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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Peregrine Pharma

Joe Friedberg comments, "It would appear to me that the best verification of the bona fides of a person are the vehemence of those who attack him or her. I use short type comments to go back and rethink my long opinions and either modify or enforce my beliefs. I am a criminal defense lawyer and always judge the justice of my cause by the acrimony in the public's view of what I am doing. The more they hate me the more I love it."

EPBoston says, "The problem with short selling is not the fact that they think the stock will go down. It is the tactics used to create the fear that makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are looking to scare the individual investor out of the market then let the bear raids and lies continue without retribution. That is not how a market is supposed to work. The fear of losing is a more powerful emotion than the joy of winning, that makes it easier to deflate a stock price based on deceptive claims. The market sells first then asks questions. Short sellers in general are not investors, they are buy and manipulate as opposed to buy and hold. No one likes a cheat and the short sellers get the reputation they deserve while trying to kill good companies doing good things. Dendreon(DNDN) back in 2004 - 2007, for example."

Tim Trice rebuts EPBoston: "The problem is most the people who are complaining about it [short selling] are the ones who have an emotional attachment instead of treating it like a business. If you run a restaurant, you can't file a lawsuit against a newspaper editor that doesn't give you five stars. You get what you get. And when you make a purchase into a stock, you should have done your due diligence in discovering if there was significant short interest in the stock and what the overall perception of the company is. Many here act as if they have no idea their stocks are being shorted and get blindsided. Try Yahoo! or NASDAQ's website, for starters. Because, bottom line people: the entire market is psychology."

SPPI comments, "You fail to mention that if someone owns more than 5% of a company they have to disclose it. Why isn't that the same for short sellers? If a short seller has a good reputation of being right like the Baker Bros. on the long side people could base their investments on that knowledge. Today it is a big mystery who is in fact short. Why does it need to be a mystery? Is full disclosure and transparency good for the markets? The Answer is yes unless you thrive in rumor/bear raids to make a living."

The my short-selling guest columnist replies, "I do not support longs or shorts having to disclose their positions unless they are planning to become activist. Why? Because I don’t care who owns stock in the company -- I care about the company. You should too. Message not messenger."

Jack writes, "Reinstituting the up-tick rule removed by Cox during the Bush administration, will help level the playing field. The rule worked for many decades, was not broken, and did not require fixing."

Again, the short seller responds: "Several academic studies have shown that the uptick rule does not stop stocks from finding fair value. Did the institution of an uptick rule and short selling ban stop the financials from collapsing in 2008? So even if you ignore this evidence, consider the following three issues with the uptick rule. 1) It is an attempt to pick winners and losers in the market by allowing longs to sell ahead of shorts -- in effect the authors of this rule are saying 'We know better than the market participants' -- astonishing hubris but not an unexpected response from our government. 2) Would you support a symmetric downtick rule instituted when shares increase in price above 10%? 3) As long as market makers are exempted from the uptick rule, it will be a contrivance at best."

No doubt, the debate over shorts and short selling will rage on.

Joe M. writes, "Hello, Adam. I used to absolutely loathe you. Being a new investor and knee deep in Arena Pharmaceuticals around $2 a share, even the thought of you would make me mad. However, during the Arena advisory committee meeting, your articles and tweets after that and especially this new embargo article I have quickly turned around in my view about you. Keep up the great work. I will be a long time reader from here on out."

Thank you, Joe. Proof that I do receive nice email, too, not just the nasty stuff. Speaking of...

John C. writes, "I could care less about your thoughts regarding Amarin or any other stock for that matter. I do however question your motives. You and your ilk epitomize all that is wrong with Wall Street. You stink the place up."

Thanks for sharing, John.

Finally, Issam M. asks, "What do you think about the news of Hemispherx Biopharma(HEB - Get Report) and the price trend of the stock?"

If you wait long enough, even the most wretched and uninvestable biotech stocks recycle back onto the playing field. Last we heard from Hemispherx was in late 2009 when FDA rejected Ampligen as a treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome for a host of reasons, none more important than Ampligen has been proven to be no better than a placebo in each of 564 diseases it's been tested against. [Alright, I exaggerate about Ampligen's futility, the "drug" has only failed 200 or so clinical trials, but who's counting.]

Hemispherx CEO Bill Carter apparently feels like three years is enough time passed to find a new bunch of retail investor suckers who haven't been previously burned by his shenanigans. Hemispherx plans to re-file Ampligen with the FDA using data from the same laughingstock of a phase III trial in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Good luck with that. If you weren't one of Hemispherx's investor victims back in 2009, count yourself lucky and steer clear in 2012.

-- Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Adam Feuerstein.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/adamfeuerstein.

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Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.
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