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In today's "Columnist Conversation," our market pros look at the subject of market manipulation.

Dial M for Manipulation

By Howard Simons
10:00 a.m. EDT

All of these calls for the scalps of as-yet unnamed market manipulators reminds me of something I wrote back in 1998:

"The word speculation and its derivatives have acquired a negative connotation over the years; the terms were linked to such paragons of virtue as Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung and their very pockmarked walls. Admittedly, speculators throughout the ages have served the vital economic role of restoring free markets at times and places when and where governments have disrupted them, and no one likes the operator of a black market even as he lines up to purchase from the only source of supply available. The assumption was made, therefore, that speculators were economic parasites on par with ticket brokers, rock-concert promoters and other manifestations of the all-purpose enemies of the people."

In my Brave New World, the first person to be lined up and shot will be that annoying kid who pointed out the Emperor was not wearing any clothes. A pest just like the short-sellers who pointed out all those financial firms didn't know what they were doing; we'll all be better off without him.

No, No -- Enough

By Jim Cramer
10:12 a.m. EDT

Hey, Howard, it is about manipulation. Gensler is talking about manipulation. So is Schapiro. We tried it your way under Cox. Can we try it under the rule of law? More important, do you believe that manipulation is a crime? Maybe you don't? Maybe you think that you can't manipulate because the market is too big?


By Timothy Collins
10:29 a.m. EDT

Manipulation is a crime. Stupidity is not. All I see is firms and the media calling people either too stupid to use leveraged ETFs, or those that used them were too ignorant to do any homework before they bought them.

I'm for protection from manipulation, but let the Darwin component of investing take care of the stupidity and ignorance. No one gives the individual investor any credit. We lump them all together. That is a shame, as we are taking tools from the carpenters hand because someone hammered their own thumb instead of a nail.

What's ironic is that we often dismiss the media in any of this constant spin and recommendation, but it is a form of manipulation. How many times have we seen someone on TV or the radio recommend a stock then it jumps 5% or 10% just on that mention? The media no longer just reports the news but inserts its own interpretation. Influence and speculation exist everywhere.

Here's a thought: Ban selling altogether. That should keep us in a bull market for a long time.

Market manipulation

By Christopher Grey
11:33 a.m. EDT

This is a great discussion on the board regarding all the many forms of market manipulation. Unforunately, I think it's fair to say that Wall Street is built on market manipulation. All we're doing is trying to have the government decide which forms of manipulation are legal and which are illegal.

There need to be rules, and those rules need to clear and enforced. However, I think we can safely keep the morality out of this because all we're really doing is deciding who gets to take advantage of whom in what ways. Investing will never be fair or level, because some people are better at it than others, and some people will always lie, cheat and steal regardless of the rules. Do I need to mention our formerly esteemed inmate Mr. Madoff?

By the way, I hope our fearless leaders in Washington, D.C., don't read this board. If they do, I'm afraid they may decide to really implement Tim C.'s "ban on selling" idea. Much crazier things than that have happened in history when the government tries to run an economy and markets. If you've met any recent Venezuelan refugees, try talking to them. They may provide some helpful insights into where we're headed.

The Problem With the SEC Is Its Focus, Not the Rules

By James "RevShark" DePorre
12:13 p.m. EDT

There is plenty of SEC regulation out there already. The problem is that the SEC needs to adjust their priorities. They look at the market as if it operated the same way it did a decade ago. The big, giant highly sophisticated trading is where the abuse takes place, but it is lot easier for the SEC to go after smaller cases. There are plenty of small players who are manipulators and need to be under scrutiny, but in my opinion the SEC generally misses the forest for some little trees. Protecting small investors from leveraged ETFs is meaningless when you have this high-frequency trading pushing the market around every day at the close.

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