Dateline - 10 Minutes Of Empty Air
I saw a clear description of legitimate short selling (where speculators sell stock into the market that they've borrowed from lenders, in the hopes they can buy the stock back at a lower price when they return the shares) and the distinction between that lawful practice, and the illegal practice of failing to deliver/naked short selling (where stock is sold short but never borrowed, thus never delivered to the buyer, and instead the system treats electronic IOU’s/ or counterfeit shares, as legit – defrauding the buyers by representing the bogus article as genuine).
I saw an articulation of the damage failing to deliver/naked short selling can cause, by depressing a company’s stock and impairing their ability to raise capital, and listened with rapt attention as the robbery of shareholder value was exposed for all to wonder aloud at - perpetrated by the clearing system and the brokers that own the system.
Or rather, I didn’t.
Instead, what I saw was a 10-minute puff piece that covered none of the above, and could have been slapped together by a couple of college student filmmakers during a Tijuana binge-drinking weekend - it clarified nothing and educated nobody, and was long on how a guy lost everything when his company went belly up, and short on anything else. It followed the trials and tribulations of Eagletech, and made it seem as though the entire FTD thing is just a few guys at Smith Barney who might have done something "too difficult to explain" called naked short selling, that is being pursued by attorney John O'Quinn, who has filed a bunch of cases, some of which have been dismissed. After watching it, I knew exactly nothing more about any of it, besides the cautionary bromide that "investors should be careful" in the stock market.
Some attorney is filing suits over something too complicated to even try to describe, which can hurt companies and investors, and which has to do with the stock market.
Now, I could express considerable surprise that the best NBC could do after spending years, was to generate a piece that makes the latest late night spray-on-hair infomercial look substantial. I could bemoan the fact that they missed the essence of every noteworthy aspect of the largest financial scandal of the century. But I would be a liar if I did.
I have learned a few things since getting involved in this issue. The first is that powerful interests want to keep their culpability in the systematic destruction of companies for profit quiet, at all costs. The second is that money buys power, and power buys the ability to silence opposition. The third is that our regulators are complicit, at the very least, through their inaction, and likely some are flat out dirty and aiding and abetting the criminals who are gaming the system. The fourth is that nobody has any interest in fighting for shareholders or investors – all the money is made screwing them. The fifth is that most of the media lies, or selectively filters what is reported, creating a Pollyanna-ish view of the world, where warfare is freedom fighting, genocide is ethnic cleansing, corporate fraud and lying becomes restatement, and moral relativism is the order of the day – aphorisms abound, positive thinking can achieve anything, and ignoring ugly truths is essential to peace of mind.
Given these lessons and the resultant reality they describe, could anyone have reasonably expected the Dateline piece to have any more gravitas or duration than an N’Sync ballad? Was there any basis for a hope that an issue that the mainstream media has studiously ignored for 8 months now would be exposed by a show best known for hard hitting interviews with second string pseudo-celebrities?
You could have learned more about naked short selling and DTCC, SEC, and broker/participant duplicity by watching an episode of Being Bobby Brown. And it likely would have been more compelling and coherent, to boot.
Folks, this was a non-event that was, IMO, neutered to the point where it was a non-issue. You don’t spend two years on a piece and come up with this sort of empty air accidentally. What you just saw was an example of why the mainstream media doesn’t matter any more, and why the bad guys are confident of their ability to continue to steal a generation’s retirement. They get to control the message, and sculpt public opinion, and they have the ability to kill anything that could even hint at exposing them.
If we are going to get this noticed and acted upon, it will be because activist groups like NCANS raise awareness by advertising and subsidizing behind the scenes action, not because 60-Minutes needs an Andy Rooney filler.
We are all poorer for the opportunity that was just squandered, and should be fighting mad. But also wiser. Because we need to be smarter than the bad guys are. And placing our hopes in someone else doing the heavy lifting is a fool’s errand.
Same as it ever was.