A blog published by the University of North Carolina School of Journalism reported recently that Steve Cohen of hedge fund SAC Capital managed to kill a story by Reuters reporter Matt Goldstein. It seems that Goldstein was going to shed some light on allegations that Cohen engaged in insider trading. Cohen didn’t like that, and got in touch with Goldstein’s superiors.
It remains unclear how Cohen convinced Goldstein’s superiors to shelve their journalistic ethics, but it is not surprising that he succeeded. After all, Cohen is “the most powerful trader on the Street.” He is also part of a network of closely affiliated hedge fund managers that for many years all but dictated much of what was published by the New York (NYT) financial press.
Three years ago, while working for the Columbia Journalism Review, a magazine affiliated with Columbia University’s school of journalism in New York, I began investigating this network of hedge funds. I worked for many months on this story, and compiled evidence that the hedge fund managers, including Steve Cohen, had developed extremely odd relationships with small number of dishonest journalists.
This evidence gradually convinced me that the hedge funds and journalists not only routinely worked together to disseminate false information about public companies, but also set out to cover up the serious crime of market manipulation via naked short selling.
As I was preparing to publish this story, a hedge fund called Kingsford Capital donated a large sum of money to the Columbia Journalism Review. Indeed, it was made clear to me that my salary would be paid directly from Kingsford’s donation.
I have made this abundantly clear in various stories that I have since written for Deep Capture, but new evidence confirms that Kingsford is tied directly to Steve Cohen’s network of hedge funds and shady journalists – that is, the very network that I was planning to expose in the Columbia Journalism Review when Kingsford announced that it would henceforth be paying my salary.
I left the Columbia Journalism Review soon after Kingsford announced its “donation.” It is possible that my editors would have done the right thing and published my story had I remained. However, I have no doubt that Kingsford Capital’s “donation” stemmed not from some newfound dedication to the field of media criticism, but was intended as a means of acquiring leverage over the Columbia Journalism Review.
Moreover, new information suggests that Kingsford’s financial inducements might have persuaded other journalists to cover up short seller crimes.
This is a scandal of rather significant proportions, so let’s review the evidence, old and new.
While at Columbia, a key focus of my investigation was a financial research shop called Gradient Analytics. Former Gradient employees had testified under oath that short selling hedge funds – especially Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital and Rocker Partners – wrote and traded ahead of Gradient’s false, negative reports on public companies. Former employees of Gradient also said that journalist Herb Greenberg, then of CNBC and MarketWatch.com, timed his false, negative stories, which were based on Gradient research, so that Rocker could profit from the effect those stories had on stock prices.
In the course of investigating SAC Capital and Rocker, I was taking a close look at the bear raid on a company called Fairfax Financial (FFH). As we have since shown in numerous Deep Capture reports, Rocker, SAC Capital and a few closely affiliated hedge funds – including Jim Chanos’s Kynikos Capital, and Dan Loeb’s Third Point Capital – conspired to destroy Fairfax. As part of this ultimately unsuccessful attack, the hedge funds attempted to cut off Fairfax’s access to credit. They traded ahead of false financial research that had been written with their cooperation. And they hired a thug named Spyro Contogouris to harass and threaten Fairfax executives.
Emails obtained from discovery in a lawsuit filed by Fairfax Financial show that Kingsford Capital, the hedge fund that donated money to pay my salary at the Columbia, is directly tied to Steve Cohen, Rocker Partners and the other hedge funds that were attacking Fairfax at the time of my investigation. In one email, from Kingsford manager David Scially to Rocker Partners employee Russell Lyne, the subject line reads: “ spyrocontogouris.com” – a reference to the website of the above-mentioned thug, Spyro Contogouris. The contents of the email is redacted, so it is difficult to know what was discussed, but it is safe to assume that Kingsford and Rocker were communicating about the attack on Fairfax.
It has also come to my attention that Kingsford Capital at one time employed the above-mentioned thug, Spyro Contogouris. Two weeks after Kingsford agreed to “donate” money to the Columbia Journalism Review, the FBI arrested Contogouris as part of an investigation into this same network of hedge funds.
Another target of my investigation was TheStreet.com. Although some good journalists work for that publication, a review of hundreds of stories and numerous bear raids made it clear to me that TheStreet.com had been founded partly to serve the financial interests of select short selling hedge funds, including Rocker Partners, which was then TheStreet.com’s largest shareholder (apart from founder Jim Cramer). Over the course of my investigation, I closely examined the journalism of TheStreet.com’s five founding editors. It was clear that these five journalists had routinely disseminated false information that served the interests of their short selling sources, including Rocker Partners and SAC Capital.
Four of the five founding editors of TheStreet.com were as follows:
1) Jim Cramer, famously of CNBC;
2) David Kansas, then of the Wall Street Journal;
3) Herb Greenberg, the CNBC and MarketWatch reporter mentioned above, said to be conspiring with Rocker and Gradient Analytics;
4) Jon Markman, then running a hedge fund out of the offices of the above mentioned Gradient Analytics. (Markman has since gone on the record saying that hedge funds pay journalists to write false stories.)
The fifth founding editor of TheStreet.com was Cory Johnson. In 2006, Cory Johnson was a manager of Kingsford Capital, the hedge fund that donated money to pay my salary at the Columbia Journalism Review, right before I was to publish a story exposing the five founding editors of TheStreet.com and the hedge funds in their network. After I published my first Deep Capture story raising questions about Kingsford’s donation to the Columbia Journalism Review, Johnson removed all references to Kingsford from his online profiles at LinkedIn.com and other social networking sights.
Another focus of my investigation at Columbia was a hedge fund manager named Jim Carruthers. Patrick Byrne, in his capacity as CEO of Overstock.com, had recently sued Rocker Partners and given a famous conference call presentation in which he described the shenanigans of Rocker and affiliated hedge funds. During this presentation, Patrick stated that he had been informed that Carruthers had been posing as a private investigator as part of the network’s efforts to smear public companies. An email obtained in the Fairfax discovery, written by an employee of the above-mentioned Third Point Capital, and addressed to the above-mentioned Dan Loeb, states: “Jim Carruthers (ex Eastbourne partner, Scially friend, etc.) would like to come up and meet with you…It would be well worth your time.” In other words, Scially, the Kingsford Capital manager, was on good terms with both Carruthers and Loeb, at the time that Kingsford announced that it would be paying the salary of the journalist (me) who was seeking to expose Carruthers, Loeb, and the rest of their network.
Deep Capture reporter Judd Bagley has obtained a list of people whom Kingsford Capital manager David Scially invited to be his “friends” on Facebook, the social networking site. Among Scially’s Facebook friends were Rocker Partners’ managing partner, and three of this managing partners’ family members. Several bloggers, such as Gary Weiss (more on him below), have written that Judd’s Facebook list is a Nixonesque “enemies list” dreamed up by Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, when in fact Byrne was not involved in its creation, most of the people on the list have nothing whatsoever to do with Overstock.com, and it was not “dreamed up”, but merely documents cold facts (bilateral Facebook friendships) that are in fact public. When considered alongside the emails and other evidence, the Facebook revelation is excellent evidence that Scially is close to Rocker Partners – close enough to invite the managing partner and much of his family to be his internet pals. That is big news – a clear motive for Kingsford Capital to begin paying my salary right before I was going to publish strong evidence that Rocker Partners and others in its network were dirty players.
Scially’s Facebook friends also include the above-mentioned Dan Loeb, accused of conspiring with Rocker Partners in the attack on Fairfax; David Einhorn, a hedge fund manager whom I was investigating because he consistently attacks public companies in cahoots with Loeb and others in the network; and Dan Colarusso, a journalist I was investigating because he had vowed to use “barrels of ink” to “crush” Patrick Byrne, who was famously crusading against naked short sellers and this same network of miscreant hedge fund managers. (Patrick is now a Deep Capture reporter.) This additional Facebook information is clear evidence that Kingsford Capital is part of the network I was investigating when Kingsford Capital “donated” money to the Columbia Journalism Review.
Another target of my investigation at CJR was a journalist named Gary Weiss. Weiss, a former reporter for BusinessWeek magazine is flat-out corrupt. It is a disgrace to the profession of journalism that he is still working. While at BusinessWeek, he published stories fed to him by Kingsford Capital while deliberately covering up illegal naked short selling by Kingsford’s then business partner. Since then, Weiss has been caught anonymously authoring blogs that spew lies about people he considers to be his enemies. He has been caught anonymously authoring blogs in which he effusively praises himself — Gary Weiss. He has denied that he authored the blogs about himself despite all evidence to the contrary. He was caught shilling for the Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. (an outfit at the center of the naked short selling scandal) while posing as a journalist. He was caught lying about his shilling. He was caught lying and denying when he was caught controlling the Wikipedia entry on naked short selling. He has lied repeatedly in his blogs about Deep Capture reporters Patrick Byrne and Judd Bagley. He has lied about me – for example, stating that I was fired from the Columbia Journalism Review. He has continued to lie and cover up the crime of naked short selling. He has lied and covered up crimes committed by people tied to the Mafia. And the common denominator of all this lying has been to boost the profits of short selling hedge fund managers, such as his pals at Kingsford Capital, which “donated” a lot money to the Columbia Journalism Review shortly before I was going to publish a story exposing Gary Weiss and his hedge fund friends. (For complete evidence of Gary Weiss’s lying, and his ties to Kingsford Capital, please search through Deep Capture’s archives. We have published extensively on the subject).
Another target of my investigation at CJR was a hedge fund manager named Manuel Asensio, who is tied closely to Gary Weiss. Asensio previously worked for First Hanover, a brokerage tied to the Mafia. He is a self-confessed naked short seller and has been fined for naked short selling infractions. He was also once a business partner of Kingsford Capital. That is to say, Kingsford and Asensio contractually agreed to attack public companies together. I think it’s safe to say that Asensio was close to Kingsford Capital at the time that Kingsford Capital delivered a bundle of money the Columbia Journalism Review.
Another focus of my investigation at CJR was the appalling bear raid on a collectibles company called Escala. Not only was Escala the victim of massive amounts of illegal naked short selling, but a hedge fund convinced the Spanish government that Escala’s parent company, based in Madrid, was fleecing investors in philatelic collectibles. The Spanish government closed the parent company, Afinsa, but not a single executive of the company has since been prosecuted for any crime. Former clients of Afinsa are now petitioning the Spanish government, claiming that the closure was a gross miscarriage of justice. For the full story, I encourage you to visit a website ( gregmanning.me ) put together by Escala’s former CEO. This website provides evidence that the hedge fund at the center of the bear raid on Escala – the hedge fund behind the Spanish government’s decision to close Afinsa — was none other than Kingsford Capital, which donated a bundle of money to the Columbia Journalism Review while I was busy trying to figure out which hedge fund was at the center of the bear raid on Escala.
While I was working on my story for the Columbia Journalism Review, a reporter named Justin Hibbard was working on a similar story for BusinessWeek magazine. I have reviewed emails between Hibbard and one of his sources. These emails clearly show that Hibbard had received evidence that various companies had been clobbered by illegal naked short selling. The emails suggest that Hibbard was investigating ties between journalists and naked short sellers, and that he had interviewed the above-mentioned Herb Greenberg. But for some reason, Hibbard’s story was killed. It never appeared in BusinessWeek. Shortly after Hibbard’s story was killed, Hibbard had a new job – working as consultant to Kingsford Capital.
After I wrote my first story raising questions about Kingsford’s “donation” to the Columbia Journalism Review, Hibbard erased all mention of Kingsford from his profiles on LinkedIn.com and other social networking sites. In a phone interview, Hibbard told me that he “preferred not to discuss” his relationship with Kingsford. When I asked what happened to his BusinessWeek story about naked short selling and corrupt journalists, he said that he had never worked on any such story. When I told him I had evidence to the contrary, he said he might have done some initial research on naked short selling, but he never finished the story. Currently, Hibbard works as a private investigator catering to the needs of short sellers and other “activist” investors. In an interview with an online publication, he said he serves hedge funds by “covertly” observing executives of public companies, taking photos of the executives with a spy camera, staking out offices, using multiple cars to trail the executives, etc. I assume Kingsford Capital is one of his clients.
My successor at the Columbia Journalism Review is now referred to as the “Kingsford Capital Fellow.” He has written several stories arguing that the above-mentioned Gradient Analytics is innocent, despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary. He has written that short sellers are swell and good sources for journalists (glossing over the distinction between short selling and abusive short selling, just as a child molester would gloss over the distinction between sex and pedophilia). He has criticized a 60 Minutes television news expose on Gradient and Steve Cohen of SAC Capital. He has criticized Bloomberg News for writing that criminal naked short sellers helped take down Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. And he has portrayed the corrupt Gary Weiss as a respectable reporter. I don’t mean to suggest that the “Kingsford Capital Fellow” is dishonest, but I predict he will not write about journalists who have been corrupted by Kingsford Capital’s network of hedge fund managers.
To summarize, a particularly nasty network of hedge fund managers and criminals use underhanded tactics to influence the press. We have a money trail, multiple motives, and plenty of other reasons to believe that this network got to the Columbia Journalism Review, which is the only watchdog there is to keep the press honest.
So it goes. Interesting world, isn’t it?
Mark Mitchell is a reporter for DeepCapture.com . He previously worked as an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal in Europe, a business correspondent for Time magazine in Asia, and as an assistant managing editor responsible for the Columbia Journalism Review’s online critique of business journalism. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org