Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner recently published a letter to Martha, saying he's going against conventional wisdom, giving Martha Stewart his support, and even investing in her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
In classic Foolish-style, David got quite a few responses to his missive. With the writers' permission, we're including a sample, both pro and con. Feel free to join the conversation yourself.
Great perspective on Martha Stewart. I am not particularly a fan of hers, but I agree that this entire matter of insider trading has been blown completely out of proportion.
I am not quite ready to follow on the stock, as I think she has to resolve the mess of one of her key distribution sources (Kmart). But you gave me pause to think that the media and Congress have once again got this one all wrong. Imagine that.
Thank you for beautifully articulating how many of us feel about Martha Stewart. I have never seen her show or website or periodicals, but I feel that she is being used as a scapegoat because.... (this is embarrassing to put in writing)... well, because I feel that the majority of the world does not like a powerful woman, and this is the world's chance to skewer her for something that a million men have probably done before her. As sexist as this must sound, I believe it to be true.
I can't believe the essay you wrote about Martha Stewart, and I had to challenge some of your assumptions. Martha Stewart's success is truly admirable, but one reason for her success, a Foolish trait of paying attention to details, also makes it unlikely that she would view the quantity of money involved as "a scanty amount." Personally, no amount of money would justify "doing something nefarious," but I would assert that Martha got where she is, in part, because she doesn't think that more than a quarter of a million dollars is "scanty."
Martha Stewart too busy to "worry about her portfolio"? This was an incredibly flippant comment coming from a Fool, but Ms. Stewart formerly worked as a bond trader, and is very aware/concerned about her stocks. Would you, in your right mind, recommend any other practice?
Lastly, I am rather shocked at your indifferent tone about the issue of insider trading. Insider trading subverts the ability for people to manage their investments Foolishly, and it undermines the integrity of all the information which honest, hardworking persons need in order to not lose their respective shirts (while, perhaps, "insiders" avoid the losses based upon insider information). (Ref. "The Motley Fool Manifesto")
David, I have my suspicions about why you might want to shill for Stewart (party politics is what I'm guessing) but I think the better course is to criticize Martha and at the same time criticize (as you have rather gamely) the capitalism-hating, green-with-envy (dare I say "mean-spirited") folks who you've witnessed indulging in Stewart's fall. You're better than this.
Editor's Note: To read the continued conversation between David and Ned, go here.
After reading your article entitled, "A Letter to Martha," I was prompted to write because you have pre-judged the event Martha is criticized for even as you criticize others who have done the same.
Granted, you have taken an opposing view and theorized that Martha's true involvement in the sale of a "paltry" 4,000 shares of ImClone was negligible at most. But you have pre-judged, nonetheless.
I applaud your courage in taking an opposing view in the face of overwhelming popular opinion to the contrary. It is at once courageous and makes for interesting reading. But I think you went over the line when you excused her involvement in her sale of ImClone altogether. It's too early to tell.
But thank you for mentioning all the good Martha has done for the economy through the creation of an industry and so many jobs. I'd like to point out that the CEOs of Adelphia and top management at Enron also created jobs -- and, yes, their transgressions were admittedly more egregious (at least as far as what they've been accused of). So, David, at what point is an ethical transgression forgivable in your opinion? Is the threshold north of $280,000?
Despite all the good Martha has done for others, I think it is an error to treat her differently than any other perpetrator of a criminal/unethical act. And that includes the case of selling her ImClone stock based on insider information.
Thanks for listening,
I just read your article on Martha Stewart and your glowing support for her. I am not a big follower of her situation, but do know that she held a trading seat on the NYSE. It is my opinion that ANYONE in that position is to avoid any possible situation that might even just look like any wrong doings could have occurred. A person in her position represents the trust that our financial system is based upon. Her avoiding questions or providing misleading answers to questions on her "insider trading" is NOT acceptable... and she should know that.
She might not have done anything wrong, but her avoiding answering direct questions right off the bat sure did lead many to speculate that she might have something to hide... and that alone is enough to continue and intensify the investigation into her dealings.
As someone who is Trustee to assets that I am responsible for, I would never allow myself to have a shadow of doubt cast upon the trust bestowed upon me. Answering questions right from the start, or at least initiating an investigation for answers immediately, is the only way to ensure that this type of "witch-hunt" can ever be avoided, and public faith in our system insured.
FOOL-ish once... twice a fool.