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A Wikipedia Conspiracy and the Wall Street Meltdown

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the controlling-the-public-discourse dept.

The Media 485

PatrickByrne writes "This is The Register's world-class investigative piece concerning one aspect of the meltdown on Wall Street ('naked short selling') and how the criminals engaged a journalist to distort Wikipedia to confuse the discourse. The article explicitly and formally accuses a well-known US financial journalist, Gary Weiss, of lying about his efforts to distort a Wikipedia page under assumed names, and accuses the Powers That Be in Wikipedia (right up to and including Jimbo Wales) of complicity in protecting Weiss. This is not another story about a 15-year-old farm kid in Iowa pretending to be a professor. This is like the worst Chomskian view of Elites manipulating mass opinion. But it is all documented." We discussed the alleged Wikipedia manipulation when The Register first wrote about it last December. The submitter is the CEO of Overstock.com and a major player in this drama from the beginning.

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naked shorts (1, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267159)

IMO, all short trades should be naked. I'd prefer to see the lending of stocks prohibited. And short traders would not be able to cancel deals retroactively just because they could not buy what they had already contracted to sell (unlimited liability in this instance).

Re:naked shorts (5, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267273)

Bad idea. So I can take as much short interest as I want up to infinity and that would be legally ok? Hmm, if that were the case, I could drive every stock down to zero then not worry about having to locate stock, because of the abundance available due to those getting margin calls.

A much better solution is to actually monitor the naked shorting occurring in the marketplace and enforce prohibition of the tactic. Stay tuned - the music has stopped on Wall Street and everyone is looking for chairs. Those who haven't paid off their powerful politicos enough will see the finger pointed directly at them. I'd think this is coming up pretty soon (unless they've all paid enough money into the political extortion fund... err, coffers).

Naked shorting is dirty, crappy stuff and those that engage in the practice should rightfully be put in jail. Unlike "normal" shorting, it does absolutely nothing for a society or market other than enrich the criminals perpetrating the crime. It puts small businesses (like overstock.com) out of business. It's just getting real attention now because ironically, the largest perpetrators of naked shorting (read: financials) are now becoming victim of their own practices.

(It should be noted that I'm a capitalistic heathen most of the time, but this naked shorting really is dirty pool)

Re:naked shorts (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267391)

Naked shorting is dirty, crappy stuff and those that engage in the practice should rightfully be put in jail.

Fuck you! If I want to sit around in my underwear in my own home I should be allowed to do so without fear of being put in jail!

Re:naked shorts (4, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267429)

Naked shorting is dirty, crappy stuff and those that engage in the practice should rightfully be put in jail.

Fuck you! If I want to sit around in my underwear in my own home I should be allowed to do so without fear of being put in jail!

Given that you're posting on Slashdot, odds are you've got plenty of company.

Re:naked shorts (2, Funny)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267455)

haha! I am literally "naked shorting" right now myself - so I guess I agree with you.

Re:naked shorts (1)

FreeFuture (1327915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267711)

Fuck you! If you want to strip me down to my underwear in my own home, you should be kicked into jail!

Re:naked shorts (2, Insightful)

starm_ (573321) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267517)

"Hmm, if that were the case, I could drive every stock down to zero then not worry about having to locate stock, because of the abundance available due to those getting margin calls"

Don't forget short sellers must issue dividends to the people that buy their shorts. So if you massively shorted a profitable company to manipulate its price you would have a huge liability when the company issued a dividend.

If you'd try it, I for one would buy all those shares at discount price, and live on the dividend you'd graciously issue to me every quarter until you accepted to cover your short at a fair price.

The joke would be on you.

Re:naked shorts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267593)

Bad idea. So I can take as much short interest as I want up to infinity and that would be legally ok? Hmm, if that were the case, I could drive every stock down to zero then not worry about having to locate stock, because of the abundance available due to those getting margin calls. A much better solution is to actually monitor the naked shorting occurring in the marketplace and enforce prohibition of the tactic. Stay tuned - the music has stopped on Wall Street and everyone is looking for chairs. Those who haven't paid off their powerful politicos enough will see the finger pointed directly at them. I'd think this is coming up pretty soon (unless they've all paid enough money into the political extortion fund... err, coffers). Naked shorting is dirty, crappy stuff and those that engage in the practice should rightfully be put in jail. Unlike "normal" shorting, it does absolutely nothing for a society or market other than enrich the criminals perpetrating the crime. It puts small businesses (like overstock.com) out of business. It's just getting real attention now because ironically, the largest perpetrators of naked shorting (read: financials) are now becoming victim of their own practices. (It should be noted that I'm a capitalistic heathen most of the time, but this naked shorting really is dirty pool)

Can somebody please explain the parent's post? I'm not an economist but I definitely want to understand his viewpoint.

Posting as AC because I am too lazy to look up the info myself, but I will be checking back. Hopefully I'm not the only one who would benefit from a simpler phrasing for financial laymen. Thanks.

Re:naked shorts (5, Informative)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267787)

A traditional short stock sale requires that you find someone who will loan you their shares in a stock you believe to be over valued. You then sell those shares to someone. When it comes time to return the shares you borrowed, you buy at the lower price that you expected and return them to the person you borrowed from. You get to keep the difference in price.

A naked short means you never borrowed the shares in the first place. You agreed to sell someone some shares and you have a certain amount of time to actually deliver the shares. The idea is that you will find someone to borrow from in the period during which you have to settle the transaction.

Problems arise when the settlement never occurs because the short seller can't find anyone willing to lend the stock and they are faced with buying on the open market at the current price. So they just don't bother to follow through because the cost will end up being, theoritically, infinite. When Broker B finds that Broker A hasn't delivered the stock, they can technically go out and buy on the market and have the bill sent to Broker A. But they rarely do this because what goes around comes around and they will eventually find themselves in the situation where one of their customers initiated the naked short. Whenever the shares aren't settled it's called a failure-to-deliver (FTD) and on any given day the value of the sales that aren't delivered is measured in the tens of billions of dollars.

Because of the FTD, buyers end up thinking they own stock that they don't. And brokers list the stock in the buyer's portfolio and tell the companies that the buyer is an owner of the stock. Companies can end up with more people thinking they own shares than actual shares exist. Leading to devaluation of the stock, limiting the ability of the company to raise funds by selling more stock, and affecting corporate voting.

Another problem is that companies with a small amount of stock in circulation and a fairly low market cap can find that on a daily basis there are more shares offered for sale than actually exist because short sellers are selling without ever finding a person to loan them the shares in the first place. Due to the massive amount of sales being offered the price plummets, defrauding honest investors of value.

Re:naked shorts (2, Insightful)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267611)

(It should be noted that I'm a capitalistic heathen most of the time, but this naked shorting really is dirty pool)

So basically you're a capitalist who believes stealing is still wrong no matter what they call it? go figure I didn't know there were any of you left.

Re:naked shorts (2, Insightful)

Bombula (670389) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267651)

Shorting of all kinds should be banned. It is an abuse of the property rights that form the foundation of capitalism. As Adam Smith pointed out, it is only by accident that capitalism and free markets leverage self-interest to the benefit of others, and it is only under a narrow set of rules and conditions that they do so at all. Where these rules are broken, where markets are inefficient or failing, where the right to own something is abused - as in the instance of shorting, where individuals are deliberately investing in failure - the system does not generate net benefit for all. The system, in such instances, is broken. Shorting is no different than buying an insurance policy on a building you think is likely to collapse or catch fire: that investment does nothing to foster economic growth or redistribute wealth in a maximally productive way; it is an abuse of market inefficiency (in this case, lack of market information and transparency). Cashing in on market inefficiency is the antithesis of capitalism.

Naked Short Selling is a Scam: Here's How (5, Insightful)

mathmathrevolution (813581) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267555)

In every market you've got supply and demand. They balance at the asset price.

Then comes naked short selling. The naked short sellers don't need to borrow shares before they sell them. So unscrupulous agents start creating supply out of thin air. What happens next? As every fool knows, an increase in supply causes the price to drop. Unscrupulous parties continue to naked short the stock, saturating demand through successive price floors. As the price drops, stop-loss orders are activated, exacerbating the decline. Momentum traders will also short the stock. Pretty soon the share price has crashed, the company faces bankruptcy, but the perpetrators can easily cover their position at bottom dollar making millions. All of this is perfectly legal under SEC's rules regarding short sales, REG SHO.

Naked short sales completely destroy the relationship between supply and demand. It allows well connected insiders to make millions or even billions by ruining the market for everybody else.

Re:Naked Short Selling is a Scam: Here's How (5, Insightful)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267621)

Yes. Naked short-selling clearly can be used to manipulate the prices of stocks.

The question is whether it has been used. And that's a far, far murkier issue. There are a bunch of important aspects of it, and particularly of Byrne's claims about it, that are in no way well-established.

1) Was naked short selling used by a specific investor (who Byrne referred to as a "Sith Lord") to drive down Overstock.com's share price?
2) Was naked short selling used to drive down the share prices of financial stocks, hastening the current financial crisis?
3) Was, as Byrne is implying by declaring victory in this affair now that the SEC has cracked down on naked short selling, the person or people responsible for shorting the financial stocks the same person or people who manipulated Overstock's price?

These are big questions that remain totally unanswered. Some scandalous details about sockpuppeting on Wikipedia (brought to you by an editor who was banned from Wikipedia for sockpuppeting) should not distract from those key aspects of Byrne's claims.

second post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267171)

to celebrate, why don't you eat out may asshole? I hope you like poop!

Gee golley Jeepers! (4, Insightful)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267175)

Politics on a wiki is downright bad and lie-heavy.
Dry scienc-y and math-y stuff is most likely right.

For Politick, I go to Faux-News for my daily News(R) and CNN for my other News(D).

Re:Gee golley Jeepers! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267339)

Dry scienc-y and math-y stuff is most likely right.

It is. And it's actually kind of funny. A particular subject may be safe in the hands of experts for hundreds of years. Disputes resolved through educated discourse and research. Progress being made.

Then all of a sudden the academic topic intersects with a political or religious topic and all hell beaks lose. (Debate and research? Screw you we have talking points! )

Re:Gee golley Jeepers! (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267353)

Well, while that is a sound strategy (more-or-less), the "journalists" are getting their "common knowledge" from places like Wikipedia, and using it to support their interested position.

At least, this is part of what happened in this case. It is an interesting story, and I recommend RTFA. (I know, I know, it's slashdot)

Re:Gee golley Jeepers! (0, Troll)

BPPG (1181851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267415)

Makes me appreciate all the teachers that don't like students using wikipedia as a reference in schoolwork.

Re:Gee golley Jeepers! (4, Insightful)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267693)

There's something wrong with using Wikipedia as a sole source.
There's nothing wrong with using Wikipedia as a starting point in your research.

I also read that (5, Funny)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267181)

the African population of elephants had tripled in the past six months.

Re:I also read that (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267209)

True, and I have also heard from a reliable source that a large herd of elephants stormed Wall Street being the actual guilty party to the crash.

Re:I also read that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267363)

Are you sure it wasn't donkeys? I heard a rumor that donkeys were particularly excited about the bailout.

Re:I also read that (1)

eagee (1308589) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267211)

The sad part is that most people will read that and think, "Well, that makes sense."

Re:I also read that (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267217)

I heard vista is selling really well and customers love it.

Re:I also read that (4, Interesting)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267305)

Elephants are an expanding computing market.

Re:I also read that (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267445)

Yeah? Well, I heard sakdoctor was a lying sack of shit.

Re:I also read that (-1, Offtopic)

INT_QRK (1043164) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267357)

The left hate guns? Nonsense. They've traditionally loved AK-47's, at least until culmination of a "successful" revolution, after which said weapons are rounded up along with all "rights" inconvenient to the peoples' paradise. Tragedy -- "...a beautiful hypothesis, slain by an ugly fact..." - Huxley

Bryne has more than a couple screws loose (2, Interesting)

jbellis (142590) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267207)

Re:Bryne has more than a couple screws loose (1, Offtopic)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267279)

So does Mark Cuban.

Re:Bryne has more than a couple screws loose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267609)

And there you have it, the cover up machine at work!

Smearing 101, one of the most basic tools for manipulating the enemies. As seen, for example, in the movie "The Insider"

As far as I'm concerned, they should start dusting off Old Sparky for these kind of people.

Minitrue (4, Interesting)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267225)

Excellent, Minitrue is working as planned. We can now commence with phase three or our diabolical plan.

Confirms Wikipedia's Malleability (1)

colganc (581174) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267229)

It only can prove not to trust Wikipedia fully: Wikipedia is corruptible and can be manipulated. Both have been known from the start. Not news and not confirming Chomsky.

Re:Confirms Wikipedia's Malleability (5, Interesting)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267439)

This case is direct evidence for Chomskian media theory. (As if there wasn't enough already -- Chomsky has compiled literally thousands of incidents)

Why do you think the press would be any different than Wikipedia? Because it is permanent? Nobody cares about yesterday's news anyway. Because you need to be hired to join? Getting hired is easy -- essentially any interested party can join. Because journalists have integrity? I won't accuse all journalists of being disingenuous, but this particular journalist was caught manipulating both wikipedia and the mainstream media.

Certainly, if you let a fox in your hen house, you should expect your dinner to get eaten -- whether the metaphorical hen house is Wikipedia or the mainstream media.

Chomskian!? (2, Interesting)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267261)

This is like the worst Chomskian view of Elites manipulating mass opinion

This is the funniest, hippiest statement I've heard in a while. Criminals engaged a financial journalist to modify some wikipedia articles. If they are the Elites, you got a real fucking crazy view on society, mate..

TheRegister really is going downhill. It always was a tabloid read at best but this is just sad.

Re:Chomskian!? (5, Insightful)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267397)

I've not read any of Chomsky's political theory. But this is definitely a case of the worst sorts of abuses that Wikipedia is susceptible to.

An editor with a nefarious agenda manages to keep a hold of his account for 2 years because the wikipedia elites have an axe to grind against the nefarious editor's opponents. Who in the end turn out to be correct.

If that's not emblematic of everything that's wrong with wikipedia i don't know what is.

Oh, and at least according to Weiss's blog, he's still a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio. I don't know about you, but sustained and concerted efforts to distort a subject should be a firing offense for journalists.

Re:Chomskian!? (1)

BPPG (1181851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267435)

I'd mod you intuitive if I had points.

Wikipedia makes an attempt of having no or neutral bias. But turns out to maybe have a community bias. Interesting...

Re:Chomskian!? (1)

BPPG (1181851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267443)

Er, not intuitive, Insightful.

Re:Chomskian!? (3, Informative)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267463)

In what way? I mean, yes - clearly an edit war went on with nasty and unethical POV pushing on both sides (The article's "world-class" reporting fails to note the extensive sockpuppetry and vicious attacks engaged in by Byrne and Judd Bagley). But... so what? There's not even any smoke here, little yet fire - Wikipedia's view of naked short selling did not reflect Patrick Byrne's view. Byrne, mind you, was a CEO who was publicly accusing a "Sith Lord" of manipulating his company's stock via naked short selling. So, you know, not exactly Captain Credible here either.

But the only grounds the story presents for thinking that this mattered is Byrne's suspicion that some journalists didn't cover the story because they checked and believed Wikipedia. First of all, Byrne has nothing resembling evidence for that. Second of all, how is that Wikipedia's fault? Wikipedia has always been very clear on its own reliability, and I know of no responsible editor of Wikipedia who would advocate its use as a source for journalists.

On top of that, the article presents no actual evidence that the information Weiss was adding was wrong. Yes, it is, at this point, clear that Weiss used sockpuppets to edit Wikipedia. But to date, no evidence whatsoever has been produced that Byrne's claim - that Overstock.com was being manipulated via naked short selling campaigns waged by a "Sith Lord" - was correct, or that, based on the reliable, published sources available at the time that Weiss was editing, the Wikipedia article should have read any different.

The extent of what has been shown here is that there was an edit war over naked short selling a while back, and that both sides acted pathetically during it.

Please, please read the fucking article (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267407)

TheRegister really is going downhill. It always was a tabloid read at best but this is just sad.

Please read the article, because there's no mention of 'Chomskian' or 'Elites' in there. In fact, it's a really great piece of investigative journalism. However, it seems the person submitting it to Slashdot, and the editor, were creaming their pants so hard that they couldn't resist a liberal heaping of sensationalism.

If anything it's Slashdot that's going downhill!

Re:Please, please read the fucking article (4, Informative)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267547)

No. It's not a great piece of investigative reporting. It's a shit piece of investigative reporting that is held together by insinuation at several key steps, and omits details unfavorable to the argument it's trying to make at other key steps.

Let's go into detail.

"An editor at The Journal asked me to write it, and I told him he wouldn't be allowed to publish it," Byrne says. "He insisted that only he controlled what was printed on the editorial page, so I wrote it. Then, after a few days, he got back to me and said 'It appears I can't run this or anything else you write.'"

This is a serious accusation of editorial malfeasance at another newspaper. No reputable publication would print this without a corroborating source. The lack of any detail whatsoever - and the fact that this is, in and of itself, a wildly bigger claim than any of the stuff about Wikipedia makes it clear that no corroborating source exists. This is Byrne making outlandish claims that are being reported without comment, and endorsed by the Register, which goes on to say "The Journal never changed its stance."

In the wake of the SEC's crackdown, the mainstream financial press has acknowledged that widespread and deliberate naked shorting can artificially deflate stock prices, flooding the market with what amounts to counterfeit shares. But for years, The Journal and so many other news outlets ignored Byrne's warnings, with some journalists - most notably a Forbes.com columnist and former BusinessWeek reporter named Gary Weiss - painting the Overstock CEO as a raving madman.

Well, no wonder. Byrne's claim was always that Overstock was being manipulated - by a specific individual he claimed to know the identity of. That's a far cry from "naked shorting can artificially deflate stock prices." But the article treats them as equivalent claims.

Roger Schneider had recently fired his brother from the Ramsey, New Jersey Nationwide office, and he was sitting on Floyd's work PC - which was packed with several thousand email messages. Patrick Byrne soon paid Roger Schneider a visit, and Schneider gave him the machine. Byrne offered $10,000 in return, but Schneider declined.

This is the extent of the hard evidence presented. Now, as someone familiar with Wikipedia who has looked at the situation, I'll note, I'm wholly convinced Mantanmoreland was using sockpuppets against Wikipedia policy. I'm agnostic on whether he's Gary Weiss, but that's more because I dislike picking into editors' real life identities than anything else.

But this is not evidence. The "investigative journalism" that Byrne is praising here is BYRNE'S OWN ACCOUNT OF BUYING A PC WITH E-MAIL RECORDS ON IT! That's not investigative journalism! That's "Hey, I magically got these e-mails, do you want to report on them?" What steps did the Register take to verify the authenticity of the computer and the e-mails? Did the Register get access to the e-mails on the computer Byrne obtained, or were the e-mails forwarded? Did they get the original e-mail files, or screenshots? All of this is hugely material, and completely left out of this "investigative" piece, leaving it as Byrne reporting claims to the Register, then coming to Slashdot and praising the investigative prowess of the Register in repeating what he said to them verbatim.

"Now, admittedly, we - being Wikipedia as a whole - should have listened to Judd in the first place, but there was a long time where Judd's behavior was counter-productive."

Understatement of the year, but detailing the appalling tactics used by Bagley and Byrne on Wikipedia would undermine the Register's point.

The Register has also reviewed emails in which SlimVirgin indicates that she was a classmate of Byrne's at King's College, Cambridge in the late 80s.

What? Were these emails from the same computer? Or is this the e-mail that Bagley already has posted to antisocialmedia.net about this- an e-mail that's to Bagley, from Byrne, and so continues to not elevate this beyond Byrne as a source.

The piece is rife with problems like this. It's innuendo and a few facts stitched together with assertions from a single, involved source with a history of despicable attacks on his enemies. It's not investigative journalism by any standard whatsoever.

Re:Chomskian!? (1)

nietsch (112711) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267471)

If you had read the article, you would have read that the finger is pointed at a risk assessment agency (that denies any relation with this Gary Weiss). The agency had a very big stake in the subject, as they more or less determined value of the funds that engaged in it, who paid them for that assessment. So you might call them criminals and may be right, but the elite mud sticks on them just as good. Maybe you should reconsider your view on society perhaps?

(nevermind that last bit, nobody will change their holy opinion on the 'net, not when they think they have to defend their values/ideologies/party/clan.)

welcome to the financial system (4, Insightful)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267265)

In the wake of the SEC's crackdown, the mainstream financial press has acknowledged that widespread and deliberate naked shorting can artificially deflate stock prices, flooding the market with what amounts to counterfeit shares.

How is this different from the trillions of dollars in fake money that are created every year in borrowing/lending arrangements?

Re:welcome to the financial system (4, Informative)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267389)

I think it is different because the borrowing/lending arrangements have real property [wikipedia.org] as collateral. So the money has actual backing, unlike shorting of stocks.

(I am not an economist)

not for the most part (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267587)

A huge proportion of leveraged speculation is with uncollateralized loans. You don't think hedge funds are all backing up their lines of credit with tracts of land as collateral, do you?

Re:welcome to the financial system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267591)

Think about it. Let's say everybody's home is worth $100k. Now a few people start selling at $110k. All of a sudden, everybody's home is worth $110k and people can back their loans with their properties at $110k and buy each other's homes for $110k. Just repeat.

It's the same with stocks and a lot of other things. Few companies have anywhere near the assets that correspond to their paper value.

And that's for loans that actually are backed; many loans aren't backed at all. And even more fake money is being created in regular stock transactions.

it also ignores the artificial *inflation* (3, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267497)

Naked shorting, as essentially leveraged speculation on downward price movements, does serve as a useful counter to the massive, and often highly leveraged (i.e. bank-created money) speculation on upward price movements that created the bubble that got us into this mess in the first place.

The Economist provides a nice tongue-in-cheek fake newspaper article from the future, in which regulators ban naked longs [economist.com] to avoid that sort of speculative market manipulation.

Re:welcome to the financial system (2, Informative)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267505)

How is this different from the trillions of dollars in fake money that are created every year in borrowing/lending arrangements?

For good or ill, taking an asset and repeatedly leveraging it over and over to generate wealth out of thin air and making everyone dependent on everyone else's well-being is the entire foundation of our economic system. Short selling is just a troublemaker critiquing the emperor's frugal fashion sense :)

Re:welcome to the financial system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267553)

>How is this different from the trillions of dollars in fake money that are created every year in borrowing/lending arrangements?

Um, sorry to break the news to you, Sparky, but *all* money is fake: Money, while useful as a medium of exchange for goods/property and services, is something that we create. It works because everyone agrees that it has value, and for no other reason.

Re:welcome to the financial system (5, Insightful)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267729)

You'd have to go into a bit more detail on exactly what sorts of arrangements you mean to produce a good answer here, but I can give you a partial answer.

No fake money is created in these situations. Money is just a measurement of value - it's a raw form we can convert assets into. But implicit in its idea is a notion of debt as an asset. If I hold a tag sale and sell some stuff, and I get $50 in cash for it, what is my cash, exactly? It's a sort of free-floating, transferrable debt - it means that somebody gave up something that was considered worth something, and obtained a certain amount of purchasing power. By giving up some books and disused furniture, I've obtained $50 of raw purchasing power. Now, in practice, this money is considered to be backed by the US Government - but that is, in the end, immaterial - all that matters is that the green pieces of paper are considered to have an amount of purchasing power.

The thing is, debts and future predicted events have purchasing power. This is what happens when, for instance, I subscribe to a magazine - I send a company $20, and I get 12 issues of a magazine. But 11 of those issues don't exist when I spend my money - what I'm buying is future magazines. This is why subscriptions are cheaper than newsstand - the publisher likes knowing that they have the next 12 issues sold in advance. But in exchange for the inconvenience of paying out for a product that isn't in existence yet, they give me a steep discount off of what I'd normally pay. What I'm really buying, though, isn't the future magazines - it's an obligation to send me the magazines. It's an intangible good - but it's still a good that has value.

Similarly, I can buy a future debt. Why? Because debt has value. And as long as something has value, it is worth money.

Fake money applies differently to naked short selling because there's deception involved - you sell the stock as though you know you'll have it to deliver, and then go try to deliver it. But the person buying doesn't know that. So there's fraud involved. That's the difference - value is being paid for something that is not what it is thought to be. And there fake money comes into it - because something is being represented as having value that it is known not to have.

im just glad slashdot is never manipulated (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267277)

the moderators that run the comment section would never be swayed by any sort of groupthink or unfair opin

*bitchslap*

thanks for proving my point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267437)

see the violence inherent in the system!

more on Gary Weiss at Encyclopedia Dramatica! (1)

toby (759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267327)

Mantanmoreland [encycloped...matica.com]

long-time sock-puppeteer at Wikipedia (1)

toby (759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267483)

As this Incident archive [wikipedia.org] shows in excruciating detail. Scroll down 20% of the page for the Securities fraud angle.

Excellent video on naked shorting (4, Informative)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267343)

For those that are interested in exactly what naked shorting is, here is an EXCELLENT explanation of what it is and why it's bad. I believe this is Patrick speaking on the topic. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the topic, stocks in general, or the financial crisis we're paying $700B for, if you're willing to spend an hour or so learning about it. It gets into the nuts and bolts technicalities and doesn't question the viewer's intelligence. (I'm not affiliated with it in any way, but was simply impressed with it when I watched it a year or two ago)

http://www.businessjive.com/ [businessjive.com]

Re:Excellent video on naked shorting (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267585)

One thing to keep in mind is that naked shorts are not the cause or even the proximate cause of the financial mess we're in. Failure-to-Deliver of shorts should always involve prison time and de-licensing of the broker involved. But the financial crisis has roots all over the economy. Everything from ridiculously low interest rates from the fed to exotic mortgages to big money poker / speculative credit default swaps to a failure to enforce regulations to the US negative savings rate to an over reliance on debt for almost all business transactions, they are all contributors to the problem. But naked shorts have little to do with the problems in the financial industry.

So? (3, Insightful)

glwtta (532858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267351)

Encyclopedias aren't for current events, nything related to current events on Wikipedia can be safely ignored.

Re:So? (2, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267479)

Encyclopedias aren't for current events, nything related to current events on Wikipedia can be safely ignored.

"Naked short selling" isn't a current event.
It's a technical term with a definition.

The problem is that certain people were fucking around with that definition and lazy individuals (journalists) didn't consult with anyone who would have pointed it out.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267507)

Naked Short Selling isn't a "current event," it's an obsolete financial transaction that should have been put to rest a long time ago. And when journalists want to know what it is, the place they go is Wikipedia. Hence, it's rather interesting if people profiting off of the use of naked short selling are influencing how the media, and hence the rest of us, see naked short selling.

Re:So? (1)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267739)

Encyclopedias aren't for current events, nything related to current events on Wikipedia can be safely ignored.

from TFA: "No matter what journalists say about the reliability of Wikipedia, they still use it as a resource. I have no doubt that journalists who I discussed [naked shorting] with decided not to do stories after reading Wikipedia - whose treatment [of naked short selling] was completely divorced from reality."

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267803)

That's all very well, but it's not generally accepted, or understood. And if it were, no-one would have gone to so much trouble to distort this Wikipedia entry.

WIki Anonymity = Good (2, Insightful)

BoldlyGo (1288070) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267379)

It's a good thing that they are protecting Weis. We all have an agenda. If we get rid of anonymity, wiki writers will have to start worrying about lunatics tracking them down because of a "biased article".

Smart people know that you can't use wikipedia as a solid source of information.

Whether or not a view is expressed in a Wiki article depends on two things:
1. How many computer literate people hold the view
2. How determined the people with the view are.

Wikipedia is a good starting place for learning about something. But, after you have that start it's extremely important to verify everything.

How ironic... (1)

adamchou (993073) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267385)

That according to wikipedia, Gary Weiss [wikipedia.org] is an investigative reporter who unraveled the trading scandal at saloman brothers but here he is, involving himself in his own little scandal.

But then again, this is wikipedia. Maybe he edited that in himself.

Re:How ironic... (5, Informative)

WriterJudd (1134021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267421)

Wrong. He wrote the entire article himself. Look at the article history [wikipedia.org] . Gary Weiss is Mantanmoreland, Lastexit, and 70.23.245.232 And yet, believe it or not, those who attempted to restore some reason to this madness were the ones who were permanently banned from Wikipedia (myself included).

Re:How ironic... (0, Flamebait)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267605)

Gee, Judd. I wonder why that could be. Might have had something to do with the fact that your definition of "reason to this madness" consisted of abusively using multiple accounts to push your agenda, and launching vicious personal attacks against your opponents.

Come on, Judd. You've got to know you can't actually expect to come to a forum as well-traveled as Slashdot and get away with presenting half the facts like that.

Re:How ironic... (2, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267619)

Judd,

I have seen this story for a while now. I my mind however, you blew your credibility with this post [slashdot.org]

You do know that a Judge wrote an opinion in which he described Merkey as inhabiting his own alternate reality, don't you? If Merkey told me on a mid-summer's day that the sky was blue, I would not believe it without looking for myself.

Re:How ironic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267675)

Dude, you made some edits that weren't accepted and decided to resolve your issues by slinging mud at Weiss' wikipedia page. You made no attempt to get formal, inpartial intervention until it was far too late. Don't act all surprised. Stop abusing your position as a journalist and present the fiasco for what it is: two Wikipedia editors getting into a typical Wikipedia bickering match.

700 billion LOOTING OF THE NATION (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267405)

The final act of a dictator is to loot the nation

Oh give me a break (0)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267423)

"Major player in the drama" kind of understates Byrne and Overstock's role in this.

So let's delve into that one a little deeper, shall we? Because the "world-class reporting" (I assume Byrne intends that to refer to the lush praise the Register showers him with) doesn't answer some important questions I have about all of this.

1) Byrne's campaign against naked short selling was always based on the accusation that a "Sith Lord" (his actual words) was manipulating the stock price of Overstock. The current crackdown is about naked short-selling of financial stocks. What evidence does Byrne have of a connection here? And, more importantly, is he ready yet to declare who this mysterious Sith Lord is? If he was the one to originally crack the story of financial manipulation that nearly brought down the global economy, I would hope he'd be ready to uncover this shadowy overlord.

2) On a similar note, if Byrne was aware of this "Sith Lord" who was apparently trying to bring down the global economy, what is his justification for keeping that information a secret instead of taking a concrete step to avert this crisis?

3) In the course of his crusade against Weiss, Byrne and his employee Judd Bagley made active efforts to out the identities of numerous Wikipedia editors, including accusing one of them of being a British spy (with no significant evidence whatsoever). No serious attempt has linked these editors to any stock manipulation - they appear to have been editors who believed Weiss's side of the story - reasonable given the rampant sockpuppeting and personal attacks Byrne and Bagley were engaged in. Off Wikipedia, Bagley also attempted to infect the computers of his critics with spyware as part of his crusade against them. The Register piece isn't entirely clear on whether, in Byrne's opinion, all of this was worth it. Was it?

4) Does Byrne really believe anyone is stupid enough to take a Register article seriously on face value?

Sorry - I'm sure all these important details got squeezed out of the "world class reporting" for space reasons, and not because Byrne is a paranoid liar who claimed his company was failing because of eeeeeeeeeeevil stock manipulation, then declared victory when the tactics he accused people of using were banned because of their use on... totally unrelated companies, and because the Register is a sensationalist gossip rag that likes to run any anti-Wikipedia story they can find no matter how tenuous. Perhaps someone can fill in the gaps in comments? I hope so.

Re:Oh give me a break (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267459)

made active efforts to out the identities of numerous Wikipedia editors

Good for them! Anonymity is the antithesis of trustworthiness.

Re:Oh give me a break (1, Interesting)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267485)

Wikipedia doesn't warrant its information on the quality of its editors, and so their identities are immaterial to the trustworthiness of the articles. Wikipedia warrants its information by making the process transparent - you can see how articles evolved, and, in an article that is done right, you can see citations to where all the information came from. When those citations are missing, you are meant to be cautious.

The identities of the editors are immaterial - Wikipedia has never claimed to be trustworthy because of who its editors are. Given that, anonymity is wholly appropriate, and to go out and try to expose somebody is a petty attempt at harassment.

I say this as someone who edits Wikipedia openly and under my own name. The enemies I've made on Wikipedia have taken active advantage of that, filing spurious reports with my local police to try to subject me to police harassment and intimidation. They openly speculated that they might be able to force me out of my PhD program. That is the price editors pay for giving up anonymity. Judd Bagley openly associates with the editors who tried to subject me to police harassment. Given that, the intentions he has in outing editors should be clear.

Re:Oh give me a break -- why Mr. Ad Hominem? (4, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267519)

Your entire post is an Ad Hominem argument. It says nothing about the truth or otherwise of the accusations against Gary Weiss and others.

Re:Oh give me a break -- why Mr. Ad Hominem? (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267579)

I don't know the truth of the accusations against Gary Weiss.

However, the "investigative journalism" touted by Byrne consists purely of information fed to the Register by Byrne - there are no sources other than Byrne for almost all of the significant claims in the Register article. So what we have is an article that is, for all practical purposes, authored by Byrne that leaves out huge swaths of information that runs counter to his agenda.

Given that the entire matter, then, is about Byrne, I think asking pertinent questions about his tactics in his war on naked short selling, and the facts behind one of his biggest and most significant claims about naked short selling is utterly germaine. After all, as it stands, it's Byrne's word against, well, Byrne's record.

Re:Oh give me a break -- why Mr. Ad Hominem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267653)

This guy Snowspinner (Phil Sandifer) has made an entire Wikicareer out of insulting others and writing things he knows nothing about. Same appears true here, too.

Re:Oh give me a break -- why Mr. Ad Hominem? (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267783)

At least I put my name to what I say, and make specific claims that can be followed up on instead of vague insinuations.

Re:Oh give me a break -- why Mr. Ad Hominem? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267709)

Do you even know what ad hominem means? Since when was "What evidence does Byrne have of a connection here?" ad hominem? It sounds like asking someone to stand up for his argument to me.

Re:Oh give me a break -- why Mr. Ad Hominem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267735)

Didn't you hear? Ad Hominem is no longer a logical fallacy. Check the wiki page if you don't believe it!

Re:Oh give me a break -- why Mr. Ad Hominem? (2, Insightful)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267811)

Evidence was collected that pretty unambiguously identifies Gary Weiss as the person behind two Wikipedia accounts which were pushing a point of view on the "Naked Short Selling" article, including a shift in editing hours which corresponded exactly with the period of time that Weiss was in India on his honeymoon, shifting from US east coast time to India time and then back again when Weiss returned to the US. There was general consensus on the identification once that evidence (from the normal, public edit logs) was collected, analyzed, and published.

None of the other Wikipedians involved is involved in the Financial industry or any form of serious investor. Nor did anyone have any particular interest in the topic before the fight broke out on-wiki and off.

It is factually true that Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne opposes naked short selling and publically blames it for low stock prices. It's factually true that he and at least one Overstock employee openly and then pseudonymously started a content war on Wikipedia on the article about it. It's generally concluded that the "other side" of this fight primarily was led by Gary Weiss, under two Wikipedia accounts now linked fairly unambiguously to him, though there hasn't been a public admission that I know of. Weiss had a conflict of interest in this matter, as a journalist covering the topic area.

Weiss never had Wikipedia administrator status, and thus the actions which Byrne blames for "censorship" were done by the other Wikipedia participants, mostly actual site administrators, who did not have conflicts of interest over the topic area. Byrne and his employee's accounts were permanently blocked from editing, and hundreds of known "sockpuppet" accounts created and used by them were also blocked. They were blocked because they threatened numerous Wikipedia volunteers, exposed alledged real names (sometimes wrong, sometimes right) of pseudonymous volunteers and personal information both of pseudonymous and openly identified individuals. Threatening phone calls were made to volunteers and their employers, viruses and various web tracking mechanisms were placed onto Byrne's website to try and help ID his alledged persecutors, and illegal access to some of the volunteers computers was made by Byrne and/or his employee. At least one other volunteer in California was subjected to threats and behavior that rose to the level of felony stalking here, though I was unable to get them to file police reports.

Byrne believes that this was all OK, because it did turn out that Weiss was credibly the person behind the two Wikipedia accounts. I for one believe that Byrne's behavior rises to the level of criminal, and that he displays behavior patterns most commonly associated with sociopaths in his online interactions.

His having been correct about Weiss does not change the fact that he is a scary, dangerous person who has little regard for other people's safety or feelings.

Re:Oh give me a break (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267775)

More to the point, where are these mystery emails that prove Weiss' involvement? What do they say? Who are they from, and who are they sent to? Where, indeed, is the evidence? Are we to take it for granted that it exists?

naked shorts against financials = ingeniuos! (1)

mathmathrevolution (813581) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267797)

Don't know if naked shorts contributed to the collapse of investment banks or not, but investment banks would be the perfect target for a naked short sale attack.

Investment banks are highly leveraged institutions that borrow lots of money. Long story short: drops in asset prices impair the banks solvency and liquidity. This further produces downward pressure on asset prices. So you don't need to naked short the bank through very many price floors before you cause a panic. Even though it's a massively capitalized institution, medium-sized shocks can have very non-linear effects.

I don't know to what extent naked shorting contributed to the decline, but I do know that those banks were the ripest of targets.

No WR? disgrace (2, Informative)

huagfui (1378901) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267461)

No Wikipedia Review link??? Disgrace! http://wikipediareview.com/?showtopic=20558 [wikipediareview.com] ^ Where the info originally came from.

Nothing too much wrong with naked shorting (1)

A Pressbutton (252219) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267465)

... as long as it is carried out in public.
Very carry on :)
More seriously, one of the issues to date is that no-one knew what positions were taken in a stock by everyone else.
IIRC the Australians banned it a few years ago partly because it turned out short sellers had 'sold' 3 x as many shares of a mining company as actually existed, causing chaos as settlement date approached.

So I asked in #wikipedia on Freenode (1)

Kligat (1244968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267469)

[17:03] http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/10/05/201205 [slashdot.org]
[17:03] What say you, Wikipedia?
[17:04] I say you're a nutjob conspiracy theorist on the order of moon landing disbelievers and catholics.
[17:05] I also say that it would be fucking awesome for wikipedia to be able to destroy the economy.

so there you go

uh... (1)

toby (759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267495)

Wikipedia isn't destroying anything... Wikis don't defraud - people do.

Is anyone surprised? (1)

johndmartiniii (1213700) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267481)

Well, I am!

Wait, no I'm not. We all knew this was coming.

Et tu, Wikipedia, et tu?

Ppffft.

Its time to seriously read the Declaration of .... (0)

3seas (184403) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267489)

....Independance and organize a mass public response the government will be forced to take note of and either get the Fu& out or make a serious change.

And that mass public reaction is to STOP PAYING TAXES. Or would you pay for a service that wasn't working?

Re:Its time to seriously read the Declaration of . (1)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267515)

Let me know how you get your company's payroll office to stop sending the Feds money every payroll cycle.

Roll Eyes.... (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267523)

Some CEO celebrating his righteousness after the fact doesn't get any media traction. The average person knows the system is rotten through-and-through so no one really cares.

Simplifying the issue into "naked shorts are bad" does the whole financial system a disservice. The system is so tightly coupled that removing the ability to short sell actually has removed some of the opacity to the marketplace. Shorts generally fortell future price declines.

Naked shorts are the simplest problem. The murky and totally unregulated derivatives markets are a far bigger issue. You'll note that they aren't seriously discussed at all. These are the assets that are impossible to price and equally impossible to sell.

The spin on this is so strong, that it turns my stomach. The fear mongering perpetrated on this country is criminal.

Seriously? (2, Insightful)

ExecutorElassus (1202245) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267565)

Yeah, I read TFA. It's rubbish.
Really? Wiki-freaking-pedia was handmaiden to the whole financial meltdown, by whitewashing articles about naked shorting?
And they have some emails to prove that some guy didn't like some other guy, and edited some articles about him, and the admins tried to keep him anonymous, and the other guy's company went bankrupt because of it, the end!
Really, every article I read in The Register about the Great Wikispiracy just feeds stereotypes about British journalism, which is a real shame because those page three girls are really sweet.

i'm sorry conspiracy theorists (0, Flamebait)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267569)

but real life isn't as interesting as the plot of a steven seagal movie

I should have taken the time... (1)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267581)

Darn. Looking at this, it makes me think, "Why didn't I write something like this back when I wrote this. [slashdot.org] Of course, Wall Street wasn't known for doing so much stupid crap back then to relate the news to for current relevance, but I found most of this back then. Oh well. I wish I had the time to act like a full-time journalist every time I find something interesting like this. Kudos to this guy for bringing this to the forefront.

Well (1)

Is0m0rph (819726) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267631)

The first thing I'd say on naked shorting is to put some damn clothes on. Jeez...

You can't WP:DENY now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25267637)

Yes, Garry Weiss is a sockpuppet of Willy on Wheels and Grawp.

This will teach you to make "Midtown Maddness" a featured article while the stomach article is a stub.

-- User:Norm

Kicking it up a notch! (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267645)

Last time we saw about this, Mr. Overstock was claiming that Wikipedia was responsible for all kinds of financial destruction of his company, but not the ebb and flow of the whole economy. What next? Will Wikipedia be held responsible for McCain/Obama (delete as appropriate) not getting into office?

liars & touts & shills oh my (0)

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What's in a name (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267659)

What worries me is that anyone would even consider doing business with a company called "Overstock.com" in the first place.

Re:What's in a name (1)

creature124 (1148937) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267765)

It is a mistake you only make once. Believe me.

Wikipedia: a measure of civility? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267741)

For those who've been following more than The Register's coverage, it seems the real question is, "does the ability to edit Wikipedia in a reasonable fashion give an unfair advantage?". I mean, the whole reason that Byrne and Judd are so pissed off is that their opening gambits were, essentially, to act like stereotypica Wikipedia trolls, and that resulted in them being cast out. Now, that's one thing, but when their side of the argument is cast out with them (they're the only people actually chasing this alleged story, it seems) you have to ask yourself whether Wikipedia's giving an unfair advantage to the sweet talkers.

Those wikipedia articles (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267749)

Gary Weiss [wikipedia.org] , Patrick M. Byrne [wikipedia.org] . Showing the clear and overwhelming bias in favour of Weiss and against Byrne.

Re:Those wikipedia articles (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267817)

It's fairly clear that although Wikipedia's policy is to strive for the Neutral Point of View.

The contents of the articles have been manipulated by individuals who wish to show them in only a positive light, and to the exclusion of notable criticism and negatives of these individuals.

With similar manipulation of the Naked Short selling article itself.

Wikipedia articles are supposed to be driven by the community of editors in an elgalitarian manner

And yet the articles that have controversial topics surrounding them have become purely elitist.

Pandering to the interest of those with the cash, and the articles like "Naked Short Selling" are locked to prevent the community from introducing some sanity into the articles' content.

where do they all come from... (0, Redundant)

FreeFuture (1327915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25267753)

who are these 'inner circle' of administrators? how do they get paid? and who pays them? Fannie Mae? Freddie Mac?

i don't care about jimmy wales' sex life, but how about his financial life?
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