Editor's Note: James J. Cramer's column runs exclusively on RealMoney.com; this is a special free look at his column. For a free trial subscription to RealMoney.com, click here. This article was published May 28 on RealMoney.
Nobody knows jack about Mister Softee. No, not the ice cream folks. (I have a pretty good read on that business: When it is hot, they make money.)
I am talking about
, the company that most people just own for these four reasons:
- it was so great for so many years;
- it is a generic tech stock;
- it has $39 billion in cash; and
- it has a beautiful balance sheet.
To all of which I say,
Here is a company that sells at 29 times earnings that we basically know
about. There was a time when Microsoft talked openly to analysts about how it was doing. The Microsoft "check-in" was a ritual. An analyst, after making his checks, doing his surveys, blah blah blah, would call Redmond, Wash., and check in to see how Microsoft was doing vs. his projections. Then he would squawk the next day if there was anything newsworthy.
Not anymore. Like many companies since Regulation Fair Disclosure was enacted, Microsoft doesn't tell anybody anything. In the interest of total ignorance for all, as opposed to select intelligence for some -- the
true intent of the law -- Microsoft now tells you less than at any other moment in its public history. Every move, every up or down a point or two, is truly based on noise as we know nothing about how the company's really doing.
Which brings me to my point: How can you afford to be in a stock that sells at 29 times earnings when you know nothing about how it is doing? How can you be at the total mercy of silence?
Yet that's where you are with Microsoft. It now trades on silly things like the cutting of Xbox's price, as if that really were the driver. It trades on that because, frankly, we don't have anything else to have it trade on.
I know many people love Regulation FD because no one can get a legal edge anymore. I don't think people have come to grips with the downside of Reg FD: No one knows anything about some of the companies out there, like Microsoft, that take a clearly prophylactic view of FD.
To me, if you don't know anything, it's awfully hard to hang on to a stock that you know is expensive.
But no one seems to mind so far!
Some are speculating on why the
Securities and Exchange Commission
hasn't looked at
Reg FD violations. Many people knew that the stock was a goner below $48 because of the selective disclosure of where all the puts were struck. I think it is a great case, but I also think that the SEC recognizes that, with FD, we have gone down a path where companies have completely clammed up and get away with no information dispensed, clearly not the intention of the law, but certainly where it is going. ... Good to see people reacting correctly to
big win, even on a crummy day.
James J. 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. At the time of publication, Cramer was long Verizon.
To see his personal portfolio and find out what trades Cramer will make before he makes them, sign up for
Action Alerts PLUS. While he cannot provide personalized investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to send comments on his column to
to get Cramer's book, "Confessions of a Street Addict."