Subpoenas Don't Change the Mission

Negativity on a stock that'd fall on its own is now a fed case. But I'll keep calling it like I see it.
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Editor's note: This column was originally published at 10:43 a.m. EST on

RealMoney.

You can say anything positive you want about a stock, any stock, even if the stock is just awful and the company corrupt. Anything. Brokers can be positive, journalists can be positive, and they won't get investigated by the federal government for their bullishness.

But when you say something negative, even if the stock would be going down of its own volition, even when your

only

goal is to try to keep people from losing money, you could be subject to an inquiry from the U.S. government. Don't think there is anything else behind the subpoena I received about Gradient Analytics, an outfit I have never dealt with, and until the subpoena, didn't even know. If there were anything else, I believe I would have known about the subject before the government decided to try to haul me in and ask me questions.

Don't get me wrong, I am all about helping and supporting the government. Anyone who has followed my stuff knows that I am pro-prosecution, perhaps viciously so. I know they didn't pick the names to investigate out of the phone book. I also know that you don't get a subpoena because the government thinks you are innocent of something; you get one because the government thinks you are guilty of something.

That's what makes me so angry about this subpoena. Why didn't the government just pick up the phone and call me and ask me whether I knew Gradient? Why did it have to take the unprecedented and, frankly, damning tack of sending me a subpoena,

with all the stigma that is attached to that process?

I come back to the notion of what happens when you get a subpoena. First, you are embarrassed and angry because of the implications. Second, when you have no idea about the sub stance of the subpoena, you begin to wonder, how

did

the government get my name? Third, in this particular case, since an

SEC

subpoena is supposed to be part of a confidential investigation, I found it odd that Patrick Byrne, the CEO of

Overstock

(OSTK) - Get Report

, knew that there was one more subpoena out there besides

The Wall Street Journal

targets -- and they are targets. How did he know that?

Editor's note: After publication, Byrne denied having had advance knowledge of an SEC subpoena to be served to James J. Cramer.

I don't even know if the federal government knew the effect of giving me this subpoena. The effect is to make it so that I will think twice when I want to suggest to people that a stock is dangerous. If you can just call the SEC and order an investigation into me, you win; I lose. I have neither the firepower nor the time, let alone the energy, to take on the government on these subpoenas. Better just to adopt my late grandmother's admonition: If you don't have something positive to say, don't say it.

Now, there's a philosophy that will cause people to lose fortunes, but will keep me from getting the next subpoena. This subpoena business is an irritation and a hassle, but I

will

keep doing what I'm doing: educating people and calling it like I see it.

Jim Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. To see his personal portfolio and find out what trades Cramer will make before he makes them, sign up for

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