A Better Way to Get Zapped

Over the past few days, I've gotten plenty of frantic email over some of what I've said about Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick Taser International (Nasdaq: TASR  ) . Those of you who think it's all part of the vast short-selling/liberal/conservative/Martian conspiracy might want to refresh your memories about what really loses money for investors: lack of proper regard for what the guys steering the ship are going to do to your wallet.

Another common refrain -- or whine -- is that we don't give equal time to the up-and-coming stun gun players, Law Enforcement Associates (OTCBB: LENF) and Stinger Systems (Pink Sheets: STIY).

Frankly, I'm puzzled that an investor would need any warning about these stocks. How can I make this easy to understand? If stocks are race cars, owning Taser is like driving at 120 mph. You might do OK, or you might crash and burn. Owning LEA or Stinger is like driving 120 with no seatbelt, no brakes, and no steering wheel. It's a near guarantee of fiery destruction.

LEA's major product is, like so many Johnny-come-lately security companies, press releases. Its next-generation stun gun that is claimed to be superior to Taser's? Still vaporware. Parse this statement from a recent press release very carefully: "Commenting on the testing, Paul Feldman, President of LEA, stated, 'To be able to achieve these results in our comparison test using our SLA engineering model against our competitor's finished product is remarkable.'"

The emphasis is mine, but the lesson's the same. There's no saleable product, which means no distribution network, track record, or reputation -- none of the stuff Taser has going for it. Sure, it has other products. But its record with this gear surely doesn't warrant the recent run-up in the stock's price. We're talking about a company with $7 million in trailing 12-month sales, no profits, and major share dilution, and it looks completely overvalued at $160 million

Note that management apparently agrees, at least to judge by the massive insider sales. I won't get into scary-looking past behavior of the principals. The New York Post's Christopher Byron provides the details here. I might add that LEA's own website promotes an interview with well-known penny stock hypester Chris Lahiji. Yet another reason for investors to grab their wallets and run.

Stinger? Even worse. This thing recently sported a market cap of almost half a billion bucks, again supported by hype alone. Yes, yes, it has "products," but there's little financial history for investors to judge, and what's there isn't pretty: sales for 2004 of just more than $200,000, and a loss that was even larger. The Stinger gun itself is yet another product with no track record or reputation to fall back on.

What's this company really worth? Well, the guys running it paid $450,000 for the essential assets four months ago -- $250,000 in cash and a $200,000 note payable. As part of the deal, half of Stinger's outstanding shares were dried up. Since then, gullible investors, flipping the thin float -- about 9% of shares outstanding -- have pushed the price up 1,000 times.

Need I say more?

For related Foolishness:

Seth Jayson sometimes wonders whether "investors" come equipped with the requisite B.S. detectors. At the time of publication, he had positions in no company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.


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