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Bankrupt Morals In Bankrupt Stocks

NEW YORK (TheStreet -- Cancelled stocks are the walking dead in penny stock land.

They are set to die but continue to trade. These stocks are usually collateral damage from a bankruptcy ruling based on creditors demands to protect their assets, usually in bonds. Most often, a judge will divvy up the company's carcass, leaving the largest slice to bondholders while equity investors watch helplessly as a stock is cancelled.

Most sane investors would question why in such cases anyone would buy a soon-to-be-cancelled. The answer is simple: the low price, often in pennies, seems too good to pass up.

"A bunch of people trade in the Q's," said Zvi Rhine of Sabra Capital Partners, referring to companies in bankruptcy which have a "Q" added to their ticker. "Every now and then a Q stock will rip."

Cathy Hershcopf is a corporate bankruptcy lawyer at Cooley LLP who said she's always surprised that investors trade in equities that have almost no value and little prospects for improvement. "When a company declares bankruptcy, there usually isn't enough money left for the creditors to be paid in full, much less give any value to the equity," Hershcopf said.

Investors often lose money because they fall prey to speculation and rumor, the currency of Internet chat rooms. A common rumor is that an 'equity committee' will be formed to save a stock, thereby pushing the shares higher and sucking-in unsuspecting buyers. However, these rumors rarely pan out. Once a judge hears from creditors and declares a cancellation, the stock's life comes to an abrupt end, and shareholders lose all their money.

Rick Szambel of Albert Fried specializes in bankrupt stocks and says he's a frequent target of the bankrupt-stock rumor mongering.

"Even when I'm right, I am criticized as being wrong,'' Szambel said. "I quote directly from the disclosure documents, so I'm not wrong. Most regular people don't know where to find these documents or know how to understand them."

Nonetheless, anyone can say anything on the Internet, Szambel said. "Just because someone says it on the Internet, doesn't mean it's true."

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