Bear Trap, part II

I mentioned earlier the "anonymous" book Bear Trap. A few additional details have come to light, and they are worth sharing:

The original clip came to me from a Fox producer — and since that was the only coverage online, it was all I saw (there was no mention of other footage).

Liz tells me that Fox did several follow ups that day, including a long segment with Ladenberg Thallman banking analyst Dick Bove, (former) SEC prosecutor Marvin Pickholtz (who shot down many of the book’s accusations) as well as former Bear Stearns Chief Economist John Ryding. The book accuses Treasury Chief Hank Paulson of having a grudge against Bear — but the Treasury Department had not seen the manuscript for Bear Trap, they would not comment — but Liz tells me they were asked.

None of that was online, which is unfortunate, because this looks to be a much more substantive piece of journalism than the single clip I received.

As to my accusations of Yellow Journalism — in light of the additional clips, perhaps that was the wrong term. The two issues I have with this story are: 1) I find the entire "anonymous author to be unveiled September" by publisher BrickTower Press to be just so much gimmickry to sell books. That’s too bad, because it cheapens what  could be an important inside look into Bear’s collapse; 2) As noted previously, I hate the rumor mongering aspect; given how poorly managed Bear was, its simply a nonsensical distraction, pushed by a clueless SEC, who should know better. Additionally, whenever I see that storyline on Fox, it looks to this tv junkie to be less about the actual financial issues and more about taking a cheap swipe at CNBC. But to be fair and balanced, perhaps the phrase "Yellow Journalism" was less than ideal.

I spoke with Liz this morning about my reservations about the piece. In fairness to her, my critique was based on that single clip, and I didn’t see all of the rest — as it was not online. Based on what she told me, they made a good faith effort to present many sides of this (Bove, Pickholtz, Ryding)  and not just the breathless "We have a scoop" portion I saw.

Liz, tell your producer to put the good stuff on the web, and we will give it prominent play here.

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Get Shorty commented on Aug 4

    I saw Fox all day Friday. Each hour they had more/different stuff on this. I was particularly interested because have lots of ex-Bear pals. Can’t wait for the movie!

  2. Ryan commented on Aug 4

    Fox take a shot at NBC? get outta town! hopefully theyll put the rest of the video online.

    keep up the good work

  3. dan commented on Aug 4

    Liz who?

  4. MM commented on Aug 4

    You made me actually look at that clip.

    I think you were being kind by describing it as Yellow Journalism.

    This is the most simple-minded segment that does everything possible to make a flimsy book with no new facts into some sort of explosive story. They should have known better: they were probably given the manuscript from the publisher; the trading they mention is hardly a conspiracy, especially if–as Glick suggests–the prime brokerage clients were the ones pulling their accounts and shorting the stocks; and the LTCM excuse has been used by everyone for why Bear had no friends but I think that’s a canard. LTCM is an easy story to describe all of Bear’s behavior for many years, not that one event.

    I love how the hierarchy of crimes in the manuscript is insider trading or, much worse, rumor mongering. Isn’t that backwards?

    Finally, your second post says that Clayman says they ran segments later with comments from others. That’s not the same as running a neutral commentary alongside that gasping couch grope. You’re right, it’s like a bad porn set up on that couch. I could hear both Glick and Clayman biting their lips and moaning.

  5. Rubens Morse commented on Aug 4

    I think you underestimate the impact that rumors and withdrawals can have on a bank. Commercial and investment banks need leverage in order to exist. Almost all banks on earth would go bankrupt (for illiquidity, not insolvency) if all customers asked to withdraw their deposits at the same time. In the end this is what killed Bear Stearns. This is a key difference between financial and non-financial companies.

  6. Bear Boy commented on Aug 4

    I’m no big fan of Fox news but you guys all need a remedial course in what the term “Yellow Journalism” really means. It’s got to be purely for the sensationalism aspect of it. As far as I can tell, there’s a book coming out on Bear written by a guy who was on the inside. For all of us on Wall Street, how is that not something we should hear about? Should the fact that a Bear book is coming out be kept from our eyes? So the red-headed chick got it and got a little excited about it with Alexis. Big deal. If those two can be accused of anything it’s that theyr’e sexy. As for Yellow Journalism, this ain’t it. But I”ll let you know when I see it.

  7. MeeOhMy commented on Aug 6

    We’ve got a running bet on my trading floor as to who Anonymous is. Claman’s report was a little breathless, no mind. The Red Fox can do what she wants, fine by us!

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