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Watchdog Snarls at Rumor-Pushing Analyst

The NASD slaps Walt Piecyk for talking down RF Micro -- a stock he happened to be short.

Star-crossed tech tracker Walt Piecyk is back in the spotlight.

A securities regulator slapped the Fulcrum Global Partners wireless telecom analyst Friday with its first-ever fine for circulating a negative rumor. The NASD fined Piecyk $75,000 for spreading false information on a stock -- one he happened to have a short position in -- more than two years ago.

The fine means another turn under the microscope for Piecyk, who first made headlines in 1999 with a Blodget-evoking $1,000 price target on a red-hot wireless stock. But unlike former Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget's $400 target on


, which looked silly at the time but turned out to be prophetic, Piecyk's call on



ended up being just another sign of an approaching top in the



Without admitting to or denying the charges, Piecyk settled an NASD claim stemming from his actions on Aug. 22, 2002. The regulator said Piecyk spread a rumor that



planned to delay an order with component supplier

RF Micro


, causing RF Micro to drop 10% before the company publicly denied the speculation.

The regulator says Piecyk failed to adequately check the information before he shared it with at least eight clients. Piecyk also held a short position in RF Micro, leading to a personal profit of $7,815, according to the NASD. The disgorgement of that profit is included in the fine, says the NASD, which used to be called the National Association of Securities Dealers.

Piecyk didn't return a call seeking comment. A Fulcrum representative said that Piecyk is still with the firm.

In May, the NASD fined Fulcrum Global Partners $75,000 for poor supervision related to the Piecyk case.

Piecyk has had no prior actions against him. An NASD representative said the case wasn't severe enough to warrant being treated as a stock manipulation violation. The fine is equal to a similar rumormongering case brought in 2000 by the

New York Stock Exchange

against a UBS banking analyst.

In late 1999, while at PaineWebber, Piecyk made a call on Qualcomm stock that gained him immediate, if unwanted, fame. With the stock having already jumped over 2,000% in a year to a presplit $500, Piecyk

made a bold call, setting a $1,000 price target for Qualcomm. The stock never reached that mark -- it topped out at a presplit $800 -- and went on to lose half its value in six months.

But while at PaineWebber and later at Fulcrum, Piecyk helped redeem his reputation by issuing a bullish call on



at a time when the wireless niche player was swamped by debt and largely written off by Wall Street. Nextel became one of the best-performing stocks in 2003 and the envy of the industry with its loyal customers and lush profits. It agreed late last year to merge with