|From: SamAntar||4/15/2008 9:12:35 AM|
|Byrne Takes a Counterpunch|
"Beyond avoiding dismissal, Overstock has seen little success, and the SEC closed its investigation of Gradient over a year ago. Now Gradient is going to countersue Overstock and Byrne for defamation."
"As I've said before, the "Litigation Road to Success" business model is at best highly questionable and should be avoided (Ask Darl McBride.). If your company is bleeding cash, your time is better spent fixing your company, not riding off on crusades."
Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO and a convicted felon
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|From: StockDung||4/15/2008 11:46:54 AM|
|Wachovia's California nightmare|
The 2006 purchase of Golden West has saddled the bank with a problem of growing proportions.
By Roddy Boyd, writer
Last Updated: April 14, 2008: 3:46 PM EDT
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Wachovia investors are paying through the nose for the bank's ill-advised California gold rush.
Shareholders in Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia (WB, Fortune 500) were rocked Monday by a nasty one-two punch: a sudden (and dilutive) sale of common and convertible preferred stock, and the bank's first quarterly loss since 2001. Wachovia swung to a $350 million loss in the first quarter, reversing the year-ago $1.2 billion profit, as the bank posted weak numbers across its businesses. The breadth of the bank's losses stunned Wall Street, sending shares down 10%.
Though Wall Street was rife with whispers in recent weeks of a possible writedown at Wachovia, Monday's investor presentation makes for some sober reading. Among many other things, the bank took a $2 billion charge for "market-disruption" losses in the quarter, including a surprisingly high $729 million for unfunded loans and leveraged finance positions. Wachovia also took a $2.8 billion provision to cover credit-related losses.
The most compelling reading, however, concerns the former Golden West Financial, which Wachovia acquired in 2006 for $24.6 billion. And by "compelling," we mean cringe-inducing.
Golden West was a leading issuer of so-called option adjusted rate mortgages (ARMs) - loans that give borrowers the right to pay less than the full bill - with a portfolio now valued at roughly $120 billion. Wachovia's holdings of those loans are getting painful: Wachovia said its reserve for possible loan losses on Golden West's portfolio of Pick-a-Pay variable rate mortgages surged in the latest quarter to $1.1 billion, while late payments nearly doubled to 3.1% of the portfolio.
While a possible $1.1 billion loss hardly seems newsworthy in this era of multibillion writedowns, the fact that 58% of Wachovia's option ARM portfolio is based in California is problematic. Independent research boutique CreditSights argues that a new computer model put into use for Wachovia's risk management is implying losses of between 7% and 8% for the Pick-a-Pay portfolio. That could mean another $2 billion of potential losses. The bank estimated that 14% of the loans appeared to have negative equity, or loan-to-value percentages of greater than 100.
To be sure, Wachovia has avoided the high-profile meltdowns sustained by Bear Stearns (BSC, Fortune 500), which was sold last month to JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), and Citi (C, Fortune 500) and Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500), both of which ousted their CEOs late last year after disclosing massive losses on mortgage-backed securities. Wachovia's chief executive, G. Kennedy Thompson, appeared contrite, telling investors that he was "deeply disappointed" by the bank's quarterly performance.
But last year, Kennedy was sounding optimistic. "We feel confident about the superior credit quality of our mortgage portfolio, the prospects for cross-selling our product set in Golden West markets, and originating Pick-a-Pay mortgages through traditional Wachovia channels," Kennedy told investors on last April's first-quarter conference call.
The bitter irony here is that, while option ARMs can be problematic for both the consumer and the mortgage holder in a housing collapse, Golden West was almost universally held to be the most conservative and ethical underwriter in that marketplace. CreditSights said calls Wachovia's management "top-flight," but says bank management was caught "off-guard" by the housing market's rapid collapse.
As bank investors are painfully aware by now, Wachovia executives aren't the only ones caught flat-footed in this market.
First Published: April 14, 2008: 2:24 PM EDT
Wachovia's big mortgage buy
The smart money saves WaMu
What Warren thinks...
Find this article at:
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|From: StockDung||4/15/2008 11:48:50 AM|
|FORUM: A monster shunned? By Donn W. Vickrey|
April 15, 2008
In the April 11 opinion piece "Shortchanged," Jonathan Johnson of Overstock.com wrote to express his concerns regarding "naked short selling." While I applaud Mr. Johnson"s dedication to a cause that he feels strongly about, I take issue with one of the basic premises of his thesis. Mr. Johnson argues that the financial press has somehow "short changed" Overstock"s battle with investment banking Goliaths and, therefore, neglected "the interests of increasingly disenfranchised small investors and victim companies." Perhaps Mr. Johnson should pay heed to Nietzsche"s advice that "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster."
Given Mr. Johnson"s stated agenda, I find it ironic that his employer, Overstock.com, has a long history of lashing out at critics who dare to express a contrary opinion. Since July 2004, Overstock.com has consistently engaged in what the New York Times described as a "campaign of menace" (Feb. 25, 2006) wherein the Internet retailer has accused a broad assortment of analysts, investors, journalists, politicians, regulators and others in an improbable conspiracy to drive down its share price. For whatever reason, it"s the publishers of contrary viewpoints that have received the harshest treatment from Overstock.com, including a libel suit filed against my firm, an independent research company called Gradient Analytics, and targeted public criticism on more than 20 individual journalists. A half a dozen of those journalists also received SEC subpoenas in regards to Overstock"s "jihad."
The campaign of menace was escalated in late 2005, when Overstock apparently approached another disgruntled issuer, a Canadian drug firm called Biovail Corp., to join in the "jihad." Biovail"s role in the "jihad" is particularly disconcerting in light of a recently filed SEC complaint (March 24, 2008) alleging that "Biovail and [its] senior executives engaged in a pattern of systemic, chronic fraud that impacted its public filings of quarterly and annual reports over the course of four years."
According to Overstock Chairman Patrick Byrne"s own admissions, he "had a hand in" Biovail"s decision to file suit against 27 critics, including Gradient and analysts at Bank of America and Gerson Lehrman, by "sharing his wealth of information" with executives at the Canadian firm (New York Times, Feb. 25, 2006). Unfortunately for those caught in the cross-fire, Biovail"s retaliation has included not only costly litigation but a plethora of other dirty tricks such as hiring private investigators to harass analysts and conduct surveillance on firm principals. Other examples of issuer retaliation include several individuals who posed as potential clients to gain access to the offices of two of Biovail"s critics, the use of a stolen logon ID and password to access a Gradient server from the office of a Biovail attorney (IP address and login activity dutifully documented), and a decidedly slanted "60 Minutes," episode that obscured key facts and attempted to shift the blame from executives whom the SEC now alleges to have committed accounting fraud.
While the price paid by analyst firms is often steep, we must not lose sight of the fact that the most significant damage from issuer retaliation is the adverse impact on the investors who Mr. Johnson and Overstock claim to be advocates for. First, there is the direct impact on investors who are misled when an issuer successfully eliminates dissenting opinions by retaliation against contrarian analysts and journalists. Since filing its vexatious lawsuit in February 2006, Biovail shareholders have lost over half of their investment. Overstock shareholders have faired even worse. Second, there is the indirect impact that occurs when investors lose confidence in a system that strongly discourages analysts and journalists from expressing legitimate concerns.
The SEC has had the problem of issuer retaliation on its agenda now for nearly three years. The last word out of Washington came on Sept. 1, 2005, when SEC Chairman Christopher Cox responded to concerns expressed by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, indicating that the commission was "reviewing this matter and is currently considering several possible solutions for recommendation." A hand written note from the chairman, written at the bottom of the letter, also indicated that, "This is indeed a concern and we will tackle it." Our representatives and regulators must act now to tackle the problem of issuer retaliation before it gets any worse.
As for Mr. Johnson and his employer, if it is truly the small, disenfranchised investor that you are advocating for, please take a look in the mirror. It is only a matter of time before Mr. Hyde once and for all takes over from the good Dr. Jekyll.
Donn W. Vickrey is cofounder and editor-in-chief of Gradient Analytics Inc.
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|From: StockDung||4/15/2008 12:21:53 PM|
|FURTHER MTXX VINDICATION!! The Robins Group LLC (CRD #41894, Portland, Oregon) and Marcus Whitney Robins|
(CRD #870347, Registered Principal, Portland, Oregon) submitted a Letter of
Acceptance,Waiver and Consent in which the firm was censured, fined $25,000, $5,000
of which was jointly and severally with Robins. Robins was suspended from association
with any FINRA member in any capacity for 20 business days and fined an additional
$31,458.59, which includes disgorgement of $16,458.59 in financial benefits received.
Without admitting or denying the findings, the firm and Robins consented to the
described sanctions and to the entry of findings that the firm permitted research
analysts, including Robins, to execute sales of securities in research analyst accounts
in a manner inconsistent with their recommendations, as reflected in the most recent
research reports the firm published. The findings stated that the firm permitted
research analysts, including Robins, to execute transactions of securities issued by
companies that the research analysts followed in research analyst accounts 30 days
before and five days after the publication of a research report concerning the
companies. The findings also stated that the firm authorized stock transactions that
NASD Rule 2711(g)(3) prohibited, purportedly based on an unanticipated change in
the personal financial circumstances of the beneficial owner of the research analyst
account, and failed to maintain written records regarding the transactions and the
justification for permitting themfor three years after the dates when the transactions
were approved. The findings also included that the firm, acting through Robin,
published research reports another analyst had written regarding a company, but the
report did not disclose that the company had compensated the analyst within the past
12 months. FINRA found that the firm published research reports regarding a company
and failed to disclose that the company had compensated a business entity affiliated
with the firm within the past 12 months. FINRA also found that Robins published
magazine articles, which a research analyst considered to be public appearances, and
failed to disclose to the publisher that he or a member of his household had a financial
interest in the securities of the companies, and the firm failed to maintain records of
the articles sufficient to demonstrate Robins’ compliance with the applicable disclosure
requirements of NASD Rule 2711(h) for three years after the articles were published.
In addition, FINRA determined that the firm failed to adopt or implement written
supervisory procedures reasonably designed to ensure that it and its employees comply
with NASD Rule 2711.Moreover, FINRA found that the firm published on its Web site
an inaccurate list of its registered persons, including its research analysts, and the
companies covered by their research, because some of the persons had terminated
their association with the firm.
The suspension in any capacity was in effect from March 17, 2008, through April 14,
2008. (FINRA Case #2005001863901)
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|To: a-hole who wrote (103312)||4/15/2008 3:53:56 PM|
|According to Herb Greenberg:|
11:43:11 AM April 15th, 2008
On a Personal Note…
Just a bit of housekeeping – actually, house cleaning!
On May 1, I’m leaving MarketWatch, Dow Jones and traditional journalism to start an independent research firm with my friend, Debbie Meritz, an analyst/accountant who has been a very good source of ideas in the past.
I’ve devoted my career to journalism, starting in elementary school by delivering copies of the Miami News from my bicycle, to my first job out of college in 1974 as the first business reporter for the Boca Raton News.
I’ve since been part of the evolution of modern business journalism, working from beat reporter to correspondent to columnist to blogger.
When Debbie and I first started talking about the idea of setting up a research firm, it seemed like the next logicial step, just as it did when I left traditional print journalism 10 years ago to join the fledging online world.
Change is never easy, especially leaving a place as great as MarketWatch, which has been my home for the past four years. But change is also exciting and I’m looking forward to the next adventure.
Until then… you’re stuck with me for a few more weeks.
The beat goes on…
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|From: StockDung||4/15/2008 4:46:18 PM|
|UPDATE 2-US research firm countersues Web retailer Overstock|
Tue Apr 15, 2008 1:14pm EDT
(Adds Overstock comment, trial date, byline)
By Martha Graybow
NEW YORK, April 15 (Reuters) - Gradient Analytics Inc has countersued Overstock.com (OSTK.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and the company's chief executive, Patrick Byrne, contending they waged a smear campaign after the research firm published unflattering reports about the online retailer.
In a 2005 lawsuit, Overstock accused Gradient of conspiring with hedge fund Rocker Partners, now known as Copper River Partners, to write negative research reports about the retailer and drive down its stock price. The hedge fund took a short position in the stock, which allowed it to profit from the stock decline, according to Overstock's claims.
Gradient said it filed its lawsuit on Monday after the California Superior Court granted its motion to bring the counterclaims. It accuses Byrne of libeling the research firm in remarks made to reporters, money managers and market analysts during conference calls and media interviews from 2004 to 2006.
"Public companies cannot have license to libel research firms and use litigation to retaliate against analysts who are critical of their business," Gradient President and CEO Brad Forst said in a statement on Tuesday.
The research firm accuses Overstock of defamation, tortuous interference with prospective business relations, and unfair business practices.
Overstock General Counsel Mark Griffin said there was "nothing new in this cross claim" and that the company was studying whether it could have the research firm's lawsuit dismissed.
"We knew this was coming. It has been filed late in the proceedings," he said. "We have been going more than two years defeating Gradient at every stage of the litigation. All major court contests Overstock has won. We fully expect to win this one."
Overstock's lawsuit is set to go to trial on Sept. 9.
Shortly after Salt Lake City-based Overstock brought the case in 2005, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched a probe into whether Scottsdale, Arizona-based Gradient helped manipulate stocks.
In February 2007, the SEC informed the research firm that it had ended the investigation and no enforcement action had been recommended, according to Gradient.
Overstock shares were down 2.3 percent to $13.49 in Tuesday afternoon trading on the Nasdaq. (Editing by Derek Caney and Tim Dobbyn)
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