This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolio series.
Under different circumstances, I'd be all over shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
I addressed some of my issues with Green Mountain this time last year, when the Rising Star portfolio project had just launched. Green Mountain does possess socially admirable attributes. The company distributes fair-trade coffee, works to decrease its carbon footprint, encourages employee volunteerism, and runs programs to reduce poverty and hunger.
Green Mountain bulls will point to the success of its Keurig single-cup brewer, as well as K-Cup deals with Caribou
That's the crux of the "trust" issue, though. Green Mountain's growth may not be what it seems.
Green Mountain's latest quarter missed analysts' sales expectations, but there's more to the story than the overdone panic that usually yields good stock buys. Plenty of people have been calling shenanigans on Green Mountain's accounting. (The SEC launched an investigation, in fact.)
Former Crazy Eddie CFO (and convicted-fraudster-turned-anti-white-collar-crime-crusader) Sam Antar has long questioned Green Mountain's true worth; CNBC's Herb Greenberg has also leveled tons of tough questions regarding Green Mountain's reports. Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn joined the bearish contingent with a short position recently, citing a "litany of accounting questions." T2 Partners' Whitney Tilson (known for his pre-bloodbath bearishness on Netflix
Years ago, Green Mountain's financial statements came across as so incredibly complex after its string of acquisitions that I came to a conclusion: Complexity was reason enough for individual investors to avoid its shares. "Confusing" doesn't indicate "wrongdoing," of course, but there's something to be said for keeping one's investments as simple as possible. Meanwhile, Green Mountain's continuously skyrocketing valuation kept it off my radar as a stock idea, too.
In the here and now, CEO Lawrence Blanford has denied that Green Mountain's sales miss has anything to do with bears' allegations of accounting problems. Still, yesterday Greenberg pointed out that Blanford's explanation about "changes in ordering patterns in our grocery and club channels" is enough to sound alarm bells when management's also trying to claim that demand isn't changing.
Social responsibility doesn't trump fiscal responsibility, and some believe Green Mountain's true financial picture might actually be downright reprehensible. There's no reason to take such a risk; I'll stick with Starbucks, thanks.