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Hold on a second. I have to take issue with a few things. I agree that much of the excess of the New Economy Bubble was brought on by investing mania, driving values higher and higher as everyone involved had a stake in keeping the party going.

That said, however, individual investors should NOT accept responsibility for those things that could not have been discovered by diligent analysis. Such as fraud by the Arthur Andersens of the world. We as investors have every right to believe that the system is fairly regulated. I as an investor should expect to take full responsibility for my inability to see the telecom slowdown, but I should not expect to take responsibility for lying on the part of executives and their cronies and accountants. If that is the case, why should I, or anyone else, believe Warren Buffett? Just because he has a longer track record? He has enough knowledge of accounting to hide things much better than the pikers at Enron and WorldCon. (Note: I have the utmost respect for Mr. Buffett -- I'm just making a point.)

That doesn't mean we all won't pay for their excesses, though. P/E's will have to go much lower, to take into account the uncertainty in the 'E'. Good companies will pay for the excesses of the bad, but over time, these things will work themselves out. We as investors should take an active role. We should vote our proxies. We should demand independent board members. We should scrutinize executive pay plans.

But we as individual investors need help. We need tougher laws, and tough sentences for those that committed fraud. The ill-gotten gains should NOT be able to be shielded by these corporate fat cats, using offshore accounts and bankruptcy laws. If you are convicted of securities or corporate fraud, the authorities should be able to take EVERYTHING YOU OWN. They should be able to yank your kids out of private school, sell your mansions and yachts, get refunds on your golf club memberships, and MAKE YOUR FAMILY HOMELESS. I mean that. I know it sounds harsh, but do the ex-employees of Enron (and shortly, WorldCon) deserve to take more risk than the CEO and CFO, who knew what they were doing and DID IT ANYWAY? Fraud is extremely tough to prove, so if it is proven in court, they should be able to wipe you out financially. It's a CRIME. It's not simple incompetence. It's a well-thought scheme to take other people's money on a grand scale. It should be severely punished, and not by some slap-on-the-wrist sentence in white collar prison, after which, the defrauder gets to live off the money he stole and was able to hide. That only encourages more people to take that risk.

Oh, and as to your comment, "If you did not understand that a Stanford dropout, $5,000 and a clever idea were worth $1.5 billion in a properly promoted IPO, you were clearly washed up." Microsoft was founded by a Harvard dropout, wasn't it? Unless you're making a comment about Harvard vs. Stanford?

Now, before you get your dander up, I'm just kidding. I totally agree that $1.5 billion was excessive for any of these startups, with the possible exception of Ebay.

The general intent of your message, that we are collectively responsible for perpetuating this excess, is well-taken. However, there are a few things that could not have been seen by even the best investors. That's why diversification is so important.

However, there are some things we can and must do in order to make the system better. We must eliminate, or at least bring to light, any and all conflicts of interest in the system. We must eliminate the incestuous, back-slapping, good-ol'-boy network in the boardrooms, in favor of truly independent shareholder advocates. I know that last part is easier said than done, but we have to do it if we want 'the system' fixed. We can't simply throw up our hands, close our eyes, and wish these bad things away. We have to insist that they be fixed.

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