We've often mocked what passes for analysis on the message boards over at some competing investing sites. Many of them seem like little more than wastelands in the ether for people to rant and throw "yo mama!" barbs around.
Compared with the Motley Fool Hidden Gems discussion boards, for example, where subscribers often feel that the critiques in posts are worth the subscription price alone, the "eureka" moment you feel when you do get a cogent analysis on a site like Yahoo!
Still, when you venture into these territories, you have to have thick skin and be prepared for sharp retorts and stinging rebukes. More than one commentator has thought of unmonitored message boards as akin to a Wild West shootout.
That's what makes Yahoo!'s decision to ban freelance stock analyst David Phillips from its message boards for purported terms-of-service violations so absurd. Phillips shares his knowledge in a blog called 10Q Detective, which delves into a company's footnotes to get to the bottom of an investment. Lately, he's been questioning the financials of a company called Raser Technologies
Recently, Phillips used his blog to question Raser's description of its first geothermal power station as a success. As he pointed out on 10Q Detective, the station hasn't undergone flow testing, an integral part of a plant's viability, and it still needs third-party analysis before Merrill Lynch
It's not as if he was Whole Foods Market
Shares of Raser, which hit its 52-week high at about $18 a stub last December, have tumbled by half since then. Raser partisans are reportedly smarting as a result, and they've mounted a campaign to have him banned. It seems the company's efforts at censorship were at last successful; Phillips reports that Yahoo! has banned him from posting to their boards.
You've got to wonder what the site monitors were thinking. Yahoo! has fallen behind Google
Silencing outspoken critics doesn't seem like the action of a company radically remaking its business. Then again, maybe it does. Much like a company management that decides to divert attention from poor operations by taking on naked short sellers, perhaps lashing out at stock analysts will become another leading indicator of a business's decline.