No. of Recommendations: 26
As a 'registered Fool since 1998', I can't remember a Motley Fool article that missed the mark as widely as did the Fool on the Hill piece about Yahoo's Elan message board and the recent Credit Suisse First Boston lawsuit against eleven of its contributors (the 'Elan 11').

In the intersts of disclosure, I am long on Elan.

I was one of the ones who asked Fool HQ about "what this all means to our First Amendment rights and the future of message board discussions," as the Barker piece mentions. The answer given was "Play nice, kids". The article goes on to "conjecture [about the] poster(s) of these thoughts" on Yahoo, assuming that since the message board in question is uncensored, then "the anonymity afforded by Internet discussion has created in some people's minds a license to say basically whatever they feel like without consequence," leading to "cesspools of inane accusation and totally unnecessary and insupportable hostility." Therefore, the piece concludes, "the effect on general message board quality through a successful slander suit could be positive" and it "wish[es] CS First Boston luck on its pursuit."

This article flies in the face of everything The Motley Fool has stood for over the years, and that on three counts.

1. The article showed a profound lack of due diligence
A few minutes' worth of trolling around on the Yahoo ELN board - notwithstanding its mysterious recent 'outages' - could have unearthed some of the offending posts. Although they keep getting deleted and re-appearing, here are a few of the worst I could find:

http://messages.yahoo.com/bbs?.mm=FN&board=7076797&tid=eln&sid=7076797&action=m&mid=10338
(This seems to be the worst offender I can find and possibly actionable imho - but I still don't know why CSFB would want to pursue it)

http://messages.yahoo.com/bbs?board=7076797&tid=eln&sid=7076797&action=m&mid=7297

http://messages.yahoo.com/bbs?.mm=FN&board=7076797&tid=eln&sid=7076797&action=m&mid=10848

(These links worked at the time of this posting ... but no guarantees they still do.)

These are hardly (with one possible exception) the Lord-of-the-Flies type post that the article blindly attributes to the ELN Yahoo board. That board is, in fact, one of the very best in cyberspace - erudite, spirited, and enriched by the viewpoints of scientists, financial folk, writers, retirees, and a whole host of different personalities who do not always agree - in short, the kind of board that you profit from intellectually, if not financially.

The article also neglects to point out that Elan's stock doubled while the CSFB analyst had his 'hold' rating on the stock. It's not a matter of the post-ers simply "not appreciating" the hold rating: the analyst - er, excuse me - the analysis was simply wrong. Had you followed the advice of the analysis in its "thinly disguised code for a sell declaration", you would not have made money; had you followed the advice of the post-ers on the Yahoo ELN board, you would have made money. It's that simple.

For a site that stresses doing one's due diligence, looking under the hoods of companies and kicking their tires, this article did not follow the Fool's own good advice. And the results show. Uninformed journalism is about as bad as uninformed stock analysis, in my opinion.

(Continued)
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