It should probably come as no surprise that a wordsmith is the most resilient hustler in the history of modern Wall Street.
We saw the latest installment this week, but The Business Press Maven wants to tell the entire story as it must be understood: through the eyes of the miscreant's writing ability. The lasting moral to every savvy investor is this: The ability to use words surpasses any requirement in the financial world to be accurate, much less moral. Moreover -- and this is essential to your portfolio's well-being -- do not believe a word this man says, even when he is showcased in otherwise great publications, which serve as apologists for him.
Knowing how to stand out by using words effectively in a world saturated by business media and unencumbered by memory simply trumps substance. Nowhere is this clearer than in the rise, fall and rise again of one Henry Blodget, the scourge of all decent investors and the man who best personified the cynical conflicts between hype men -- uh, analysts -- and investment bankers on Wall Street.
For those of you (this must include most of the business media) who forgot, Blodget is the journalist (that is key to remember) who became an Internet analyst with an uncanny knack for laying out particularly catchy phrases for how high certain dot-com companies would fly. I'm willing to forgive innocent mistakes of lapsed copy editors at
, but the flashy reports Blodget filed for the likes of
-- and his well-spoken public justifications for them -- were no innocent errors.
How do we know?
Because Blodget, always writing, also penned snarky emails to friends and colleagues, admitting that the stocks he was trumpeting so publicly were pieces of crud overvalued at any price above zero.
For a former copy editor turned freelance journalist, he only managed to write one confirmable phrase through all the late 1990s. To a colleague, he famously typed: "Shame on me."
Shame indeed. The authorities circled, civil penalties and a lifetime ban from working in the securities industry were handed out and many thought Blodget had done well by somehow, some way avoiding prison time.
Under a fair system to investors, perhaps Blodget would get a second chance in life putting his talent to use -- teaching at-risk children how to write. After all, he could not be trusted with securities. That was clear. But he knew how to write, how to frame issues, how to lay down a memorable phrase or four.
But shameless man that he is (hey, he said it, not me), Blodget was soon back -- and the business media would let him back -- not as a stock analyst but as a journalist weighing in on stocks.
Less than a year ago, I had to up my
psychopharmaceutical cocktail when Blodget reappeared on
Erin Burnett introduced Blodget as a "blast from the past" and then said this about the poster boy for bad analyst behavior:
"Just want to make sure so viewers know -- most of them should know who you are, but of course you are the one who called for
to go to $400."
Even Blodget -- and this was priceless -- blanched.
"Among other things, yeah," he said.
So what happens this week? In a special financial section of
The New York Times
, they run an article by Blodget, which is bad enough. But look at this headline, which gets the dreaded Business Press Maven "Back of the Hand" award: "
Cautious Words From a Chastened Bull."
That's what one of the biggest hustlers of the Internet bubble has become: nothing more harmful than a chastened bull. In the name of accuracy by the way, if you read those private emails you'll actually know that down deep Blodget was quite a bear back then. It was just for public consumption and those investment banking fees that he was a bull.
Anyhow, the article was smart and well written, which is the point.
The week's coveted Business Press Maven "Nod of Approval" goes to David Weidner at
from Dow Jones, who followed up quickly with an article on the
favorite chastened bull called:
Bludgeoned by Blodget: Tainted analyst keeps talking, making a living off of Wall Street."
Anyhow: I won't have anything else to say about Horrible Henry. Just be smarter than anchors and editors and remember this man for what he is. And Henry, there are plenty of kids out there who need help learning how to write. And there is never any shame in that.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.
A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;
to send him an email.