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TheStreet Open House

Don't Let Citron Research Sour You on Plug Power

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Plug Power (PLUG) is gaining today, and for good reason.

Citron Research, a short seller that has made a name for itself uncovering Chinese stock frauds, set its sights directly on Plug Power earlier this week, creating an avalanche of selling that culminated in the Latham, New York-based maker of alternative energy technologies losing 40% of its market capitalization in a single session.

That's called moving the market.

On Tuesday, I warned investors not to get caught up in the emotion of Plug Power or similar alternative energy companies, Fuelcell Energy  (FCEL) and Ballard Power Systems (BLDP). But speculators grabbed those stocks anyway.

Plug Power's rapid decline was prompted by a negative report and televised comments from Andrew Left, Citron Research's founder, and a man not unaccustomed to controversy. Left has a history of becoming the news as much as the stock in question.

According to the National Futures Association, Left was sanctioned for "false and misleading statements to cheat, defraud or deceive a customer in violation of NFA compliance rules 2-2(a) and 2-29(a)(1). Left's conduct was inconsistent with just and equitable principles of trade."

As a consequence, the NFA panel "barred Left from association with and from acting as a principal of any NFA member for three years; ordered him to take an ethics training course; and placed restrictions on his activities for two years which prevent him from supervising any AP and require him to tape record and log all conversations with current and potential customers."

You may not have been aware of that information when Left appeared on Comcast's (CMCSA) CNBC on Tuesday to talk about Plug Power. The network apparently decided it was reasonable to allow Left to state his case without another guest challenging his claims. the result was a turkey shoot.

PLUG Revenue (TTM) Chart

It's not unusual for the market to quickly brush off a negative Citron Research report and continue higher. I know this from firsthand experience. After shorting falling stocks in the immediate aftermath of negative reports and watching my short reverse back higher too many times, I've learned to remain skeptical about Left's research.

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