The Belated Arrival of Foolish Wisdom - TheStreet

By James Cramer

So

Motley Fool

is going to force its people to disclose their positions in their posts.

Hello?

Do you mean to tell me that these people had stakes in the companies they were monitoring and we did not know about it? Do you mean to tell me that the guy who told me to get out of the

Iomega

chat room last year may have been long Iomega and didn't want me to disparage it?

And now they are getting away with it, by simply stating that, because these people were volunteers they could do whatever they wanted?

I don't think so.

Disclosure is everything. While I am not in the business of recommending stocks in these columns, I will always disclose my positions to you. In the last few days I have written stories that mention, completely in passing, or by way of example,

IBM

,

Intel

and

Microsoft

. Every time I have disclosed my positions in those stocks. I don't want anybody to think that I am trying to move these stocks for my own benefit. Heck, I don't want to move stocks, period.

You the reader have the right to know my positions, if I am going to mention stocks, regardless of the context. That should be a given. As far as the full-time staff members of

The Street

, the guys who do write and edit articles that may move stocks depending upon their spin, we have a very simple rule: you own a stock, you are fired. You short a stock, you are fired. Any stock. No staff member can own or short a stock. Not just stocks they write about. Any stocks.

How could you trust us if we did it any other way? Let's say we allowed someone to buy stocks, but not stocks they write about, or short stocks, but not stocks they write about. In any newsroom, and I have been in a ton of them, you as a smart bystander, can always influence the direction of a story, any story. You could benefit from the slant a fellow reporter might take. You could profit from a piece being done in the very next cubicle. You could pass on a story to someone else in the newsroom, a story that is negative for something short in your personal account. Ugh.

That's why our rules are so clear. Again, our reporters and editors don't take stakes in anything, other than

The Street

.

As for me, I read

The Street

when you do. I don't know any of the stories we are working on. I have no ability to kill a story. Hey,

The Street

has trashed my portfolio, often correctly, and I take my lumps. That's the way it should be. Let the chips fall where they may. I have no ability to suggest a story about a stock, unless I am willing to freeze myself for 30 days. Even then, I won't do it unless it is to uncover a fraud that I think is being perpetrated on the market. I have used the exemption three times in six months. I never touched the stocks. Never will. I pledge that I will never, ever suggest a story about a stock that I might own or sell.

Once, a few years back, I stepped into the cauldron of murky lines and rules when I wrote an article, at the suggestion of my editors, that moved stocks. I said I owned the stocks. I didn't sell or take any profits. Didn't matter. A lifetime of trying to be honest, straightforward, almost got thrown out the window.

I am not going back into that cauldron ever again.

You have my word.

James Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of

The Street.

While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback, emailed to

Jjcramerco@aol.com.