A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, and 2$ Petit Verdot. Deep ruby. A big, room-filling aroma of warm berries, mocha java, and cocoa. Great dark fruit, chocolate, and spices on the palate. Grade: B+
A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, and 2$ Petit Verdot. Deep ruby. A big, room-filling aroma of warm berries, mocha java, and cocoa. Great dark fruit, chocolate, and spices on the palate. Grade: B+
In the late 1970s British cult comedy classic Fawlty Towers, John Cleese played Basil Fawlty who ran a dilapidated seaside hotel and was, quite possibly, the rudest man in England. In a particularly funny episode, The Germans, Basil is expecting hotel guests from Germany. Accordingly, he repeatedly admonishes his staff: "Don't mention the war." Naturally, Basil himself simply can't stop mentioning the war. Hilarity ensues.
The current political scene calls that episode to mind, although one doubts whether anything resembling hilarity will ensure.
On the one hand, we have a New Republic column by left-leaning law professor Cass Sunstein telling the Democrats: "Don't mention the war":
"Republicans say that national security is a winning issue for them; Democrats say the same thing. Social science evidence strongly suggests that the Republicans are right, because the politics of terrorism touches a chord that produces much more support for them than for Democrats: our own mortality. ... Unless circumstances have relevantly changed since 2004, Bush -- and almost certainly Republican candidates more generally -- are likely to benefit from any reference to terrorism or the September 11 attacks."
Likewise, we have conservative pundits like Hugh Hewitt telling Republicans, in effect: "Don't talk about anything but the war." Hence, Hewitt repeatedly pounds the same drum beat: "Any vote for any Democrat is a vote against victory and a vote for vulnerability."
I think this advice has it exactly backwards. Democrats need to talk about the war, while Republicans need to talk about something else.
I suspect a substantial number of Americans might agree with the following sentiment: The Republicans deserve to lose at the ballot box, but the Democrats don't deserve to win.
Sunstein's basically right that national security issues are good for Republicans and bad for Democrats, although his claim that behavioral economics explains that divide is wrong. Occam's razor provides a much simpler answer; namely, the history of the last 40 years.
In sum, the Democrats' track record on security issues does not encourage faith that they can be trusted with the national security. The Democrats simply have to change that dynamic if they are to deserve victory in 2006, let alone 2008. Hence, they must talk about the war.
In contrast, the GOP has a different problem. The party of fiscal conservatism, low taxes, and small government long talked the talk but failed to walk the walk. Neither Reagan nor Gingrich fundamentally cut government -- they mostly just kept it from growing quite as fast as it might otherwise have done. Worse yet, while Gingrich went swimming in the government shutdown, he let Clinton swipe his anti-deficit clothes. There are a lot of reasons the deficit fell in the 1990s, but the Clinton Democrats get -- and to a considerable extent deserve -- credit for fiscal responsibility.
Under George Bush, the GOP has largely stopped even pretending to talk the talk. Instead, Bush's two terms have brought us: a massive increase in government entitlements; renewed fiscal deficits; a worsening trade deficit; huge spending increases; bigger government; more intrusive government.
The GOP therefore needs to talk about these issues. They have to persuade the American people either that the war is so important that nothing else matters or that the GOP can both win the war on terror and get back to its sound fiscal roots.
I take it Hewitt and his ilk prefer the former. Hence, the constant drum beat about voting for a Democrat is a vote for defeat. But I don't buy it. Even in existential wars like the Civil War or World War II, domestic policy mattered.
A couple of recent election results tell me that the GOP base can no longer be counted on the reflexively turn out in response to the toscins of war. In Michigan, Congressman Joe Schwarz was a stalwart supporter of President Bush and the Iraq War. He was endorsed by Bush and Cheney. If the war was all that mattered in his safe GOP seat, he should have coasted to reelection. Instead, he lost a primary challenge to Tim Walberg. Walberg is pro-life; Schwarz is pro-choice. Walberg is a fiscal conservative backed by the Club for Growth; Schwarz is a member of Christine Todd Whitman's Its My Party Too, The Republican Main Street Partnership, The Republican Majority For Choice, Republicans for Choice, and Republicans For Environmental Protection.
In Colorado's 5th Congressional District, Hugh Hewitt vigorously endorsed Jeff Crank. When the GOP primary results were announced, however, Crank had lost to Doug Lamborn. Why? My guess is that the voters agreed with the Club for Growth that a comparison of Crank's and Lamborn's records showed it was the latter "who will stand for the pro-growth principles of lower taxes and limited government."
If these results turn out to be the bellwethers I expect, the GOP needs to follow Basil's advice: Don't talk about the war, at least until you've convinced us that you're again going to be the party of small government and economic growth.
I caught a bit of President Bush's address to the American Legion while driving into work this morning and heard Hugh Hewitt play some clips on my drive home. Hugh called it an important speech, which I think is fair. Unfortunately, while Bush made some valid points, it seems to me that he left some key stuff out. For example:
Al Qaeda and the Taliban lost a coveted base in Afghanistan and they know they will never reclaim it when democracy succeeds. And so they're trying to return to power by attacking Afghanistan's free institutions. And they will fail. (Applause.) Forces from 40 nations, including every member of NATO, are now serving alongside American troops to support the new Afghan government. The days of the Taliban are over. The future of Afghanistan belongs to the people of Afghanistan. And the future of Afghanistan belongs to freedom. (Applause.)
Of course, we missed Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora because we relied on local help instead of using our military muscle. We haven't caught Osama, perhaps because we have relatively few boots on the ground in Afghanistan. And the Taliban keeps trying to make a come back.
In Lebanon, we saw a sovereign nation occupied by the Syrian dictatorship. We also saw the courageous people of Lebanon take to the streets to demand their independence.
And then Bush let the Israelis violate their sovereignty.
Some politicians look at our efforts in Iraq and see a diversion from the war on terror. That would come as news to Osama bin Laden, who proclaimed that the "third world war is raging" in Iraq. It would come as news to the number two man of al Qaeda, Zawahiri, who has called the struggle in Iraq, quote, "the place for the greatest battle." It would come as news to the terrorists from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and other countries, who have to come to Iraq to fight the rise of democracy.
It's hard to believe that these terrorists would make long journeys across dangerous borders, endure heavy fighting, or blow themselves up in the streets of Baghdad, for a so-called "diversion." Some Americans didn't support my decision to remove Saddam Hussein; many are frustrated with the level of violence. But we should all agree that the battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century.
He's right. But Iraq is "central" only because Bush chose to make it so. Iraq never posed a serious existential threat to our nation. They were not the worst state sponsor of terrorism; nor were they the rogue state with the most advanced weapons of mad destruction program. Instead, that honor goes to Iran.
To be sure, when Bush decided to invade Iraq, the reformers in Iran seemed to be making progress. Even back in 2003, however, Iran was a greater existential threat than was Iraq. Things have only gotten worse on Bush's watch. It's been on his watch that the conservatives came back to power and the WMD program has accelerated to the current level.
Bush knows Iran is a problem, of course:
The Iranian regime arms, funds, and advises Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist network except al Qaeda. The Iranian regime interferes in Iraq by sponsoring terrorists and insurgents, empowering unlawful militias, and supplying components for improvised explosive devices. The Iranian regime denies basic human rights to millions of its people. And the Iranian regime is pursuing nuclear weapons in open defiance of its international obligations.
Unfortunately, having stretched our military to its limit to dethrone Hussein in Iraq, we have fewer sticks with which to credibly threaten Iran with regime change. As Reagan administration Navy Secretary John Lehman observed today:
The military occupation in Iraq is consuming practically the entire defense budget and stretching the Army to its operational limits. This is understood quite clearly by both our friends and our enemies, and as a result, our ability to deter enemies around the world is disintegrating.
This brings us to the third front, the strategic-political. The jihadist regime in Iran feels no reservation about flaunting its policy to go nuclear, and it unleashed Hezbollah, its client terrorist organization, to attack Israel. In Somalia a jihadist group has seized control of the government. In Pakistan, Islamists are becoming more powerful, and attacks within India are increasing. Governments in Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Algeria and Jordan are under increasing Islamist pressure. In the Pacific, North Korea now feels free to rattle its missile sabers, firing seven on America's Independence Day. China is rapidly building its 600-ship navy to fill the military vacuum that we are creating in the Pacific as our fleet shrinks well below critical mass. Not one of these states believes that we can undertake any credible additional military operations while we are bogged down in Iraq.
There are many advantages to our political system vis-a-vis the British Parliamentary model, but one advantage of the latter is that you can hold a leader accountable. A Prime Minister who has screwed the pooch as badly as Bush very well could have lost his position as party leader.
In an ideal world, it would be possible to win the war in Iraq, which Bush is right we need to do, and hold Bush accountable for having made it necessary for us to win the war in the first place.
Harvard law professor Lucian Bebchuk has been a persistent critic of state corporation law and a persistent proponent of federalizing corporation law. I think that's a very bad idea, for reasons I explained in many articles, such as The Creeping Federalization of Corporate Law. Yale law professor Roberta Romano thinks it's a bad idea, because the feds can't even get securities regulation right, as she demonstrated in her book The Advantage of Competitive Federalism for Securities Regulation and her article The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Making of Quack Corporate Governance. Indeed, anybody who's ever had anything to do with the Sarbanes-Oxley mess would doubt the merits of federal corporation law.
Debating Bebchuk is kind of like playing whack-a-mole, however, because the guy is so smart and so prolific that he keeps popping up with new ideas and arguments. Larry Ribstein takes on the latest:
Is it time for a National Corporate Law Commission?
Bebchuk & Hamdani say it is. See Federal Corporate Law: Lessons From History. ...
B & H basically conclude that (1) state competition is broken; (2) properly conceived, federal regulation would be better; and (3) in order to improve federal regulation we just need to replace the boom-bust-regulate cycle that has characterized federal law with ongoing study.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
(1) There is no reason to think that state competition is "broken," in the sense of susceptible to improvement in the real world at reasonable cost. See, e.g., Roberta Romano, Is Regulatory Competition a Problem or Irrelevant for Corporate Governance?
(2) Whatever the problems with state competition, there is no reason to think that increasing reliance on federal law would bring us a better world. Amazingly, Bebchuk and Hamdani spend no time in their paper talking about the costs of SOX!
(3) It is certainly true that a problem with federal law is the boom-bust-regulate cycle. See my article, Bubble Laws, which B & H cite. But the authors give little reason to suppose that a National Corporate Law Commission would improve this. We have a huge ongoing corporate reform industry, which produces lots of proposals. The problem is that there is (thankfully) no political will to enact them until a bust comes along. Why would a NCLC change this?
Instead, we would get more proposals. And even if we do get a regular drip of federal laws out of this, then we get back to the first two problems: state law isn't broken; and federal law won't fix it.
Right. Right. Right.
Interesting article in the W$J on alleged bill padding incident at Holland & Knight includes the following observation:
It's difficult to know how widespread billing fraud is, but Stephen Gillers, an ethics professor at New York University School of Law, says "there is a general consensus that billing fraud has increased" as law firms seek to increase profits and attract top lawyers. "Bill-padding is the perfect crime," adds William Ross, a professor at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Ala. It is seldom detected because it is almost impossible for clients to know whether "an attorney really spent three hours doing research instead of five hours," he says. He says that in a billing survey he conducted in 1996, two-thirds of the attorneys (and three-fourths of the clients) reported knowledge of bill padding.
Michael Downey writes:
Extreme examples of fabricated billing are legendary and include:
- A Norwich, CT, lawyer who billed 94 hours for a single day’s work;
- A Raleigh, NC, lawyer who billed 13,000 hours for a 13-month (approximately 9500 hour) period; and
- A Baltimore, MD, lawyer who – with approval from the chairman of his firm’s finance committee – had computers automatically increase all time billed to a particular client by 15 percent.
Some stuff strikes me as clearly unethical
But other stuff strikes me as arguably more unsavory than unethical:
Tim Worstall takes on Wal-Mart's critics over at TCS. Worstall's right insofar as it goes, but mainly because Wal-Mart's liberal critics make it so easy for him to defend Wal-Mart. The liberal critique basically says: let's force Wal-Mart to pay higher wages and provide grater benefits. Worstall correctly shows that this will cause Wal-Mart to cut staff. Simple supply and demand Econ 101.
The trouble is that liberal Wal-Mart critics don't want to get after the real issue, because the real issue with Wal-Mart involves a critique of big government. As I've observed before:
even if the subsidies given Wal-Mart by many local communities to encourage opening a store are not as large as Wal-Mart's critics claim, does anyone seriously doubt that Wal-Mart often gets breaks on things like zoning, property or sales taxes, and other regulatory issues that small business competitors don't receive?
I freely admit that much of my dislike for Wal-Mart is rooted in aesthetics, but it's also got a free market component. I'd find Wal-Mart much less objectionable if it stood on its own two feet instead of leaning on government subsidies.
This is why the debate over Wal-Mart is so uninformative. Wal-Mart's liberal critics would have to admit that big government is part of the problem, while Wal-Mart's conservative defenders would have to admit that their hero would have a much harder time competing in a truly free market. And neither is willing to do so.
I've been a Washington Redskins fan since I started watching football sometime in the late 1960s. With the brief glory years of the first Joe Gibbs tenure, it has not been an especially rewarding experience. Sure, George Allen's teams did okay, but Allen always had that same cringe-inducing vibe as Richard Nixon. It was no more fun rooting for Allen that for Tricky Dick.
I'm starting to worry that 2006 is going to be another tough year. Peter King's latest epic captures the case for doom and gloom all too well:
I think the one team that should be worried right now is Washington, and I don't say that only because of the 41-0 loss at New England on Saturday night. I say it because, in approximately four quarters of the three preseason games, with first units on the field for both teams, these are the numbers I figured out: Opponents 34, Washington 0. Zero points from the Mark Brunell-led offense. Now, all but one drive of that is without the injured Clinton Portis, but it's not a very good sign if you play 3½ quarters without one stalwart player and can't score a point.
At Foxboro on Saturday night, Tom Brady and the first-team Patriots offense (the first three receivers were Troy Brown, Reche Caldwell and Bam Childress, with fifth-round pick Ryan O'Callaghan starting at right tackle opposite left end Renaldo Wynn and strongside linebacker Marcus Washington) outgained the Brunell Skins 309-65, in a little more than a half. The score when Brady and Brunell sat: New England 27, Washington 0.
With Michael Wilbon making many of the same points, I have the feeling it's going to be a really long season.
Here at PB.com we are big fans of prediction markets, such as Tradesports, looking to them for predictions as to everything from election outcomes to Supreme Court nominations to indictments and so on. A couple of economists have just posted a very interesting paper, which raises five unresolved questions about the efficacy of prediction markets. Two of the most interesting questions (at least from my perspective) are: (1) how to attract uninformed investors and (2) how to prevent manipulation. These issues raise a question we discussed here a while back; namely, whether prediction markets should seek to ban insider trading. Watching whether prediction markets voluntarily ban insider trading will tell us something about the longstanding debate over the merits of the insider trading prohibition in the stock market.
Indeed, here is a free suggestion for somebody out there with more empirical research skills/interest than I have:
One of the traditional rationales for the SEC prohibtion of insider trading in stocks is that insider trading harms investors and thus undermines investor confidence in the securities markets. If this were true, however, we should see firms voluntarily seeking such prohibitions. In light of the now 40+ year old legal prohibition of insider trading, however, we lack empirical data on this question. Watching whether prediction markets voluntarily adopt bans on insider trading thus might be informative. Of course, I suppose there also might be transaction and enforcement costs explanations why we don't see such proscriptions. Could a good empiricist design a way of sorting out those confounding effects?
An originalist constraint on police entry is recognized on paper, but left unenforced as a matter of breezy, factually unsupported judicial policy that would make even Justice William O. Douglas blush. As Justice Breyer says, the majority’s argument is, in essence, “the [knock-and-announce requirement] is fine, indeed, a serious matter” — wink, wink — “just don’t enforce it.”
Rights grounded in originalism backed with real remedies: That’s an interpretive method with the courage of conviction in the outcomes it produces. It’s an interpretive method that forces clear, serious judicial thinking because it doesn’t shrink from the consequences of interpretation. Scalia’s opinion, by contrast, is “let’s pretend originalism” — a Potemkin fidelity to the old ways, robbed of any force by a deceptive, lawyerly slight of hand.
A couple of thoughts:
A lovely and very food friendly California chard. By Napa standards, this Pine Ridge is lightly oaked, with the wood playing very much a supporting role to excellent fruit. Apples, pears, Meyer lemons. Recommended. Grade: B++
In November, Eliot Spitzer likely will be elected as New York's next governor. Whether that will be good news for New Yorkers is perhaps debatable, but it's great news for America's economy.
It would be unfair to call Washington Post journalist Brooke Masters' biography of New York's crusading attorney general, Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer, one-sided. Masters presents the arguments of Spitzer's many critics and does so reasonably fairly. So while Spoiling for a Fight isn't mere hagiography, at the end of the day Masters comes down on Spitzer's side of most controversies. She puts Spitzer into the crusading progressive hall of fame alongside such luminaries as Louis Brandeis, Thomas Dewey, Teddy Roosevelt, and Rudy Giuliani.
What's interesting about the other crusaders to whom masters favorably compares Spitzer, of course, is that they all used their crusades to advance their political careers. Before he was the hero of 9/11, Giuliani rode his mob and white collar prosecutions as a US Attorney in New York City to the Mayor's office. Brandeis' cause lawyering got him to the United States Supreme Court. Teddy Roosevelt's reputation as a reforming police commissioner helped get him to the White House, although San Juan Hill probably helped more (and Leon Czolgosz helped too), a pattern Giuliani apparently hopes to emulate. And, of course, Thomas Dewey got the chance to famously lose the presidency to Truman.
A fair reading of Eliot Spitzer's record as presented by Masters suggests that he is both a genuine cause crusader and a career political hack. Spitzer has consistently used -- and abused -- his authority as New York attorney general to level sweeping accusations against a wide swath of American business. In some cases, like the proverbial stopped clock, he got it right. In a lot of cases, however, the much ballyhooed charges got a lot of press attention but then quietly went away. Indeed, on the few occasions he's taken one of these high profile business cases to trial, he's lost at least as often as he's won. Instead, his record consists mainly of using media pressure to extort settlements from frightened executives.
Spitzer and the Mutual Fund Industry
Let's take just one set of Spitzer cases as our paradigm; namely, the mutual fund late trading "scandal."
Alliance Capital was one of the mutual funds caught up in the late trading/market timing scandal. In order to settle charges brought by NY attorney general Spitzer, Alliance offered to do something that had nothing to do with either late trading or market timing; namely, to cut the fees it charged investors. Alliance knew that was the fastest way to Spitzer's heart. As the Wall Street Journal reported:
"Fees, fees, fees -- that's the big money," Mr. Spitzer crowed to his top lawyers after hearing from Alliance. "When we have a company in this position, we shouldn't give up our leverage to negotiate about the issue that's the 800-pound gorilla."
The trouble was that Spitzer has no legal authority -- none, nada, zilch -- to regulate mutual fund fees. As former SEC Commissioner Ed Fleischman told the Journal:
He's showing an investing and voting public that he can be its champion and make companies shake in their boots ... But a prosecutor making policy can be dangerous if he becomes extortive.
It's as though you got busted for pot possession and the DA said you had to give up snowboarding. What business does the prosecutor have using his leverage that way? What right?
Even if he had regulatory authority over fees, moreover, Spitzer's attack on them would still be misplaced. The industry is highly competitive. Fees are fully disclosed and it's relatively easy for unhappy investors to switch from one fund to another. Put simply, there was no market failure to justify regulation of fees. Instead, Spitzer was engaged in populist paternalism.
Balkanizing the Economy
Masters correctly notes of the mutual fund and other cases that the controversy "over Spitzer and his imitators in many ways reflected the larger fight over competition between state and federal regulators." I would put the point more strongly: The controversy over Spitzer reflects the one of the fundamental reasons the Founders chose to replace the Articles of Confederation with our Constitution.
To be sure, Spitzer got away with a lot of his crusades because the SEC seemed to have fallen asleep at the switch, creating a regulatory vacuum he was only too pleased to fill. The whole point of having federal securities regulation, however, is to avoid balkanizing the capital markets by competing state regulations. Spitzer's litigation crusades reintroduced just such Balkanization, as the rules in New York either differed from those in other states or, worse yet, Spitzer tried to have New York set the rules for the whole country.
As I asked in my earlier TCS column, Spitzer Goes Over the Line, did not the Founding Fathers adopt a Constitution in large part to avoid the economic Balkanization threatened by the Articles of Confederation? And, as I explained in that column, one can be a competitive federalist and still think the SEC should have shut Spitzer down in order to protect the national capital markets.
Spitzer is a master of trying cases in the media. When forced to take cases to court, however, his record is mixed, at best. In 2005, for example, one of the few mutual fund cases to go to trial ended in a defeat. Former Bank of America broker Theodore Sihpol was acquitted on Thursday of 29 of 33 criminal charges brought by Spitzer alleging that Sihpol helped a hedge fund illegally trade mutual funds. The jury deadlocked on the other 4 charges.
In 2003, Spitzer's much ballyhooed lawsuit against the gun industry, which advanced the novel legal theory that otherwise legal guns are a public nuisance, was shot down by a 3-1 New York state appeals court decision. Master quotes Spitzer as sloughing off the loss with the quip "There are some cases you bring knowing the probability of success is not great." True, but as a matter of legal ethics, the claims made in litigation must be "warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law." In this case, Spitzer pushed the edge of that envelope, as suggested by the New York court's rebuke:
[T]he Legislative and Executive branches are better suited to address the societal problems concerning the already heavily regulated commercial activity at issue.
Doing It All for Political Gain?
The Economist magazine once called Spitzer "publicity hungry," a point Masters implicitly admits in writing that Spitzer's crusade against stock analysts had the "heady side benefit" of fawning media attention. Yet, there is a dark side to the story to which Masters gives inadequate attention. as the Wall Street Journal reported:
[T]o a host of Empire State charities and well-connected law-school deans, the crusading New York attorney general is acting a lot ... like Santa Claus.
Three civil settlements he struck in an unusual case against wealthy telecom executives and IPOs have allowed him to bestow more than $5 million in largess over the past several months to dozens of community groups across New York state. The recipients are intended as a sort of proxy for individual investors who allegedly suffered from the actions of the defendants, who were accused of profiting from undisclosed awards of sought-after initial public offerings from investment bankers seeking their business. ... But the groups receiving the windfall also represent voter constituencies that could be key to Mr. Spitzer's widely expected Democratic run for governor in 2006.
In sum, Spitzer appears to have used his prosecutorial powers for personal political gain.
We learn just a little of what makes Eliot Spitzer tick from Masters. What does clearly emerge, however, is the boundless nature of Spitzer's ambition. He is unlikely to settle for being governor of New York; instead, he clearly wants to follow the path to the White House blazed by former New York governor Theodore Roosevelt.
It's a fair bet that Spitzer's adversarial personality and penchant for conflict will serve him less well in executive office than it did as attorney general. It's also a fair bet that it will be a very long time before this country again elects a Northeastern liberal to the Presidency (see, e.g., Kerry and Dukakis). For those who have doubts about Spitzer, however, eternal vigilance would seem to be the order of the day.
From MSN Money:
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has ... launched a Web site, Sharesleuth.com, and hired a financial journalist with the goal of rooting out unsavory business practices and misleading accounting by public companies. ... Cuban makes no bones about the fact that a chief goal of the site is to make him money. [PB: And what's wrong with that?]Already a billionaire from his sale of Broadcast.com to in 1999, Cuban plans to profit by taking short positions in stocks that Sharesleuth.com attacks. In short selling, investors borrow stock and then sell it to someone else, hoping the stock will decline so they can return it later at a cheaper price.
Ideally (for Cuban), he sells a stock short, Sharesleuth publishes an article, the stock's price goes down and Cuban reaps a profit. Even if Sharesleuth gets it wrong, Cuban's investment benefits from the negative publicity.
The reporter goes on to say:
All of this is legal because of a loophole in the insider trading rules covering journalists.
Wrong. It's doesn't have anything to do with rules for journalists.
Insider trading law is really about theft of information. (See my primer on insider trading law.) If a journalist working for the W$J inside trades on the basis of information from a story he wrote for the Journal (as Journal reporter R. Foster Winans famously did), he can be held liable because he used information that belonged to the Journal. As the law calls it, he "misappropriated" the information. But the same is true of non-journalists. If a lawyer uses confidential client information to inside trade, the lawyer can be held liable for misappropriating the client's information.
You can't steal from yourself. hence, it has always been the law the someone trading on the basis of their own plans or intentions is not subject to inside trading liability. If Carl Icahn plans to buy a company, he can buy stock in that company without violating the insider trading laws, because he's trading on the basis of his own idea. The same is true for Cuban with respect to his plans to short sell. It doesn't have anything to do with Cuban being the owner of a quasi-journalistic site.
BTW, where Cuban could get into trouble is if his stories about the companies he shorts are fraudulent. If he sold short and then intentionally put out false information, it would be analogous to a pump and dump case of manipluation. (Indeed, it would be the exact converse of a pump and dump.) One suspects Cuban's too smart to ever intentionally put out false information, but one suspects he might be perfectly happy to have false information accidentally appear. But then again, did you see him go after David Stern last year?
I'm off this pm to see my Dean Michael Schill present a paper on the New York housing market:
One of the enduring puzzles of New York City’s housing market is the persistence of the housing cooperative, despite the prevailing wisdom that condominiums are more valuable than cooperatives. In this article, we examine the theoretical advantages and disadvantages of cooperatives and condominiums, and apply these theoretical insights to empirically test whether there is a price premium attributable to condominium housing. We then use our findings to speculate as to why the cooperative form remains dominant in New York City and whether its dominance is likely to continue in the future. The empirical analysis is based on hedonic models of house values and uses rich data on apartments sold in New York City between 1984 and 2002.
In most instances, theory suggests several reasons why the condominium may be a more efficient and desirable housing form than the cooperative. Unlike the case of cooperatives, condominium owners do not share liability on mortgage debt, they are free to transfer their apartments to whomever they choose, they are subject to fewer rules than cooperative apartment owners and, correspondingly, they need spend less time in internal governance. Our empirical findings confirm the theoretical prediction that legal form does indeed matter. With one important exception, condominium apartments are significantly more valuable than comparable cooperative apartments. The one exception suggests that for some owners, the benefits of restriction and exclusivity that the cooperative form offers, and which until recently seemed to be impossible to achieve through the condominium form, may be utility-maximizing. We speculate that, except for the segment of the market that seeks a socially exclusive residential environment, the continued dominance of cooperative housing in New York City is probably attributable to transaction costs and collective action problems which make switching to condominium form potentially difficult.
Lately I've been getting tons of spam touting various stocks. It turns out that the stock manipulators have discovered that spam works, at least when you're dealing with an inefficient market:
Based on a large sample of touted stocks listed on the Pink Sheets quotation system, we find that stocks experience a significantly positive return on days when they are heavily touted via spam, and on the day preceding such touting. Volume of trading also responds positively and significantly to heavy touting. Indeed, on a day when no tout has been detected in our database, the likelihood of a touted stock being the most actively traded stock that day is only 6%. On the other hand, on days when there is touting activity, the probability of a touted stock being the single most actively traded stock is 81%. Returns in the days following touting are significantly negative. The evidence accords with a hypothesis that spammers "buy low and spam high," purchasing penny stocks with comparatively low liquidity, then touting them - perhaps immediately after an independently occurring upward tick in price, or after having caused the uptick themselves by engaging in preparatory purchasing - in order to increase or maintain trading activity and price enough to unload their positions at a profit. Selling by the spammer then results in negative returns following touting. Investors who respond to touting are losing, on average, 5.25% in the two day period following touting. For the quintile of stocks in our sample that are touted most heavily, this 2-day loss approaches 8%. These estimates are conservative, as they do not account for transaction costs.
Two thoughts. First, the strategy shouldn't work in an efficient market - or, at least, shouldn't work as well. To be sure, even efficient markets can be deceived (hence, the fraud on the market theory), but it's a lot harder (hence, the criticisms of the fraud on the market theory). Second, although it might be theoretically possible to devise a trading strategy that allowed you to profit by piggy backing on the manipulators, you'd have to get into and out of the right touted stocks really fast. Any potential profit likely would get chewed up by transaction costs, which is true of virtually all market timing strategies. So the best advise might be to just delete the stock advise spam the same way you delete every other spam.