The inside scoop
It usually starts after one of us writes about a volatile stock, something like Sirius Satellite Radio
Normally, I think it's best not to even dignify that kind of thing with a response, except perhaps with something like, "Oh yeah? All your base are belong to us!" But it occurs to me that not everyone frequenting the viper pits -- and by that I mean the Yahoo! boards -- is packing fangs. There are innocents, and plenty of other first-timers in the mix. We've all been there.
And that's the problem, because I'm pretty sure that coo-coo is contagious. If you consume a steady diet of nonsense, how long will it be before your sanity takes flight? How long before your friends stop answering your phone calls so they don't have to listen to you whisper to them about how those dastardly, naked shorts and their Motley Fool cronies are the only thing holding back your shares of Overstock.com
So, in the interests of helping out folks who are interested in all the sordid details, I thought it might be instructive to peel back the curtain and show you how our scam really works, so you can judge for yourselves.
A typical scam
Bad Guy 1: "Dude, I need a couple of points on this piece of [naughty word] Apple
Bad Guy 2: "No problem. Straight-up bash or reverse-psychology pseudo Pod pump? You see the latest episode of Stacked last night? Awesome, dude."
Bad Guy 1: "Yeah. Pam still rocks. Let's try the RPPPP. That oughta take out Grandma Millie, man. We're going to jam this down her [naughty word]...."
Oh, wait. I'm sorry. The computer seems to have garbled my transcripts. That's not actually a Fool scam. It's an amalgamation of various other scams, the kind of thing engaged in by certain Wall Street analysts, New York Stock Exchange specialists, and Enron traders who took advantage of public markets. This kind of nonsense is why I sympathize with people who are, shall we say, overly skeptical about anything they hear or read regarding a stock.
The horrible, boring truth
But as exciting as it would be, it's not the kind of thing that happens here at the Fool. My apologies, folks, because reality is much more boring than popular delusion. Clearly, we're rank amateurs when it comes to illicit doin's. As an example, this is what passes for front-running at the Fool. It's an actual conversation I had with my colleague Bill Mann, who is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems guest analyst for a few months and, thus, is privy to the picks that will be coming out in the latest issue. (Yes, this one is real. No kidding.)
Bill: "You're gonna love this month's Hidden Gems."
Me: "Really? Good stuff?"
Bill: "Hey, you need a ride home?"
Me: "Sure, thanks."
Shocked? I don't blame you. Because our scam is sort of unique in the world of stocks: There is no scam.
Open and honest
It might be tough for hardened cynics to believe, but we really do operate this way. We take compliance issues very seriously here. It's not just because -- as our legal department periodically reminds us -- there's a special place in jail, not to mention H-E-double-toothpicks, for those who break these rules.
The people who work here really do believe in fair play, to a degree that might look absolutely absurd to an outsider. This is a place where the big winners at a recent "casino night" debated the morality of pooling their plastic chips in order to win an iPod in a silent auction. Would that be fair to people who submitted solo winnings? ("No," was the decision.) Honestly, there are people here who could make Ned Flanders look like Jeff Skilling.
It's both culture and policy. We say what we believe, and we let you know exactly what our personal stake is in any company we discuss, or even mention. Better yet, we've got some strict trading rules meant to put our audience first, like a 10-day trading moratorium after writing about a stock, and a minimum 30-day hold on any position.
To clarify, that means that when I say, "I think Home Depot
Free to disagree
Now, let's try to get an understanding of why you'll see us publish contrasting opinions on stocks. Hint: It's not "There negative to knok it down so they can buy it cheap and other guy pump it lator so they sell!" (Remember those trading rules?)
Here's the real reason. (Prepare to be scandalized.) We disagree.
We don't just tolerate dissent here; we celebrate it. That's what the "Motley" means, and we think it might be our biggest strength. There's no monolithic wall of opinion here, not even if that means taking a stand at odds with our founders, the guys who sign our checks (metaphorically speaking), Tom and David Gardner.
Not only does it not annoy them when we disagree, but they also actively encourage us to agree less often. That's because we believe open discussion fosters understanding. Our goal is to learn together while we build wealth, and we're pretty sure that the latter cannot happen without the former.
That's why Bill Mann will come right out and say that he thinks Hidden Gems pick Buffalo Wild Wings
We even disagree with ourselves sometimes, as happened when it looked like SanDisk investors -- including yours truly -- were the last to know about an ugly earnings report, or when Apple really made me change my tune last winter.
The Foolish bottom line
The dedication to open discussion doesn't apply just to people with an official Fool byline. We encourage it here on our message boards, and we even invite our newsletter subscribers to take their tough questions straight to the lead analysts.
And finally, we're realists here. We're investors ourselves, and we eat our own cooking a lot of the time. We're not always right, and we realize that our kind of Kool-Aid might not be for everyone. That's why the products that require you to pony up some dough come with free trials and satisfaction guarantees.
What kind of investing-focused firm acts like this? Few that we're aware of. But then, we're not Wall Street. We're a ship of Fools. And there's always room for more. Welcome aboard.
For related Foolishness:
- Growth or value? We even disagree on the basics sometimes. (Cue Stewart Smalley voice.) And that's . OK.
- When we're wrong, we've got the guts to admit it.
- Fair is fair. We're not afraid to take our own picks to task.
- Sometimes, the conspiracies and ignorance are downright hilarious.
- Don't believe that the Enron guys were really that crass? Let's go to the tape.
Want to put our "scam" to the test? Check out our market-beating newsletters, which you can try for free . Or just try out our message boards for a bit of civility and reflection you won't find anywhere else.
Seth Jayson has obviously had his share of the Fool Kool-Aid, but he started out a regular fool, like anyone else. At the time of publication, he had shares of SanDisk but no positions in any other company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.