Twitter is a good invention. It’s easy and fun. Much less demanding and intrusive than Facebook. So much so that many millions of people, from the famous to ordinary people like you and I, use it every day.
On the back of that success the Twitter company is doing very well. But recently it did even better when its shares jumped four per cent in a matter of minutes.
It all happened after a buyout story appeared on the internet that claimed that Twitter had received a significant offer. It started off, “Twitter is working closely with bankers after receiving an offer to be bought out for $31 billion…”
Investors piled in. And not just the amateurs, lots of the ‘professional’ Wall Street guys too.
The trouble was, however, that the internet story was on a bogus web site and was completely fake. The site was called “bloomberg.market”. It was not “Bloomberg.com” the official name of the web presence for the Bloomberg financial organization.
“Bloomberg.market” was what they call a ‘mirror’ of the genuine “Bloomberg.com” website. Whoever designed “bloomberg.market” set it up to look like “Bloomberg.com”. They copied real headlines and linked them back to the real dot-com website. With one exception: the fake Twitter story, which was dressed up to look like a legitimate webpage.
The spike in the Twitter share price only lasted about 15 minutes before Bloomberg denounced the story as fake and the share price dropped back to its previous level. But 15 minutes is a long time in the world of finance and plenty of time for someone to profit substantially from the scam.
No one yet knows who owns the dot-market domain – except the people who own it, of course – but it was registered just days before the scam message, using a proxy service called “WhoisGuard”, based in Panama, that protects registrant details by offering its own address and contact numbers. But the details of “WhoisGuard” on its own website at “WhoisGuard.com” also appear to be fake, listing a telephone number that is disconnected. Emails to their contact address have not received a response either.
The significance of this incident is not that some greedy and stupid people lost money rushing to buy Twitter shares on the back of this fake announcement.
The problem is that so many new dot word domains have recently been allowed – hundreds of them in fact – that the whole internet is becoming bloated and confusing. And expensive.
If you are a company that wants to protect your online identity and integrity it could now cost you tens of thousands of dollars to cover all the permutations. Not many companies, even huge affairs like Bloomberg, will choose to do that.
That leaves the way wide open for cyber criminals to take advantage of gullible internet users.
I am certain they will.
Like the Twitter announcement, it’s just too good a deal to refuse.
Like the last election in the UK, this one was a close run thing – but nowhere near as close as the pollsters predicted. At least this time there is an outright winner, the Conservative Party, with David Cameron still as Prime Minister.
No hung Parliaments, no dodgy coalitions between parties that obviously did not really like each other, and no more general elections for another five years.
Stability is always good.
Indeed the Conservative victory is already being seen as a positive step for the UK economy, with both shares and the pound sterling rising in value.
But during the next five years, although a degree of stability has been achieved, the UK is still in for challenging times economically.
Like the Unites States, the UK has been living well beyond its means for far too long. Eventually these delusions end in harsh reality. America will find this out too, but not until after their election next year.
At the start of the campaigning there was an unexpected degree of sense in being shown the two main parties. Election messages were warning of the need to cut spending, that Britain was still living beyond its means, and that there would be ‘difficult’ choices ahead.
However, as the election campaign progressed and the pollsters warned how tight the result was likely to be, all the political parties regressed into doing what they do best, regardless of what country they are in. In their desperation to get votes they ignored reality once again, started hiding the truth from their voters, and promised more goodies that the country can’t afford.
You know the sort of thing, better education, better health service, more jobs, etc., and to pay for it all less taxes.
Yes, elections are full of ‘spend more and collect less’ promises.
In the non-political world we call them lies, because that’s what they are.
The smaller parties never suffered from the same restraints. Even from the beginning of their campaigns small parties like the Scottish SNP promised massive spending. They knew they would never be in a position to have to follow through on these boasts, but their message got out and, as always happens, many voters fell for it. The Scottish National Party (SNP) had a landslide victory in Scotland, winning 56 of the 59 seats – and all they promised was extra £180 billion ($280 billion) more spending over the next five years.
The two main parties soon countered with their own promises – the Conservatives talking about things like 30 hours of free child care a week for parents of 3 & 4-year-olds, no tax for people earning the minimum wage, an extra £8 billion (US$12 billion) for the National Health Service, free access to a doctor seven days a week, and a freeze rail ticket price increases for five years.
On the face of it, the past five years have seen the UK economy growing, unemployment down below 6% and a booming housing market, particularly in the South East of the country. All part of the reason why the Conservatives have their victory.
But, returning to reality for a moment, Britain is now in the most debt it has been in, relative to its economy, since 1967. The financial crisis hit the UK hard. From 2009 to date, British government borrowing has been at a higher level than at any time since World War II.
The scariest part is that, whilst the governments all talked about “cuts” and “austerity”, not a penny of this money has been paid back.
And like American politicians, and others, they use deliberate deceit to cover their lack of progress. Well-worn phrases like “cutting the deficit” are designed to make people think that the government is paying back its debt, but in fact all that has been happening is that they have been borrowing a little less money this year than they did the year before.
If you are any good at math at all, you will know that in reality this means that the debt burden is increasing, not decreasing. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that Britain would, in all probability, not even begin to pay back its debts until sometime after 2020 – and that was even before all these new election promised of spending more!
In addition to all that, one of the fundamental platforms that helped the Conservative Party to get elected was the promise of a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. The result of that will have its own impact economically too.
Personally if I were them I’d drop the EU like a hot poker. For more than forty years Britain has been paying more into Europe than they have got out, a situation that is likely to continue as rafts of the poorer European nations continue to join.
So the next five years are shaping up to be very interesting for both Britain and America.
I did a few posts recently about the resignation of pope Benedict and the election of Francis I (here and here ) and that reminded me of something that happened in the way distant past of the internet. In fact it became the first internet hoax.
I am sure a great many of you are far too young to remember this, so here is the story.
Sometime in early 1994 a press release began circulating around the internet claiming that Microsoft had bought the Roman Catholic Church.
The press release, allegedly from the Vatican City itself, announced that this was “the first time a computer software company has acquired a major world religion.”
The release also quoted Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates as saying that he considered religion to be a growth market and that, “The combined resources of Microsoft and the Catholic Church will allow us to make religion easier and more fun for a broader range of people.”
The deal would allow Microsoft to acquire exclusive electronic rights to the Bible and would make the sacraments available online.
Similarities were drawn between the business practices of Microsoft and the Catholic Church’s historical conversion efforts, claiming that throughout history the Church, like Microsoft, had been “an aggressive competitor, leading crusades to pressure people to upgrade to Catholicism, and entering into exclusive licensing arrangements in various kingdoms whereby all subjects were instilled with Catholicism, whether or not they planned to use it.”
At the time very few seemed to get the joke. Stained Glass Windows 3.1 was not in fact about to be launched, but still many people telephoned Microsoft’s public relations agency to inquire if the news was true.
In the end it got so bad that Microsoft had to issue a formal denial of the release on December 16, 1994.
A follow-up hoax release announced that in response to Microsoft’s acquisition of the Catholic Church, IBM had bought the Episcopal Church.
Since then hoaxes on the internet have gone from strength to strength, from end of the world scenarios, thru Nigerian 419 scams to the plethora of “warn all you friends about this new deadly virus (that doesn’t really exist)” hoaxes.
People were dumb, are dumb and will get dumber!
I have reproduced below the original hoax announcement.
Would you have fallen for it?
If you are reading this blog I doubt it. But read it anyway for amusement value.
By the way, the authors of these hoaxes remain unknown – good for them.
Here it is:
MICROSOFT BIDS TO ACQUIRE CATHOLIC CHURCH
By Hank Vorjes
VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a joint press conference in St. Peter’s Square this morning, MICROSOFT Corp. and the Vatican announced that the Redmond software giant will acquire the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for an unspecified number of shares of MICROSOFT common stock. If the deal goes through, it will be the first time a computer software company has acquired a major world religion.
With the acquisition, Pope John Paul II will become the senior vice-president of the combined company’s new Religious Software Division, while MICROSOFT senior vice-presidents Michael Maples and Steven Ballmer will be invested in the College of Cardinals, said MICROSOFT Chairman Bill Gates.
“We expect a lot of growth in the religious market in the next five to ten years,” said Gates. “The combined resources of MICROSOFT and the Catholic Church will allow us to make religion easier and more fun for a broader range of people.”
Through the MICROSOFT Network, the company’s new on-line service, “we will make the sacraments available on-line for the first time” and revive the popular pre-Counter-Reformation practice of selling indulgences, said Gates.
“You can get Communion, confess your sins, receive absolution — even reduce your time in Purgatory — all without leaving your home.” A new software application, MICROSOFT Church, will include a macro language which you can program to download heavenly graces automatically while you are away from your computer.
An estimated 17,000 people attended the announcement in St Peter’s Square, watching on a 60-foot screen as comedian Don Novello — in character as Father Guido Sarducci — hosted the event, which was broadcast by satellite to 700 sites worldwide.
Pope John Paul II said little during the announcement. When Novello chided Gates, “Now I guess you get to wear one of these pointy hats,” the crowd roared, but the pontiff’s smile seemed strained. The deal grants MICROSOFT exclusive electronic rights to the Bible and the Vatican’s prized art collection, which includes works by such masters as Michelangelo and Da Vinci. But critics say MICROSOFT will face stiff challenges if it attempts to limit competitors’ access to these key intellectual properties.
“The Jewish people invented the look and feel of the holy scriptures,” said Rabbi David Gottschalk of Philadelphia. “You take the parting of the Red Sea — we had that thousands of years before the Catholics came on the scene.”
But others argue that the Catholic and Jewish faiths both draw on a common Abrahamic heritage. “The Catholic Church has just been more successful in marketing it to a larger audience,” notes Notre Dame theologian Father Kenneth Madigan. Over the last 2,000 years, the Catholic Church’s market share has increased dramatically, while Judaism, which was the first to offer many of the concepts now touted by Christianity, lags behind.
Historically, the Church has a reputation as an aggressive competitor, leading crusades to pressure people to upgrade to Catholicism, and entering into exclusive licensing arrangements in various kingdoms whereby all subjects were instilled with Catholicism, whether or not they planned to use it.
Today Christianity is available from several denominations, but the Catholic version is still the most widely used. The Church’s mission is to reach “the four corners of the earth,” echoing MICROSOFT’s vision of “a computer on every desktop and in every home”.
Gates described MICROSOFT’s long-term strategy to develop a scalable religious architecture that will support all religions through emulation. A single core religion will be offered with a choice of interfaces according to the religion desired — “One religion, a couple of different implementations,” said Gates.
The MICROSOFT move could spark a wave of mergers and acquisitions, according to Herb Peters, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Baptist Conference, as other churches scramble to strengthen their position in the increasingly competitive religious market.
They’ve been ‘beautiful’, they’ve been ‘big’ and they’ve been ‘unusual’. Today we have another ‘significant’ number, fifty-two, so-called because of its use and the beliefs surrounding it.
Fifty-two first came to mind because it is the number of weeks in a year. Simple enough. But, as usual, with these significant numbers there is more to fifty-two than you might at first imagine.
The 52nd word of the King James Version of the Bible’s Old Testament Genesis is ‘God’
Saint Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, is believed to have landed in Kodungallur, India to preach the Gospel.
Nag Hammadi is a set of 52 religious & philosophical texts, hidden in an earthenware jar for 1,600 years, and accidentally unearthed in the village of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in December 1945. Written in Coptic, this corpus of 1200 pages include the Gospel of Thomas recording the secret sayings of Christ.
The ancient Mexicans divided the time in periods of 52 years, waiting the end of the world to the term of each of they. It is the number of the Aztec century, 13 x 4, called the small cycle. We find it in the ligature of the years for the duration of the suns, in particular the first and the fourth sun, which have a duration of 676 years, are considered as being the most perfect since they contain only the two numbers 13 and 52 whose product gives 676.
The Mayan Calendar moves through a complete cycle every 52 years. (until near the end of December this year GULP!)
Fifty-two is the 6th Bell number and a decagonal number.
It is an untouchable number, since it is never the sum of proper divisors of any number, and it is a noncototient since it is never the answer to the equation x – f(x).
The number of different ways a complete pack of playing cards may be rearranged is 52! or 52 factorial which is 52 x 51 x 50 x 49 x…
This number is very large; For example it would take light approximately 14 billion billion billion billion billion billion years to travel 52! miles.
The Atomic Number of Tellurium (semi-metallic with silvery lustrous grey color) is 52
Atomic Weight of Chromium (Cr) is 52
Messier object M52, a magnitude 8.0 open cluster in the constellation Cassiopeia
For over twenty years, 52 was the best-known car number of retired NASCAR driver Jimmy Means.
Ray Lewis, is possibly the most famous sportsman to currently wear the number 52 jersey. He plays for the Baltimore Ravens, is a dominant linebacker and force on the premier defense in the NFL. He also has a really unique (and entertaining,) dance he does when entering the stadium field.
But perhaps the most interesting story is that of Michael Lewis “Iron Mike” Webster who was an American football player who played center in the National Football League from 1974 to 1990 with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Iron Mike” anchored the Steelers’ offensive line during much of their run of four Super Bowl victories from 1974 to 1979 and is considered by some as the best center in NFL history.
His career ended after the 1990 season, with a total of 245 games played at center. At the time of his retirement, he was the last active player in the NFL to have played on all four Super Bowl winning teams of the 1970s Steelers. He played more seasons as a Steeler than anyone in franchise history (15 seasons), one season ahead of Hines Ward.
While the Steelers no longer officially retire jerseys, Webster’s #52 has not been reissued by the team since he retired and it is generally understood that no Steeler will wear that number again.
Webster was proven to have been disabled before retiring from the NFL. After retirement, he suffered from amnesia, dementia, depression, and acute bone and muscle pain. He lived out of his pickup truck or in train stations between Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, even though his friends and former teammates were willing to rent apartments for him. In his last years Webster lived with his youngest son, Garrett, who though only a teenager at the time, had to act as the parent to his father. Webster’s wife divorced him six months before his death in 2002. He was only 50 years old.
Webster is quoted as an example of the difficulties American football players suffer when their careers are over. Other players who retired because of the effects of concussion or other head injuries include Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Merril Hoge, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Dave Pear, Wayne Chrebet, and Al Toon.
After his death, Mike Webster was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist, examined tissue from Webster and eight other NFL players and determined they all showed the kind of brain damage previously seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as well as in some retired boxers. Omalu’s findings were largely ignored by the NFL until Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was diagnosed with CTE shortly after his death in 2009.
It has been speculated that Webster’s ailments were due to wear and tear sustained over his playing career; some doctors estimated he had been in the equivalent of “25,000 automobile crashes” in over 25 years of playing football at high school, college and professional levels.
Webster’s estate brought a lawsuit in Maryland’s U.S. District Court against the National Football League. The estate contended that Webster was disabled at the time of his retirement, and was owed $1.142 million in disability payments under the NFL’s retirement plan. On April 26, 2005, a federal judge ruled that the NFL benefits plan owed Webster’s estate $1.18 million in benefits. With the addition of interest and fees, that amount was estimated to exceed $1.60 million. The NFL appealed the ruling, but on December 13, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia affirmed the Baltimore federal judge’s 2005 ruling that the league’s retirement plan must pay benefits reserved for players whose disabilities began while they were still playing football.
By far the best know aircraft with the 52 designation is the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. It is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, built to carry nuclear weapons for Cold War-era deterrence missions, and was a replacement for the Convair B-36.
It has been operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) since the 1955. The bomber carries up to 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of weapons.
Beginning with their successful contract bid in June 1946, the Boeing B-52 design evolved from a straight-wing aircraft powered by six turboprop engines to the final prototype YB-52 with eight turbojet engines and swept wings.
The B-52 took its maiden flight in April 1952. Although a veteran of several wars, the Stratofortress has dropped only conventional munitions in combat. Its Stratofortress name is rarely used outside of official contexts; it has been referred to by Air Force personnel as the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat/Flying Fucker/Fellow).
Superior performance at high subsonic speeds and relatively low operating costs have kept the B-52 in service despite the advent of later aircraft, including the cancelled Mach 3 North American XB-70 Valkyrie, the variable-geometry Rockwell B-1B Lancer, and the stealthy Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.
The B-52 marked its 50th anniversary of continuous service with its original operator in 2005 and after being upgraded between 2013 and 2015 it will serve into the 2040s.
The Junkers Ju 52
The Junkers Ju 52 (nicknamed Tante Ju (“Auntie Ju”) and Iron Annie) was a German trimotor transport aircraft manufactured from 1932 to 1945.
It saw both civilian and military service during the 1930s and 1940s.
In a civilian role, it flew with over 12 air carriers including Swissair and Deutsche Luft Hansa as an airliner and freight hauler.
In a military role, it flew with the Luftwaffe as a troop and cargo transport and briefly as a medium bomber.
The Ju 52 continued in postwar service with military and civilian air fleets well into the 1980s.
Another notable air machine with the 52 designation is the multi-role all-weather combat Ka-52 “Alligator” helicopter. First revealed at 1995 Paris Air Show, this is a twin-seat derivative of the attack Ka-50. It is intended for a wide range of combat tasks in daytime and night conditions, in any time of the year with the use of all destruction means of the Ka-50.
The Ka-52 has a coaxial design with unique manoeuvrability that allows the helicopter to perform combat maneuvers within the minimum air area and the shortest time to gain an advantageous attack position.
From the point of view of the weapons power the “Alligator” is comparable with the “Black Shark” helicopter and is superior to all existing combat helicopters.
USS Barry (DDG 52)
The fourth ‘Barry’, the DDG 52, was launched on 10 May 1991 by Ingalls Shipbuilding Inc. and was commissioned into the U.S. Atlantic Fleet on 12 December 1992.
The USS Barry DDG 52 has taken part in Operation Support Democracy in Haiti in November 1993; the backdrop for the 50th anniversary of D-Day in the Mediterranean in 1994; the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas served as “Red Crown” in support of the No-Fly Zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina; the Persian Gulf in 1994 in response to Iraq’s massing of troops on the Kuwaiti border; Operation Vigilant Warriors escort of both the George Washington and an amphibious assault group to anchorage off Kuwait City and as alternate Persian Gulf Anti-Air Warfare Coordinator (AAWC), and principal Tomahawk strike platform during the crisis.
The USS Barry received a Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, the Armed Forces Service Medal, and the NATO Medal for her actions
In October of 2004, Barry was again in the Persian Gulf in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as part of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Carrier Strike Group and also participated in Somalia Operations in the Horn of Africa (HOA).
The CZ 52 (also known by the Czechoslovakian military designations vz. 52, for “model of 1952”, and CZ 482) is a semi-automatic pistol designed by two brothers, Jan and Jaroslav Kratochvíl, in the early 1950s for the Czechoslovakian military.
Around 200,000 vz. 52s were made by Ceská Zbrojovka in Strakonice from 1952 to 1954.
The vz. 52 replaced the 7.65 mm Browning caliber (.32 ACP) Vz.50, which had acquired a reputation for unreliability and was underpowered for its role as a military service sidearm.
After 30 years of military service, the vz. 52 was eventually replaced by the 9x18mm Makarov caliber vz. 82. Cz-USA began exporting to the US market in January 1998 with the designation CZ 52.
The AA-52 (full designation in French: Arme Automatique Transformable Modèle 1952, “Transformable automatic weapon model 1952”), also known as “La Nana” is one of the first French-produced guns of the post-World War II era.
It was manufactured by the French government-owned MAS company.
The AA-52 is still used today as a vehicle-mounted weapon due to large quantities in service, but has been replaced in the helicopter role by the Belgian FN MAG, starting with the EC 725 Caracal of the Special Operations units and the Air Force Search and Rescue teams.
The AA-52 had been largely phased out for infantry use in favour of the lighter FN Minimi. The AA-52 is still in use in Afghanistan.
Part of the British Army forces is 52 Infantry Brigade which has a proud and long history as a fighting brigade.
Its reputation during both the World Wars earned it the nickname of ‘The Fighting 52nd’ and its recent deployment to Afghanistan enabled the Brigade to re-establish its fighting credentials as one of the British Army’s fully deployable Type A Brigades.
The 52nd Infantry Regiment
The 52nd Infantry Regiment (“Ready Rifles”) is an infantry unit of the United States Army.
The coat of arms was originally approved for the 52d Infantry Regiment on June 29, 1921. It was redesignated for the 52d Armored Infantry Regiment on September 29, 1942. The insignia was redesignated for the 52d Armored Infantry Battalion on January 6, 1944.
It was redesignated for the 52d Infantry Regiment on October 31, 1958.
1st Battalion, 52d Aviation Regiment
The 1st Battalion, 52d Aviation Regiment is known as the “Flying Dragons.”
The battalion headquarters is located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
The battalion provides aviation support to USARAK (United States Army Alaska) with UH-60A Blackhawks and CH-47 Chinooks. On order, deploy and conduct full spectrum aviation operations in support of Combatant Commanders.
A standard piano has 52 white keys
Fifty-two is the approximate number of weeks in a year. 52 weeks is 364 days, while the tropical year is 365.24 days long. According to ISO 8601, most years have 52 weeks while some have 53.
There are 52 cards in a standard deck of playing cards, not counting Jokers or advertisement cards
There is a 52 Plus Joker Club that was formed to facilitate, the collection and trading of antique and collectible playing cards and related items; the advancement of knowledge about the history, manufacture and artistic aspect of playing cards; and the promotion of fellowship among members with similar interests.
DC Comics has a weekly comic series entitled 52 that has 52 issues, with a plot spanning one full year.
In finance one of the vital statistics always quoted in stocks/shares summaries is the 52 week High/Low trading price
Patolli is an Aztec board game utilizing 52 squares arranged in a cross form. Its name came from the Aztec word for bean— patolli, meaning fava or kidney bean. The game is played on a curious diagonal cross-shaped board with red and blue markers and five beans (or occasionally four beans) as dice. The game’s goal is to return the pieces back to the original starting position. Patolli was most likely also used in a religious and ritualistic sense for divination— the throw of the beans was thought to be able to tell the future.
Cities located at 52o latitude: Berlin, Germany; Hannover, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Warsaw, Poland; and Birmingham, UK.
And finally, the Morden Blush Rose, bred in Canada, has 52 petals.
Launched at the ridiculous price of $38 a share, or about 100 times the company’s earnings, the price momentarily made it to $45, but then quickly plummeted to $34.
In my post in May I suggested that the shares were worth more like $18 a share rather than $38. As of yesterday (August 16th) the price had fallen below $20.
I’m not saying this by way of blowing my trumpet, because I now think that my $18 peg may have been rather optimistic too. Investors have by and large turned against Facebook.
Apart from the odd blip, the stock has been on a downward trend pressured by disappointing earnings and by the fact that from today the so-called “lockups” that have prevented some early Facebook backers from unloading their stakes begin to expire. This simply means they will be able to sell shares into the market and with around two billion shares eligible for a sell off between now and May 2013, with a big one coming in November, the signs for a price recovery are ominous.
In fact further falls are more than likely.
Those who can are shorting the stock like crazy. (Shorting is where your broker borrows shares which you sell immediately in the hope that you can buy them back later at a lower price.)
The number of Facebook shares on loan to short sellers has risen from 63 million a month ago to more than 93 million.
So is it a good buy now at $18? I think not. Not for a while anyhow, until these locked shares find their way into the market and the price stabilizes and that will probably be well into 2013.
In the short term the status quo is probably down down deeper and down.
Forget Facebook and enjoy some music from the 70s instead.
Fasab disclaimer: this blog post does not constitute professional advice as regards investments on the stock exchange, such advice would only be given and indicated thus if an outrageous fee were being charged and this blog is being given to you for free. Also any investor should always be aware that shares can fall as well as plummet and should act accordingly by not investing any money they can not afford to lose.
I should make it clear right at the start of this blog post that the person who was being accused of being an asshole was ME!
Of course, you know from reading my blog that such a description could never be applied to me ….ahem, however, a while back I had somehow managed to get my name on an “idiot” list of people who could be called about various scams and “investments”.
I suspect that one of those companies that would never sell your details, sold my details.
Well, as an unwanted consequence, I had cold callers by the square yard for a while.
And on and on and on and on it went for several months.
At the start I listened politely. I’ve had to cold call people on a few occasions myself and I know what a horrible job it is, so I answered their inane questions, pretended I was vaguely interested in what they had to say, but eventually declined all their more than generous offers.
Man, if only I had done a few of those investments I would have been richer than Bill Gates by now – or broke a lot faster!
But as the weeks went on, a bit like the telemarketers I wrote about in the cunningly named “Telemarketers”, my patience ran out. I started to say up front that I wasn’t interested and couldn’t afford it and if they couldn’t take that hint, I hung up.
However there was one particularly unpleasant young guy who worked for an investment brokerage in New York. He probably had never made it farther than Manhattan in his life, but he was an authority about everything, about everything, about everything. You know the type. And like most people so endowed he actually knew hardly anything at all.
So one day he phoned me up. I must have been at a bit of a lose end (before my blogging days!) so I listened to what he had to say. He had spoken to me before, but didn’t remember, so I knew his patter and what was coming and therefore was well prepared with my answers.
Was I interested in investing? Yes, absolutely.
Had I ever invested in the stock market before? Yes, indeed I had.
Had I any stocks at the moment? Well, no, not at the moment. I’ve been waiting on a “really great deal” to come along.
Of course, I knew he had a “really great deal”.
“Terrific!” he said. “Because I am about to offer you a really great deal!”
Am I psychic or what?
Naturally I got a little excited at this wonderful news and wanted more details, like pronto!
Ah, but first he had a bit on his cold call sheet to quality investors.
What kind of amount was I comfortable with? How much did I normally invest?
I knew this would be where the fun would really start. So I said that it depended on the deal, if it was good enough then it could be a decent amount.
That wasn’t good enough. He wanted to quantify it.
“Would you be comfortable with something in the $5000 range?” he asked.
“Not really,” I said, then hearing him deflate on the other end of the phone I followed with, “No, if I’m interested, and there’s no guarantee that I am because you haven’t told me anything about this investment, it would have to be a much bigger amount than that.”
Almost immediately I could hear the vacuum pump activating and re-inflating him.
Now he was sure he had hooked a whale, but tugging on his line was just the big bunch of crap I was giving him.
Then he told me what the investment was. Some pharmaceutical company that was about to go into orbit once a new drug they were working had been perfected and FDA approved and all that rigmarole.
If you don’t know about these things, firms like these who cold call hyping some obscure share or other are on a BIG percentage of the price they get. Could be as high as 75% in some cases. The shares are usually completely worthless and virtually unsaleable on the open market so if you are foolish enough to buy them you are stuck with them and the chances of the company coming good are millions to one. Better to buy a few lottery tickets.
So he could do me a great deal on these shares. They had been trading at up to 90 cents a few months ago (I presumed on IMDAQ, that’s the imaginary stock exchange) but his company had managed to secure some at a fraction of that price. If I were to invest say $50,000 I could get them at 30 cents.
Boy was I interested?
No, not in the slightest, but I didn’t tell him that.
What I said was something like, “Yeah that sounds okay, but for that level of investment is that really the best you could do. What if I could get a few friends interested and maybe raise $100,000? Could you sweeten the deal on your end?”
I got the feeling that this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to this idiot. He could hardly contain himself.
He talked and he talked and he better talked.
Unsurprisingly he could sweeten the price a little for that level of investment and the price duly came down to 25 cents per share.
I wasn’t very impressed. I asked for a better deal.
This time he would have to consult his supervisor to see if he could get a better deal on the share price, so the line went dead for a couple of minutes (a well known sales ploy) and then back he came, 23 cents was the best he could do.
“So that’s 434,782 shares for the $100,000?” I asked. Our calculators agreed the number.
“It’s good,” I told him, “But for that sort of cash I would need at least half a million shares, probably more.”
“Let’s not play games,” he said, ready to make another counter offer.
“Why not?” I asked. “I like playing games.”
“You like playing games?” he asked, a little confused.
The penny was very close to the edge but it hadn’t quite dropped.
“Yeah, don’t you?” I answered happily. “This has been fun.”
…..You mean you’re NOT interested?”
“Well I did say up front that there were no guarantees,” I reminded him.
“But?…. Why did….? ….”
Sound of penny finally dropping.
Then, in a very high pitch girly kind of voice,
“You’re a f****** asshole!”
He was great fun. But, alas, he didn’t want to play any more because he never called again ;(