Take last Friday, for example. This Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick once again filed notice that it would be late in submitting a quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Sigh. This is getting old, and so is the lack of disclosure. Look, I know TASER has no obligation to announce in a press release that it will be late with a filing. But, really, why wait for the Associated Press to break the story when you know that it will? A simple release would have shown that TASER, despite its faults, cares more about disclosure than spin. Or maybe not, but I, at least, would have appreciated the effort.
So, yeah, Friday was one of those days when it comes to TASER and me. And now here I am, less than a week later, arguing in favor of the stock. Un-freaking-believable, right? Well, sort of. As much as I don't like how TASER management sometimes acts, I still think there's a lot to like about the business model and, ultimately, the stock. For investors willing to plug their noses and press on, here's a rundown:
Reason #1: Insider ownership
Among the many reasons some hate TASER is that, in late 2004, with stock trading at and above $50 per stub, many insiders sold. To some, those sales smack of illicit gains earned on a business that was about to face an inquiry from the SEC. I don't think that's so. Instead, I tend to believe CEO Rick Smith when he says he was diversifying his portfolio.
The reason, you ask? If Smith were really dumping, I'd expect him to dump the vast majority of his holdings, or at least 50%. Instead, he trimmed his stake by about 25%. Yes, I realize that isn't exactly a bullish sign, but it doesn't exactly smell like fraud, either.
What's more, Smith has rebuilt his stake to 87% of what it was at the end of 2004, thanks to 290,000 shares he acquired through options but didn't immediately sell. If that sounds like hedging, consider that Smith would have collected a 19-bagger and an 11-bagger had he sold immediately. Am I the only one who dreams of such returns?
Reason #2: Inept competition
Competitive advantage is a huge deal in Rule Breaker investing. TASER has a big one: inept competitors. Just follow the coverage of Foolish friend Seth Jayson to see what I mean.
First, there's Stinger Systems, whose stun gun looked weak in a recent comparative test. Not surprisingly, Stinger disputes the results and says that it would welcome what it calls a "truly independent" comparison, but it appears no arrangements for such an event have been made as of this writing. That, too, is hardly surprising.
Then there is Law Enforcement Associates (AMEX: AID ) , which has a history of dealing with stock promoters -- to the tune of $4,000 per month as of last summer -- and which can't seem to muster a profit despite rising revenues. Oh, and its stun gun still hasn't reached the market. Whoops.
Reason #3: Lawsuit risk
Many choose not to invest in TASER because of the perception that it will someday be legally liable in a wrongful death suit. And when that occurs -- the thinking goes -- TASER would be bankrupt.
Maybe, but we may never know. According to the 10-K filed on March 16, TASER had 49 product liability lawsuits filed against it. Since then, four more suits have been dismissed. What's more, on Monday TASER said that the SEC has completed all aspects of its investigation into the company with no enforcement action recommended. All of that should create a higher hurdle for potential litigants.
The Foolish bottom line
Bad publicity. Nagging lawsuits. Questionable disclosure. It all sounds bad. And you know what? It all is, to an extent. Most smart investors needn't take a chance on TASER. Only the Rule Breakers dare touch this one.
But what if you're feeling rebellious? Well, I can't blame you. For all of its problems, TASER is the kingpin of a market opportunity that, according to my estimates, could equal $4.3 billion. And yet the company hasn't booked $200 million in sales in its lifetime. If I'm even within spitting distance of correct -- and, yes, I think I am -- then it's only a matter of years before a well-capitalized rival emerges to bury TASER, or the stock becomes a multibagger. Check the video. You know which one is more likely to occur.
Still feeling rebellious? Ask us for anall-access passto Motley Fool Rule Breakers and find out which stocks are helping the portfolio scorch the market's average return, 18% to 7%.Go ahead. It's free for 30 days. All you have to lose is the prospect of richer returns.
Think you're done with the Duel? You're not! Go back and read the other three arguments, and thenvote for a winner.
Fool contributorTim Beyers' last rebellion involved switching back from Windows to the Mac. That'll do for the next decade or so. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.