed public officials running this real life and very controversial case couldn’t muster up quite as much honor or integrity.

 

Now the entire case is dismissed, and the 7, count ‘em, 7 felony convictions that “Tubes” should be awaiting sentencing for, are as void as a Wachovia Bank Card. In legal terms, this case is stated as “People v. Stevens,” but that is contrary to the reality of the role of each player. “People” in this phrase, actually refers to “The Government,” and “Tubes” is actually a representative of the masses that make up overall society, also known as “The People,” so the way it’s stated, the names and roles are reversed. In order for the legal terminology to make logical sense, the correct phrasing should really be “Government v. Stevens”. Looking at it this way, would you say that today’s action is a case of “The People,” (Stevens) winning over “The Government,” or did “The Government” win over “The People”?

On the surface it would certainly seem as if the former is true, and “The People” beat “The Government.” But when you get down into the specifics of what make this such a controversial case, Stevens himself is a government official and therefore really a representative of “The Government”, not “The People,” and his actions in this case embody the essence of the very corruption that is currently ravaging our Government from within. His conviction and a harsh sentencing would have been a clear signal to the other crooked, corrupt government officials out there – and they are numerous – that they should probably clean up their acts, or risk the same fate. Now that Stevens went through trial, and was proven guilty, and proven guilty of seven felony counts at that…he’s gonna get off with not even a slap on the wrist!

 

It is obvious why this will rightfully anger many, but what provokes more anger for me is the lack of a true response from the masses, The People, of this country so loud that our government has no choice but to hold Stevens accountable, despite whatever missteps may have taken place during the trial. Give him his right to a re-trial. At least that way, we would get another shot at doing things right and actually have a chance at making the convictions stick this time around. At least then we wouldn’t be doing what we normally do, which is sweeping the corruption under the rug and trying to hide it as quickly as possible, so as not to awaken the sleeping Giant embodied in the power of the outraged and unified masses. By dismissing the case entirely, the Department of Justice, and Eric Holder, have all but guaranteed that old Teddy “Tubes” may never be held accountable for his crimes. What’s more important, however, is that this dramatically increases the perceived sense of safety from prosecution that government officials may feel if they decide to continue this type of unethical, immoral, illegal activity.

Now, although there seems to be a buzz about it online, (as there is with everything) I feel more of an overwhelming sense of the indifference of The People about not just this, but everything these actions taken by the DOJ represent; Billions of tax-payer dollars going to the very banks and institutions that got us and the rest of the world into this global mess, bailouts for Wall Street but not Main Street, corporate slavery and unequal compensation, one hand washes the other, look-the-other-way, good-old-boy politics as usual no matter how illegal, and all other despicable business and political practices that have gone unchecked and unregulated for too long…And it’s all been coming straight from the top of our society, our own U.S. Government, for years!

“You lead from the front. If [a regulator] is not aggressive and competent [in attacking and investigating violations] the organization cannot succeed. Everything comes from the top.”
-Harry Markopolos, 2/4/09. House Financial Services Subcommittee Hearing on Madoff Investigation (video)

I’m sure that some of the more left-leaning media heads will be ranting and raving along these similar lines as myself on their shows tonight, and I’m sure FixedNews, (as Keith Olbermann likes to say) probably won’t even report on it, or they’ll celebrate it and try to sell it to you as the superficial victory of “The People” winning over “The Government,” mentioned earlier. But at the end of the day, by next week, this whole thing won’t even be an afterthought. And by next month, there won’t even be any sign of it in the headlines. The whole story will be lost to the Black Hole of American Indifference, where United States Representatives who are caught blatantly violating the very laws and ethics they are sworn to uphold, can get off easily and become a celebrity or a columnist, making more money and enjoying more fame than they ever did previously.

 I’m sure that even Dick Fuld, especially since it turns out that he didn’t actually get punched in the face, is still living in the lap of luxury right now, when compared to the rest of the country!

 

Meanwhile, across the pond, “The People” of London have dubbed today “Financial Fools Day”, and have taken to the streets, fucking shit up, to demonstrate their outrage with the current state of their economy and government. Parliament, police officers, and especially bankers out there are all scared to death right now of what “The People” will do next.

“What country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

-Thomas Jefferson

Viva La Resistance!

Jon Stewart Conducts the Modern Day “Frost/Nixon” Interview!

Yesterday was truly an amazing day for American history!

First off, Bernie Madoff went to court and tried to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with his sob story of a guilty plea, but the judge wasn’t having it! More on that later.

Last night, Jon Stewart exposed not just Jim Cramer for the Krustonian Clown that he really is, but also CNBC as the Stanford Group/Madoff Securities of the “Financial News” media that they truly are, all in one interview!

Jim Cramer Wants to Make You Money? Yeah Right!

Jim Cramer Wants You for Cramerica!

The scene of Stewart “training all day” for the interview is personally reminiscent of my own time studying for the Series 7 some time ago, so I particularly enjoyed that. Then we see how Doughboy Cramer prepared for the interview – by baking with Martha Stewart and pounding dough with a rolling pin in true Neanderthal fashion, after Martha suggests he think of the dough as Jon Stewart. Stewart responds with the comment, “Mr. Cramer, don’t you destroy enough dough on your own show?”

 

Once Jim Cramer stepped out onto that stage though, it wasn’t exactly war immediately, as Stewart let Jim know that none of his previous comments about CNBC and its coverage of financial news had ever been aimed directly at Jim Cramer. He in fact later informs Cramer that he feels bad that Cramer has become sort of the face of what Jon Stewart has been vehemently and very precisely attacking. Cramer certainly accepted that he understood Stewart’s point and agreed that in the current environment, CNBC and he himself, was “fair game” for criticism. Once all those “courtesies” were taken care of, it was certainly “ON!” and all the fun and games stopped, as Jon Stewart conducted the interview like Jack McCoy trying to squeeze a dirty witness into a deal for more information on the “Big Fish.” And Stewart was out to reel in CNBC and its reputation as a credible financial news media outlet. The war was on!

Stewart hits him with the evidence: clips from a December 22, 2006 interview that was obviously never meant for TV, as Jim Cramer clearly states in the interview that he is making statements and revealing things about his own activity as a former Hedge Fund Manager that he cannot say on television!

 

The Statements: I can’t even say that Cramer all but admit to futures trading manipulation – which is just as simple and illegal as manipulating the trading of a low-volume stock (see the movie Boiler Room) – but that’s exactly what he admitted to doing. That’s why he can’t say it on TV! “Welcome to Mad Money. The show where I tell you what will make you do what we CEO’s need you to do in order for stocks to move in the direction we want it to move in, and yes sometimes that direction is down.” That just wouldn’t work as a marketing scheme, and Cramer, stumbling and stammering like a lion on ice skates, readily tried to use marketing as an excuse for why he acts the way he does and does the “crazy Bull(Bleep)  I see [him] do every night” as Jon Stewart so rightfully and eloquently put it.

 

 

The Meeting (And the Proverbial “Nail in the Coffin: Stewart had Cramer so off-guard from the beginning of the interview with those video clips, that it was a side of Jim Cramer that I’m sure too many Americans were not used to seeing, and were probably pretty worried to see –and we should all be worried! Jim was stuttering and stammering like Jimmy, from South Park, trying to defend himself and his Network, CNBC,  just like the guys on Law & Order that try to hold out on McCoy – like we don’t know they’re gonna get broken down to where they end up revealing every element of the crime. Feeling the heat from Stewart’s poignant, targeted, incriminating questions, Cramer readily admit that he as well as others could have all done a “better job” – spotting the oncoming crisis, calling out the mistakes that were made, and doing their own due diligence on the information they received from corporations (and they frequently receive “insider information”– “Absolutely, I truly wish we had done more.”

Then he goes into this spiel about how he tries to be “truthful” on his show, and expose “these guys” as much as possible, still oblivious to the fact that he admitted to being one of “these guys” during those clips at the beginning of the interview.

 

But then he surprised me and everyone else with enough financial knowledge to know that there’s a reason why you don’t say certain things on TV or anywhere that you can be recorded saying it for that matter. It’s the same reason why you take the 5th on the stand. But Cramer – I guess because he, like Madoff and most other people who have been running scam-like enterprises, got drunk off the illusionary power that enterprise (his show) created, that he felt as if he was a made of Teflon – didn’t plead the 5th! He continued trying to play this investor advocate role, talking about how he readily bad-mouths CEO’s and companies that make mistakes and don’t do well for their investors, as he proceeds to implicate himself in a grand scheme of manipulation of insider information using his show as a vehicle!

 

Thinking he’s in line for the Academy Award for this performance, he opens up and goes into a story about a meeting he had with one such CEO, whom he had previously admonished on his show. Without going into the details of the meeting, Cramer – in true Blagojevich fashion – tells a lot more than he probably should have and seems to be realizing it as he’s telling Jon Stewart how this meeting basically compelled him to refrain from talking down that CEO on subsequent shows. Now you don’t need to be a lawyer, a DA, or a Law & Order fanatic like myself to know that Jim Cramer must have gotten something to have readily gone against his own previous rebuke of a stock or CEO. Obviously, Cramer wouldn’t want you to think he received money in exchange for his silence and cooperation, and he’s probably smart enough not to accept any “money” so as not to leave himself open to easy interrogation. So, Cramer’s implication, what he wants you to believe, is that the CEO of that company gave him some “information” about the company that put him “at ease” about whatever it is that caused him to rant negatively in the first place. And therein lies the rub, because chances are, it wasn’t information, it was “money,” or “gifts,” or “favors,” whatever you want to call it.

 

Let’s say it was information though. Most likely, that “information” was inside information, which is info that only company officers, directors, and other high level employees or partners would be privy to, as it is non-public information. If that is the case, then my belief is that a strong case can be made against Cramer, and possibly CNBC, for stock manipulation and a form of insider trading, at least manipulation of insider information. Jim Cramer already provided all of the evidence!

 

If I was meeting with CEO’s and buying stock in their companies, and a good majority of investors out there watched my show, hell yeah I’d use it to manipulate perceptions as much as I could to my benefit, the same way I’d take a bag of money out of an open unguarded safe.  What Jim Cramer does however, is equivalent to putting on a guard’s uniform and telling people that the open safe is secure because he’s guarding it for you, more people come and put their money in the safe, and when it’s packed nice and tight, he slams the door shut and makes off with the money, in search of another area or arena where he will be able to pull off the same scheme over and over and over again. It’s criminal how he’s able to get away with it, and he and all that help these “shadow government” wheels go ‘round should be held responsible for their actions.

 

Now I know most likely, that this will not happen, and that’s because the Wall Street “Back Room” that Jon Stewart alludes to is real and is in power, running this whole game. The American Financial markets (and the Healthcare and Social Security Systems for that matter) is nothing but a nationwide Ponzi scheme authorized and run from the highest levels. We invest our hard earned money in these companies, whether we want to or not. Just working at a company that trades publicly means that your 401K is invested in the market through them, on your behalf. Individual and Online Investors, can only purchase a handful of all financial products. The rest, especially the “sophisticated” ones, you have to buy or sell through a financial institution aka a brokerage firm. Then, with our 401K, IRA, and pension accounts financing the whole show, these institutions trade with each other as much as possible, constantly turning over (churning and burning) our accounts – which now combine to be lump sums of billions, even trillions of dollars – for them to take bets as risky as possible, and then manipulate and control the markets so that those ridiculously risky (no risk, no reward!), overleveraged bets actually do end up working out through their own magical “invisible hands,” – thier hands in our accounts/pockets! Then you have CNBC and guys like Cramer, Kudlow, and the whole CNBC crew, who all think of themselves as modern day Ruggedo‘s, feeding us the information that fuels the very rumors these company CEO’s and Directors want to use to perpetuate this “Oz-ian Fantasy Land,” where we can all make “Fast Money,” to manipulate any and everyone involved if it will lead to more profits.

This type of manipulation of the American public is 100% legal. It’s the American Way!

 

*Watch the uncensored version of the interview here.

 

The only good thing that may have come about as a result of the Bush Administration is that he and his posse made the abuses perpetrated on the poor and middle class by the American Upper class so blatant, flagrant, and out in the open that he may just end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back. As more and more information about what went on during his “Animal House” of an administration, hopefully we as Americans will continue to wake up from our greed/profit-induced slumber, and will continue to awaken to the presence of the modern-day financial “matrix” where the few control the behavior of the masses. Just like our current banking system, we are the living dead, afforded just enough to keep trucking along in this zombie-like state, as our pensions, 401K’s, and nest eggs are raped and pilaged, traded hundreds of times over for sport. Just like Morpheus says in The Matrix, it is hard to tell how people will react to finding out that the world that have become used to is nothing like what it seems. No one enjoys finding out that they are being manipulated, taken advantage of, and ultimately “you are a slave.” Jon Stewart should be commended for his targeted, well publicized assassination of Jim Cramer “the financial guru”, and for revealing Cramer as a bozo-the-clown like, wild and crazy financial version of Pee-Wee Herman that he is – going nuts in his “Cramerican Play House” during the day, while meeting with shady characters to conduct underhanded, devilish, back-alley deals behind the scenes. Cramer, your hands are just as dirty as those of Dick Fuld, Henry Paulson, and all these brokers and managers at these financial institutions that when they knew their assets weren’t worth anything, used the guise of international investments to spread this garbage around the globe. To pretend as if you are an advocate of the “ordinary American” is not just “disingenuous,” it is criminal, and one way or another, your chickens will hopefully come back to roost. Only time will tell.