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Subject:  TMF analysts may own companies they research Date:  2/29/2000  6:21 PM
Author:  jeanpaulsartre Number:  4111 of 12909

If you want to read about the headline of this post, just skip to the bottom. If you want to read a small primer on how to make a fictitious claim against a whole industry group for the sake of selling a competing financial product or two, and whether or not it is "Foolish" to do so, read top to bottom.

TMFJeff: I believe it is true (how could it not be?) that all institutional-based stock research has some conflict of interest. The business structure essentially dictates this. That said, it would be much more Foolish for us to say MOST, rather than ALL, and so I'll change our wording in the article. Thank you for this good suggestion.

Thank you, but I see as of this post that it is not yet changed. It also appears in other places. And of course I'm not convinced that even most of it is biased. And I also see this, under the Goals of Fool Research:

Well, most of it [stock research] comes from Wall Street firms who either have or hope for financing relationships with the very companies they are "analyzing."

Again, not true at all. Most of it comes from private research firms, Hoover's, O'Neil, S&P, ValueLine, etc., which do not have financing relationships, and which make it their practice, for great business reasons, to remain sternly unbiased. It is certainly not in any of these companies interest to entertain any bias whatsoever when touting industry groups or stocks. In the words of William J. O'Neil, founder of Investors Business Daily, in How to Make Money in Stocks" (2nd ed, 1995):

"It is naive to believe companies are going to tell you when they are starting to have problems. By using our own data and research, we also thoroughly discourage any reliance on tips, rumors, and inside information. We just don't need, want, or believe in the use of inside information."

Additionally, some financial research comes from investment bankers and brokers such as Credit Suisse First Boston, Wedbush Morgan, etc. These companies analysts have about as much incentive to be biased as those at the S&P and Moody's. Sometimes they do get cozy. I wouldn't dare say it doesn't happen. But it doesn't happen most of the time.

You go on, Jeff, and you get worse:

All institutional-based stock research reports are presented under a conflict of interest....If these conflicting interests seem criminally Wise, they are! And consumers are hurt most by this whole charade.

You know, this is about as reckless a claim as one can make when selling your own financial product or service. Now all the others are criminally Wise? Now it's all a charade? How do you prove this without hundreds of federal court verdicts on your side? Remember, you made the claim in support of trying to sell your product.

And finally, here's the coup de grace, the final words of the disclaimer:

The Fools associated with this report may own shares in the companies they write about.

If that's not the most powerful incentive for biasing a report I don't know what is. It makes it impossible for me to believe that Fool research has a leg up on other institutional research--of any kind.


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