Holy cow, next time when the television puts on a bear about the Net and tech, make sure he's a bear with credentials! Yesterday's nasty selloff owed a great deal to the
comments of Mark Mobius on
blasting Net valuations. When I got home last night I had 82 emails devoted to only one purpose: getting me to tell the story of how a not-so-great international money manager like Mobius can get his mug all over TV blasting the Net and be considered serious, objective and worthy of the time.
So, let's go over some cardinal rules of journalism:
- Anybody can say anything. We live in a great country. You have the freedom to say anything you want about valuations and groups of stocks. You can't call a company that is not a fraud a fraud. Other than that, there are no guidelines.
Journalists don't give a darn about your record, they just care about your profile. Other than one time when
Forbes interviewed me about whether Dreman is a better manager than I am -- hey, comparisons are odious -- no reporter has asked me about my record in the last year. When I had a bad year
Barron's wrote about it twice,
The New York Times put it on the front page of the business section and
Vanity Fair devoted 8,000 words to my problems.
But for the most part, records are not as important as
your last trade or how big your name is. Mobius is still a big name, whether it is because his firm threw a lot of money behind him and depicted him visiting foreign countries or because he speaks eloquently and elegantly. I don't know. Doesn't matter; he is big enough to do the job. Is he good enough to offer a viewpoint on this? I don't think so. But who am I?
It is very embarrassing to have someone come on TV who has agreed to be interviewed and then have him sandbagged for not knowing what he is doing. A little more than a year ago when I was cohosting
Squawk Box, Joe Granville came on. I had followed Joe's work and record for years and was aware of his shortcomings.
When I pointed them out, or, more accurately, when I asked him if he had ever been wrong, it was one of those moments that I took major grief for. I got written up in the press for beating up on poor old Joe Granville. I thought that was nonsense, but be aware it is hardly an incentive for anybody else to say: "Mobius, isn't it true you know nothing about the Net and never have invested successfully in it?" Or, "Mobius haven't you missed this whole move?" Or, "Mobius, are you just trying to knock down the market because you are frustrated that you don't understand it?"
What do you think this is,
Edward R. Murrow vs.
Joe McCarthy? Get real. This is commerce, not muckraking or expose. Only the old
60 Minutes allowed sandbagging, and if you were dumb enough to let their crew in to sandbag you, you deserved it!
If people had any conviction in what they owned, or if they weren't margined up the wazoo, it wouldn't matter anyway. In October of 1997, when Asia collapsed,
Barton Biggs came on
CNBC and sprayed lighter fluid all over some smoldering Kingsfords! He caused a huge -- and incredibly buyable -- opportunity.
If Mobius is as wrong as I have seen him to be, this will be another one. I don't know yet. And if you are in shape to take advantage of it, you win. If you are not in shape and will be abused by it, you lose. It is that simple.
Finally, if you are that bummed out by watching TV, turn it off! This is just the stock market. Mark Mobius is not worth hanging in effigy. He is a guy who comes on TV and tries to make himself right.
Many people do that. Move on.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at