Monday, November 17, 2008

Not Really

The editors of the Dallas Morning News somehow connect the global financial crisis to the allegations of insider trading pending against Mark Cuban:

The integrity of our financial system depends on everybody playing by the rules. Certain kinds of securities trading are against the law because they give insiders an unfair advantage over other investors. If people believe the market is rigged and the government doesn’t care, that’s not only an incentive to wealthy scoundrels to try their luck but also damaging to the public’s faith in democratic capitalism.

That faith may be sorely tried over the coming months if economists’ predictions about the length and severity of the recession prove true. It’s important that the American people see law enforcement aggressively pursuing elite investors they believe broke financial laws. Convict one, teach a hundred.

So if you follow that, Cuban must be convicted or our faith in capitalism will be undermined. Yeah uh...or how about maybe he broke the rules, or didn't, and it doesn't really have a whole hell of a lot to do with the you or me, the economy, or even the Mavs. Though, that would be a shorter and less interesting editorial.

Look, Mark Cuban is a big boy and certainly doesn't need anyone to defend him in print or anywhere else, but he says this is nonsense and I'm inclined to believe him, at least until a judge or jury finds otherwise.

UPDATE: Well now, this is interesting. A little bird handed over a copy of an email to NY Times financial correspondent Floyd Norris detailing something of a spat between Cuban and an attorney for the SEC, Jeffrey Norris. Apparently the exchange was heated enough for Jeffrey Norris to copy the Chairman of the SEC Christopher Cox in on his email to Cuban. If you read the email for yourself, you'll be quite surprised that an employee of the SEC felt comfortable sending a clearly hostile email to a private citizen (even Cuban who, no doubt, ruffles feathers) in his official capacity, let alone that Mr. Norris felt it appropriate to copy his boss in on the email. Norris was apparently quite upset about the 9/11 conspiracy movie "Loose Change" (the distribution of which Cuban helped to finance [update: or not]) and how it impugned the integrity of "a patriot like President Bush", and it sounds like he initiated the email contact though the email doesn't demonstrate how many emails were exchanged prior to or after this one. Now, of course none of this necessarily means that the SEC decided to pursue Cuban after Norris complained to his superiors. But it's certainly an odd wrinkle in the tale, and something worth keeping an eye on. After all, employees of the Bush administration haven't exactly been known for keeping their personal and political loyalties from interfering with their work. 

UPDATE II: The story is making the rounds. Here's the LA Times' response:

"What was one of the agency’s lawyers doing, sending an e-mail with political overtones from an SEC address? Did he sleep through the law school lecture on common sense?"

Indeeed. What did SEC attorney Norris think that Chairman Cox was going to do about his tiff with Mark Cuban?

And an interesting note from the Washington Post:

In a May 2007 e-mail obtained by The Washington Post, Jeffrey Norris with the SEC office in Fort Worth, chided Cuban for helping to finance a documentary critical of the Bush administration. The e-mail is "one of" the issues that Cuban's defense plans to raise in court, an attorney for Cuban said. He declined to elaborate.

Apparently the Post got a copy of this email separately from the NY Times; some employee of Cuban's has indeed been busy today. But the most interesting tidbit is the intention of Cuban's attorneys to use this memo to show improper motives on the part of the SEC. Of course it's a long way from an angry email to a politically motivated filing, but it sure doesn't help the SEC for this to come to light. 

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