With the kind of media attention TheStreet.com's (Nasdaq: TSCM) Jim Cramer has faced lately, I'm not surprised he carries around a baseball bat. The dynamic host of CNBC's Mad Money is drawing more "boos" than "yahs" for his questionable endorsements of doomed bank Bear Stearns in the months leading up to its collapse last year. Mr. Cramer, I'd like to suggest an easy way to clear your name: Put your mad money where your madder mouth is.
Don't mess with Jon Stewart
Cramer's current troubles began March 4, when The Daily Show host Jon Stewart mercilessly ribbed Cramer's confidence in Bear Stearns mere days before the bank went under. Stewart was actually poking fun at CNBC as a whole, contrasting Rick Santelli's infamous on-air rant about short-sighted homeowners with the network's own record of questionable advice and insight. But when Cramer took public offense, Stewart and his writers moved in for the kill. On March 9, Stewart ran another segment tracking Cramer's endorsements of Bear in the months leading up to its collapse. The feud has only escalated since, with Cramer taking further umbrage on NBC's Today show and MSNBC's Morning Joe, and Stewart somewhat genially firing back.
Cramer's set to face his new nemesis on tonight's Daily Show, and I think there's an easy way for Cramer to make that encounter a win for himself, Stewart, and Mad Money's viewers. Mr. Cramer, why not index your salary to your own record of stock-picking accuracy?
Everybody wins with accountability
Cramer's spoken in favor of accountability in the past, according to TheCramerReport.com's online recaps. He called for it last September, following the first round of federal bailouts of Wall Street. Last May, he ran his own Accountability Week, reviewing the stocks he wished he had or hadn't recommended. And recently, in criticizing the new president's handling of the economy, he's created an Obama Accountability Index, which he says measures the president's responsibility for the steadily plunging stock market.
It's not hard to track Cramer's own record; we do it automatically on our free Motley Fool CAPS investing community. TrackJimCramer is actually one of our top-rated All-Stars, beating more than 81% of his fellow players as I write this. He's even earned the best scores in CAPS on numerous stocks, including AeroVironment (Nasdaq: AVAV ) , Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq: WYNN ) , and Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI ) . But he only gets 46.6% of his calls right, according to our CAPS records -- less accurate than your basic coin toss.
If Cramer believes so strongly in accountability, why not add a clause that pegs his Mad Money salary to the performance of the picks he makes? Even a genuinely brilliant financial mind like Cramer can't be completely right all the time, so why not say that 60% accuracy in his picks earns Cramer his full salary? Anything less, and his paycheck drops, with the difference going into his charitable trust.
By making himself even more responsible for his spur-of-the-moment picks, Cramer will rob critics like Stewart of their best source of ammunition. And since what comes out of his mouth would affect what goes into his pocket, Cramer might put even more thought into his calls on Mad Money, giving his viewers better advice. Even if he goofs up, he'll still be giving money to charity.
Cramer and his money may be mad, but taking a little more responsibility for his own picks strikes me as an eminently sane thing to do.
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