June 17, 2009
My daughter asked me to submit a comment to you, but she will be disappointed in the perspective I am taking. She phoned me (as well as e-mailing many of her friends and collegues) after watching Jim Cramer and encouraged me to watch his shows. I was really amazed at his ability to whip up a populist frenzy during his telecasts, proclaiming on numerous shows that removal of the uptick rule was the main reason for the stock markets decline. It was strident enough to convince my daughter, who is a bright, level-headed, well-respected surgeon, to blame the short sellers on her poor investment in Bank of America last spring. She wants me to write in support of the uptick rule. I, IN GOOD CONSCIENCE, CANNOT WRITE IN SUPPORT OF THE UPTICK RULE.
I love my daughter very much, but blaming Bank of Americas sharp stock price decline on lack of an uptick rule is not only misguided, it obfuscates a key principle to investing that she must comprehend: one should only purchase stocks of companies whose management is top notch. That was not the case with BofA and I told her so in August 2007 when she bought BofA stock just after the company announced a multibillion dollar infusion into Countrywide. I felt Kenneth Lewis was jumping in too early, as the housing price decline had just begun. I became further convinced of Lewis ineptitude after seeing his muddled denials and vacillating testimony before Congress last week, where it was obvious he had done his shareholders a great disservice by jumping headlong into the Merrill Lynch acquisition.
TV pundit-induced populist ire aside, the uptick rule should not be used as the scapegoat for poor investment decisions.