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SEC Could Use 'Naked-Shorting,' Apple Alerts

A while back, to its credit, the SEC issued an Investor Alert on one of the more egregious naked-shorting scammers, CMKM Diamonds. But the feds haven't done a thing about the stream of baloney flowing from Overstock.com, or tackled another prominent naked-shorting "victim," Novastar International, a subprime lender whose squalid story was detailed in Gretchen Morgenson's excellent new book Reckless Endangerment. An Investor Bulletin on Naked Shorting Crybabies like Novastar, Overstock and Sirius XM (SIRI) would bring the SEC well into the 1990s. (So would the SEC actually doing something about Byrne, but I'm not expecting miracles.)

Which reminds me: How about an Investor Bulletin on Restatements? As the trade magazine BusinessFinance pointed out in 2005, restatements of previous SEC filings by public companies indicate "poor documentation of transactions, the wrong accounting treatment, lack of transparency, weak internal controls, and -- in rare instances - fraud." In other words, it's a whopping red flag. Yet there's been no Investor Bulletin on the subject, and little action by the SEC. The SEC's enforcement division -- as part of its policy of ignoring Sarbanes-Oxley -- only rarely imposes sanctions on companies that put out faux financial statements. In the case of Overstock, which has repeatedly had to restate its financials and once fired auditors who disagreed, the company has accompanied its restatements with attacks on Sam Antar, the former Crazy Eddie CFO who has described the flaws in the company's accounting on his blog. The SEC occasionally pursues companies that restate their finances such as Beazer Homes (BZH), which recently dismissed its CEO, but more often it relies on the companies to self-police. Fat chance.

Anything having to do with Apple. Of all the cult stocks out there, the one that has the most gape-jawed fans are the shareholders of Apple (AAPL). Now, don't get me wrong: Some of my best friends are Apple users, and will never use any other kind of computer. But an Investor Bulletin on Anything to Do With Apple would warn investors of the hypnotic effect that the mere mention of the name has on investors. It doesn't even have to involve the company. A case in point: On Tuesday, the financial world went into a swoon over word that, as the Wall Street Journal Online put it, "J.C. Penney is tapping Ron Johnson, head of Apple's iconic retail stores, as its new president and eventual chief executive." "Iconic retail stores"? Sure, they're nice stores, but since they belong to Apple, they are "iconic." I'm sure that Johnson is a fine executive, but the 12% stock spike that accompanied the move was a bit too much.

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