Ambac, Part III

Riddle Me this Batman:  Over the past 2 months, we have seen at least 3 rallies predicated on the rumor of an Ambac (ABK) rescue — either through a capital infusion, or a direct purchase of the company.

Let me remind you that just a week ago their
triple-A rating was confirmed by the (choose one a. criminally negligent; b.
technically incompetent) organizations known as Moody’s and S&P.

To you can imagine my surprise when the stock was halted today. WSJ Marketbeat announced "Ambac Bailout Imminent! Maybe! Possibly!"

Then we learn that the deal was dead, and that Ambac needs to raise $1.5 billion dollars. Thus, all of those rumors and CNBC appear to have been patently false.

But here’s the question that keeps coming up: Who are the people leaking this information? And, is this legal? Now, we have learned that all of these attempts at manipulating the market were based on rumors that proved to be false.


Question: If material, non-public, inside information turns out to be none of the above (i.e., just rumors), has a crime been committed?

UPDATE: May 6, 2008 5:22am

CNBC reporter Charlie Gasparino has repeatedly caveated this to death on any of his reporting: He recommended people be “cautious” about trading on the latest rumors, and specifically noted that a deal has been rumored to be “close” before” and none had come to pass.



Ambac Bailout Imminent! Maybe! Possibly!
David Gaffen
Marketbeat, March 5, 2008, 12:47 pm

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Chief Tomahawk commented on Mar 5

    Well, Charlie Gasparino certainly juices late afternoon ratings for CNBC…

  2. Estragon commented on Mar 5

    Has a crime been committed (if it was just rumours)? Probably not, but the story of the boy who cried wolf comes to mind wrt cnbc.

  3. rj commented on Mar 5

    Legal? Yes.

    (Pump and dump schemes are illegal but honestly, how can those be proved beyond reasonable doubt?)

    Moral? No.

  4. Turtle commented on Mar 5

    This market is totally ridiculous. There’s this annoying perpetual tug-of-war that no one can consistently make money on, long or short. It’s more frustrating than anything because of all these headfakes in every direction. But what can we do? That’s the market. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to predict it, only react to it. All we can hope is that those false-rumor-bearers feel really bad and shameful inside.

  5. karen commented on Mar 5

    well, taking a different tack, ambac bailout rumors could have prompted sell-offs… so perhaps there was a little market manipulation added to goose the indices in the desired direction.

  6. rj commented on Mar 5

    “This market is totally ridiculous. There’s this annoying perpetual tug-of-war that no one can consistently make money on, long or short. It’s more frustrating than anything because of all these headfakes in every direction. But what can we do?”

    Easy. Get out and wait til the market makes sense.

  7. contratrader commented on Mar 5

    In my humble opinion…. CNBC = Financial Pornography

    This is why is stay on Bloomberg and FOX Business….

  8. Bob Newhart commented on Mar 5

    This aggravating fight between bulls and bears is like the cut on the roof of your mouth that would only heal if you could stop tonguing it. Choose a f**king direction!

  9. Say It Ain’t So commented on Mar 5


    Is it possible that some players on Wall Street have a highly visible misinformation artist on a MSM outlet?

  10. Ben commented on Mar 5

    Let’s do our best to sell down the markets and see if it works?

  11. Pat G. commented on Mar 5

    So BR, have you changed your take on the PPT?

  12. Garuda commented on Mar 5

    The NSA knows who Gasparino has been talking to.

  13. Pool Shark commented on Mar 5

    Just off the top of my head (from what I recall from securities law from law school) the answer is yes, it is illegal.

    Any person intentionally leaking known false information regarding a security would be guilty of a 10b-5 violation.

  14. jst commented on Mar 5

    The crime is that anyone would listen to “churnalism” oh, sorry CNBC

  15. Marcus Aurelius commented on Mar 5

    If releasing false financial/market data is illegal, then our government commits a crime every time it releases anything regarding the economy.

    But, that’s not news, is it?

    Sorry for wasting your time.

  16. SPECTRE of Deflation commented on Mar 5

    MA, good post reminding everyone how rigged and bogus it’s become. The entire system is rotten to the core.

  17. lunativ fringe commented on Mar 5

    I guess the answer is “yes, it’s legal”, as long the cops turn their backs to it.

    The SEC sucks. They ought to be ashamed.

  18. Donaldo Rodrigues commented on Mar 5

    Think about how horrible it’ll be for the market if these monoline insurers actually get bailed out.
    They won’t be able to float rumours about a bailout to pump up the market every now and then.
    Come to think of it, the market may actually sell on the news of an actual bailout, if it ever happens.

  19. N commented on Mar 5

    Here’s my take on this issue of rumors & hard bargaining phase:

    Bailouts & rumours – substantailly priced in, unless of course the government guarantees all risk taking in equity markets. Look at the muted market reaction with each successive AMBAIL-OUT news/rumour

    Fed/Benny – a couple of more 50 BPs cuts and the fed action will be fully priced in. Benny speak – negative already!

    Fiscal stimulus – almost priced in!

    Bush speak – negative for sure!!

    Buffett speak: Will likely stay positive as long as he is alive.

    After all these gyrations over last 3 months, we are trading at the low end of the trading range – primarily as the market has finally adjusted to lower earnings and slower economy finally!

    Next leg up will be hard to come by (commodities ain’t giving up unless we are forced to go to depression/reflection stage…but a couple of more bad economic data points – and we have the next leg down in the markets to follow!

  20. Howard commented on Mar 5

    It’s only a crime if we fail to put the people stupid enough to believe anything on CNBC in a ward with guards, dogs, and bad food so they don’t harm anyone outside their immediate families.

  21. Howard commented on Mar 5

    It’s only a crime if we fail to put the people stupid enough to believe anything on CNBC in a ward with guards, dogs, and bad food so they don’t harm anyone outside their immediate families.

  22. Dumpster commented on Mar 5

    Couldn’t agree more. Charlie is just a stupid punk. Thinks he’s the
    last of the “old school gumshoe reporters.” Out there in the streets
    “maaaan”, standing on the corner just out of view, head hung low,
    fedora tilted down, trench coat fully buttoned as he waits for his I-
    bank “bag-man” to deliver his next exclusive “scoop.” What a friggin’
    hack reporter. Wall Street uses this guy and the rest of the dopey
    “sunshine crowd” on CNBC to deliver their bull sh*t messages to the

    AMBAC and MBIA are in runoff mode. No new policies are being or will
    ever be written. The state regulators will eventually take control of
    these entities, as is their mandate, and the companies will be
    liquidated and the assets (ha ha ha) split amongst the policyholders.

    The Charlie G “scoop” from the other Friday (as well as the ones since then) was a big heaping steamy pile
    of you know what. Just another “ploy by the boyz” to stave off the
    demise of the monolines for yet another week, while they spend
    countless 20-hour days in their respective “war rooms” trying to
    figure out how to get out of this mess. Problem is, there is no way
    out! The game is over boyz!!

  23. dave commented on Mar 5

    Answer: Of course, but if you call the tune requested do you get chased? Charlie G has been filled the Dorfman hole for some time, and the powers that be love it. He throws bombs at the shorts, Bernacke’s timing has been vicious re shorts. At the end of the day it reminds me of the awful musically effort “We all in the same Gang.”
    Along those lines, I am long Biggie, short Tupac.

  24. mj commented on Mar 5

    the small time investor has no business in this market- too many games being played by the big boys. hold on to your cash until it all hits the fan.

  25. Terence Burns commented on Mar 5

    Barry –

    You forgot “C. All of the above”.

  26. NoFate commented on Mar 5

    I don’t know what’s worse…
    – Conspiracy to defraud investors by maintaining a AAA rating on a company that is the walking dead.
    – Blatant market manipulation by the media (and who knows who is pulling the strings).

    Apparently nobody believes in capitalism anymore. Instead of regulating it properly on the front end, now they are trying to manipulate reality on the back-end!

    They are gonna run out of BS and ammo at some point though and they will wish they had just let it deflate. Instead they are setting things up nicely for a crash.

  27. donna commented on Mar 5

    No, we’ve just run the full course where capitalism has returned to a gift economy.

    Of course, you only get the gifts if you’re rich or a corporation. The poor are still screwed.

  28. mhm commented on Mar 5

    It is not a crime as long as the rumour is claimed to be from foreign sources (beyond SEC jurisdiction).

  29. kennycan commented on Mar 5

    Not sure you proved your premise that the info itself were fase. I’ve known plenty of deals that came very close to happening that stalled on an item that seemed surmountable but for some reason but ended up a deal breaker.

    I heard Gasparino a few times discuss Ambac. He said a deal is close but there are sticking points that could still derail it. Everyone heard “a deal is close” and were off to the races. These guys on CNBC are not stupid. They know how to manipulate YOU. Not the news. Emphasize the mkt moving side and de-emphasize the caveats. Get the effect but hedge your liability.

    Just goes to show. You have to listen carefully and ALWAYS maintain scepticism about anything anybody tells you, not just CNBC.

  30. David commented on Mar 5

    Riddle Me This:
    “Whoever makes it, tells it not. Whoever takes it, knows it not. And whoever knows it wants it not.”
    A)*Counterfeit Money or US Dollar*

    We are in the iron grip of a liquidity strangle.

    “Nothing comes amiss; so money comes withal.”
    William Shakespeare

  31. NervousRex commented on Mar 5

    If this keeps up we’ll have to make a new Charlie Gasparino drinking game!

    For productivity reasons we’ll keep Charlie’s emission tests in the afternoon.

    Everytime he says Ambac, we quaff and say “down the drain, ahoy!”

  32. Gegner commented on Mar 5

    Interesting question…the closest parallel we have to this is shouting ‘fire’ in a crowed public venue.

    Wherein, I think the ‘responsible’ party would be open to suit for any resulting property damage and personal injury that ensued…

    Since ‘speculation’ often involves ‘bluffing’, we may be dealing with an entirely different issue no matter who gets ‘hurt’.

  33. Kieran commented on Mar 5

    Come on, Barry, you were a lawyer once, you should know the answer to this question. It’s called “fraud on the market” and it is most certainly illegal.

    According to

    “a theory of liability in securities fraud cases: a defendant’s material misrepresentation regarding a security traded in the open market that affects the price of the security is presumed to have been relied on by a plaintiff who purchased the security and suffered a loss”

  34. daveNYC commented on Mar 5

    If material, non-public, inside information turns out to be none of the above (i.e., just rumors), has a crime been committed?

    Isn’t that what a pump and dump is?

  35. Jonathan Garber commented on Mar 5

    When are they gonna go after these rating agencies?

  36. dark1p commented on Mar 5

    Right after the impeachment trials.

    Don’t hold your breath.

  37. Winston Munn commented on Mar 5

    The latest bailout rumor is that Wheel of Fortune is interested in buying the vowels in Ambac’s rating to replace Vana’s 20-year-old vowels.

    Finally, a bailout rumor that makes some sense.

  38. JL commented on Mar 5

    I am disappointed to have lost the one sure thing in the market, a late day surge based on a Charlie G. rumor, er report? Any ideas on what he can pump over the next few weeks?

  39. Stuart commented on Mar 5

    Rumours of AMBAC rescue = market rallies
    News of AMBAC failed rescue plan = market rallies.


  40. Stuart commented on Mar 5

    What’s up with the scuttlebutt about $40-$50B of FNM and FRE bonds being liquidated.. Alot of rumours circulating about this. Anything to it?

  41. dukeb commented on Mar 5

    The posts touting the sidelines for people who have that luxurious option are the *only* ones that make surefire sense. There are too many people who can press a button, hold a new conference, or float a rumor in this environment and instantaneously change fortunes regardless of logic or fundamentals. No way can common folk react fast enough…there’s a always a faster draw(s) in the wild west.

  42. Alex commented on Mar 6

    This whole monoline thing is looking a lot like how residential real estate was being handled in the media, about a year ago.

    The facts would come out (always worse), and the NAR would get air time with some completely absurd intellectual nurf ball, like Pent Up Demand, or some such.

    And then everyone went back to sleep.
    For awhile.

    It is just a matter of time until the market finally quits hoping for Santa to show up.

    In the meantime, muni rates are soaring upward. Maybe not everyone is stupid.

  43. Bill King commented on Mar 6

    During the seven week saga, the purported AMBAC bailout has gone from $15B to an insignificant $1.5B.

    What happened to private equity that CNBC heralded? Was $1.5B too rich for them?

    Why should investors pony up $1.5B if banks and private equity wouldn’t indulge. Will the CNBC operatives that created and okayed the ads that bragged about how CNBC moved the market with a rumor that proved to be false be disciplined via public confession and penance?

  44. SPECTRE of Deflation commented on Mar 6

    Forget about Charlie G. I want to know who was feeding him pure BS to move the market. . We had a couple hundred point swing at 3:30 on one occasion based on a balled face lie fed to Charlie. It’s rigging plain and simple

  45. SPECTRE of Deflation commented on Mar 6

    A big thank you to Rick S for telling it like it is to a panel of numb nuts yesterday who live in a fantasy world. This quote seems about right.

    “It’s hard to get a man to understand something, when his job depends on him not understanding it.”

  46. cm commented on Mar 6

    Barry, you are way ahead of the time — your update shows the month of May …

Read this next.

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