bashing? The long-suffering shareholders of the dysfunctional
family of funds have been asking this financial family shrink to take a hard look at how these funds went so astray.
To which I say it isn't the first time that the Van Wagoner group has self-destructed. Every time, though, Van Wagoner has done a Houdini and gotten out of the chains of redemptions before he ran out of breath.
Will this be still another time? Or has the San Francisco high-growth artist's time finally run out? Is the down-50% level the magic level you can't come back from?
Frankly, to paraphrase
Gone with the Wind
, I don't give a darn. What matters to me is the astonishing grouping of poor performance for the "family."
Van Wagoner runs a mad-cap -- oops, I meant
Mid-cap -- fund (minus 57%), a
Technology fund (minus 57%), a
Post-Venture fund (minus 57%), a
Micro-Cap Growth fund (minus 47%) and an
Emerging Growth fund (minus 57%, again) that are all performing exceedingly terribly, a virtual rogue's gallery of negative returns. (Fortunately I penned this piece after the close of the market so I spared the family the dismal returns from Thursday's session.)
With identical numbers like that, would anyone mind my asking what is the point of running all of these different funds if, with the exception of the stellar Micro-Cap Growth fund, they are all down 57%? Is this some sort of cruel takeoff on the
57 varieties of decline?
Nope, funny thing about these funds, they tend to own the same stocks.
, the killer B2B play, killer to everyone who is long the stock. It is in all five funds!! Same with
are in four out of five, somehow dodging the Micro-Cap Growth fund.
is in all but the Mid-Cap fund. This despite incredibly diverse charters behind each fund (according to the Web site).
Give me a break!! These funds have the same performance because they have a lot of the same stocks!!! Why doesn't he merge these funds into one or two entries, or will that take away valuable shelf space on the mutual fund page, the way that Heinz has proliferated lots of products to win over whole aisles at the supermarket. (I am not even talking about the synergies with red ketchup.)
Ahh, I hear you, why is Cramer picking on this poor guy, who is so down? Why not say something nice about these funds?
OK, I will tell you why. In my previous incarnation in life I was a sportswriter. When I covered teams that did as poorly as these funds I am now covering, I spared no invective. And nobody sat around and defended the cellar dwellers. Nobody ever said stop calling bums bums, even if they were once in the Super Bowl. And that was about sports,
not your money
We tolerate an endless amount of poor performance in the money management business. It is not considered cricket or kosher or whatever to lay a glove on any of these folks. When you do, they either pull the ad budget or they have their legions send letters blaming the clients for their bad performance!!
Let me tell you the way it really is in the bigs. You do these kinds of numbers at a hedge fund, regardless of what you have done in the past and you get a call from one of the rich people whose funds you have cut in half. It goes like this:
"Listen you *%*#%&% knucklehead, didn't you see any of this coming? How many times did Ariba have to tell you it had no visibility? How many times did you hear Interwoven talking about weakness? Were you on any conference calls? Did you read any articles? Have you focused at all on the fundamentals in some of these industries? "How could you own the same stocks in all of these funds? How could you do so badly with my hard-earned money?"
You wouldn't bother to answer. You would just apologize and take down the wiring instructions. That's how it works in the real world of big money.
But when you are an unwashed shareholder of one of these funds, you get some customer rep who won't even tell you what blew you up, let alone put you through to the man who blew you up. Oh, of course, these folks at these funds would tell you that's too bad, we can't possibly attend to the needs of every investor.
To which I say that's too bad. I bet most people would like a shot to be able to ask those questions. I actually think they are entitled to know the answers.
I'd like to know the answers too.
: You think when Tony Kornheiser at the
or Bill Lyon at the
have to write tough things about the home team they are worried about the heat? Do you think they say to themselves "I'd better not call so-and-so a bum because it wouldn't be polite?" Yeah, of course not. They've been calling bums bums since they created bums. What I wouldn't do to have those guys critique their worst mutual fund performers. Then we would see a real skewering!