Foolish Four Portfolio
To Trust or Not to Trust
That is NOT the question!

By Ann Coleman (TMF AnnC)

RESTON, VA (Nov. 15, 1999) -- I was going to write about trust today, about how so many people seem to have a need to trust strangers who have no reason to look out for their best interest. It's an interesting problem, but first I need to deal with distrust because I think it's just as big a mistake to be too suspicious as it is to be too trusting.

It's like some people are allergic to trust. They suspect that everyone is on the take or out to get them or is "looking out for number one." We saw a lot of that in the reaction to our coverage of the Microsoft finding. A surprising number of people on various message boards seemed to think that the fact that most of our early coverage was very pro-Microsoft indicated that there was some kind of editorial decision to cover the story that way. "The Party Line" was an oft-used phrase. Huh? I got news for you -- we aren't that organized!

Given that Fools so frequently disagree about companies and that contradictory opinions are not only published but encouraged (preferably backed up with sound reasoning), I find it baffling that anyone who is familiar with this forum would think that there is any kind of "party line." Even worse was the suggestion that we somehow benefited from writing pro-Microsoft articles, or, and this is getting funnier and funnier, that we wanted to stay on Microsoft's good side. "Cozying up" was the term, I believe.

(Given some of the stories told in the Microsoft trial, though, I can see why one might want to stay on Microsoft's good side!)

I try to assume that people who suggest we are cozying up to Microsoft are not aware of just how deadly an insult that is to a journalist of integrity. (Say, have you seen "The Insider" now playing at a theater near you? That's what journalistic integrity is -- or should be.)

Speaking of integrity, let me state that I own all of 20 shares of Microsoft. I think it's close to a monopoly, I think it went over the line with its competitive practices, and I think it probably deserves what it's getting. I also think Microsoft did us all a favor by standardizing a lot of software that makes computers easy enough for everyone to use, but they didn't need to go as far as they did to achieve that.

Uh, oh, is that David Gardner standing over my desk, frowning?

I don't think so.

While I am sure that if I wrote something extolling the joys of day trading, it would probably not be published (I HOPE so, anyway), there is so much freedom to write what we want to here that it's scary. I mean that literally. I sometimes wish that there were a kind of oversight committee that checked what I wrote and kept me from making an idiot myself, as happens on occasion. And there are days when someone telling me what to write about would be a welcome relief. But it's never happened.

Of course, influences can be far more subtle. Certainly everyone who works here would know instinctively that urging people to invest in penny stocks ("Why not? They're cheap!") would either get them in trouble or get them fired if they persisted. We are here to help people make money, not throw it away. But the idea that we might have some kind of collective opinion on certain companies is just not true, even in a very subtle form. Diversity of opinion is valued. How else are you going to learn?

It's weird. People are always writing to us and asking what is The Motley Fool's "take" on a certain stock. The answer is that we have a variety of takes, and that we don't necessarily consider our staff opinions to be more valuable than any number of well-informed and substantiated opinions posted on a stock's message board. The name on the top doesn't matter, all that matters is why someone holds that opinion and what facts back it up.

Trying to get some of our readers to develop their own opinions on stocks or strategies is tough. We gladly, even joyously, share our opinions and hope that reading them will stimulate you to develop or refine your own. But some days it seems like half our readers just want our opinions airmailed directly into their heads and the other half suspect we are beaming our thoughts into their teeth. (OK, it's probably only 10% at either extreme.)

Whatever the percentage, both sides are making a big mistake. Those who think we know more than we do will give too much weight to our opinions, and those that automatically distrust us will reject our ideas out of hand and lose the value of another point of view. For the record: We don't dictate, we share. We don't have a party line, and we don't cozy up to certain companies.

Anyone who thinks we do needs to have his aluminum foil hat adjusted.

That said -- how 'bout that Foolish Four? Every single stock is up over 25%. You're crazy if you don't follow this strategy! (Kidding!)

Fool on and prosper!

Today's Stock Lists | 1999 Dow Returns

Read More Foolish Four Reports

Top Dow Stocks
( RP Order )


1. Philip Morris
2. * Eastman Kodak
3. * General Motors
4. * Caterpillar
5. * DuPont
6. AT&T
7. SBC Comm.
8. Exxon
9. JP Morgan
10. Int'l Paper

NOTE: Today's Foolish Four stock selections are marked with an asterisk.

Foolish Four Portfolio

11/15/99 Closing Numbers
Ticker Company Dly Pr Chg Price
JPMMORGAN (JP)-15/16$138.38

  Day Week Month Year
To Date
Foolish Four 1.25% 1.25% 3.41% 30.26% 32.19% 36.58%
S&P 500(DA) -.12% -.12% 2.31% 14.02% 14.08% 15.85%
NASDAQ -.05% -.05% 8.53% 46.83% 48.19% 55.17%
DJIA (DA) -.08% -.08% .29% 18.60% 18.76% 21.17%

Trade Date # Shares Ticker Cost/Share Price LT % Val Chg

Trade Date # Shares Ticker Cost Value LT $ Val Ch
  Cash: $119.51  
  Total: $5,287.64  

• S&P 500 (DA) = dividend adjusted. Dividends have been added to the total return of the index.
• DJIA (DA) = dividend adjusted. Dividends have been added to the total return of the DJIA.

The Foolish Four Portfolio was launched on December 24, 1998, with $4,000. Additional cash is never added, all transactions are discussed and explained publicly before being made, and returns are compared daily to the S&P 500 and the Dow. (Dividends are included in the yearly, historic and annualized returns.) Stocks are chosen once per year using a formula based on dividend yield and price. See The Foolish Four Explained for details.