Now I'm really starting to feel sorry for FARO Technologies
Here's what FARO said:
"The Company recently learned of suspicious payments in connection with foreign sales activities in China. As a consequence, the Company is conducting an internal investigation to determine the extent of any improper payments and possible deficiencies in its books and records and internal controls with respect to operations in China and the Asia/Pacific region, in possible violation of the anti-bribery, books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act."
The stock dropped like a bird-flu duck in pre-market trading, shedding 22%. If that continues, it's almost enough to get me interested in (drumroll please) buying the shares.
"WhatchootalkingboutWillis," you ask? "Aren't you the guy who's been 'bashing' FARO for months now?" Yeah, yeah, that's me. El Bashador. It's no secret that I haven't been happy with this former pick from Motley Fool Hidden Gems. But in the context of all FARO's failings, I doubt this one's huge.
I base that on the following reasoning. First, I have no doubt that payola of some kind is part of doing business in developing economies. I don't condone it, nor do I wish management to condone it, but I think that anyone doing business in this arena will have similar skeletons in their closet, especially if said company employs people who grew up in a culture where this sort of behavior is the norm. The extent of the problem, who perpetrated it, and most importantly, what was done when it was discovered? Those are the issues that matter to me, and in my book, FARO's squealing on itself is a good sign.
Next, I do believe in the products and the sales -- provided they haven't been completely juiced by the aforementioned "suspicious payments."
Finally, I will reiterate that management here is the big problem. Even if you believe it's completely honest (others would wrestle you on that), it's tough to deny that FARO's leadership doesn't seem to know what the heck is going on in its far-flung and growing enterprise. These "suspicious payments" are only the latest glitch. The company's continual inability to predict, let alone control, its costs is far more serious, in my mind.
But there comes a time when all that can be discounted from the price. I'm not sure we're there yet, but if Mr. Market gives me an chance to buy FARO for $10 or $12 a stub (a price less than one times revenues), this "basher" might just pick up a few.
FARO was a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick that didn't work out, though Tom Gardner and his team did recommend a sale before the latest painful episodes. If you want to take a look at a small-cap newsletter brave enough to admit when it's got one wrong, a free trial is available.
Seth Jayson reminds readers that this is a market, where the idea is to make money, not wave pompons. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.