It's starting to look like basketball-player-turned-political-reporter-turned-overnight-authority-on-Wall-Street Matt Taibbi may have fallen for a stock-trading ruse. Heaven knows he's an easy mark. "I can't even balance my checkbook," he told radio talk show host Don Imus.
Taibbi, Rolling Stone magazine's teen heartthrob, became a sensation last month after calling Goldman Sachs "a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity." His piece contained as many errors as facts, but few of us minded because the imaginative writer memorably captured the national zeitgeist.
Taibbi knows you're only as popular as your latest record, so in this month's issue of Rolling Stone he takes on short selling, a controversial Wall Street stock trading practice. His report offers the usual cocktail of half-truths, which you can read about at Business Insider, Economic Policy Journal, Fraud Files Blog, The Atlantic, New York Times DealBook, and Investment News.
To tell you the truth, I haven't lost any sleep worrying about Taibbi's sloppy reporting or his obscene language. He's colorful, he's cute, he admits he'd rather be writing fiction ... oh, fiddle dee dee.
But I am intrigued by the video Taibbi posted on YouTube to make his point about short selling. People who know about these things say the video is a fake ... a hoax. Taibbi claimed the video showed a Penson Financial Services trading platform transaction, but today Penson dashed off a fast letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, alerting them that the trading platform identified in each of Taibbi's posts is not Penson's. "While we are uncertain whether Taibbi's article is the result of a hoax or something more deliberate, we are contemplating sharing our concerns with YouTube and the blogger directly," wrote Penson's associate general counsel, in a two-page letter to the SEC that was made available to the Huffington Post.
If all these folks are right, it begs a few questions:
-- How did "short selling" happen to catch Taibbi's attention?
-- Who slipped Taibbi the fake video?
-- For what purpose?
Well, Matt? Who's screwin' with ya? We're waiting ...
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For more details on this story I recommend business writers John Carney, Dan Jamieson, Megan McArdle, Gary Weiss, and Robert Wenzel. You can also read fraud examiner Tracy Coenen. If you think this is all a bunch of silly nonsense, you might enjoy satirist William K. Wolfrum's hilarious Taibbi video.