Apple is a company that brings out the worst in some people. Whether they be fanboy-bashers or CEOs of bloated software juggernauts, there’s something about Steve’s condescending little smirk that drives people absolutely batshit. I get it. I really do. For most of these individuals, the knowledge that I work with a superior OS is satisfaction enough. But for a select few, the magnitude of their assholery cannot be dismissed by that melodic C Major chord. These are the members of Douchebag’s Row. This series is designed to honor those who, through word and/or deed, have distinguished themselves as something more than mere assholes.
Let’s begin, shall we?
In TMA’s informal query – or the factual equivalent of the average analyst’s survey – Wall Street criminals rank 1/2 notch above pedophiles on the “most loathsome creatures on the planet” list. And much like pedophiles, many Street analysts no longer get to do the thing they love the most because it’s thoroughly illegal. Take the case of Henry Blodget.
Young Henry made a name for himself pre dot-com by predicting that Amazon would reach $400 a share. According to an article in Forbes, that prediction alone landed him a gig at the now-beloved Merrill Lynch, where he proceeded to spew prognostications for internet start-ups that were all over the map. He predicted big things for eToys, only to have them fold 3 years later. His “stopped clock analysis” continued garnering attention despite its pretty dismal track record. Leading up to the dot-com bubble burst, not everyone was chalking up Henry’s schizophrenic recommendations to the fact that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Turns out Blodget didn’t necessarily believe everything he was saying publicly about the companies and that’s kind of a no-no. The Securities and Exchange Commission got a whiff of Merrill’s – and Blodget’s – “inconsistencies” and launched an investigation. In 2003, Merrill settled with the State of New York for $100 million. The SEC fined Blodget $4 million and banned him from the securities industry for life. From the SEC’s press release:
“Blodget, of New York City, issued fraudulent research under Merrill Lynch’s name, as well as research in which he expressed views that were inconsistent with privately expressed negative views. Blodget’s conduct constituted violations of the federal securities laws and NASD and NYSE rules, which require that, among other things, published research reports have a reasonable basis, present a fair picture of the investment risks and benefits, and not make exaggerated or unwarranted claims.”
Understandably Blodget doesn’t talk a lot about the settlement. And he gets a little annoyed when he’s forced to. I’m sure he thinks he did nothing wrong. If you shell out multiple millions in order to not have to go to trial, not only are you guilty, you’re probably guilty of 500 times more shit than you’ve been accused of. Did you want exoneration? Then you should have gone to trial. GUILTY.
After the SEC told Blodget that he couldn’t get a job talking up the value of something worthless and profiting from it, he no doubt spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of gig would allow him to take his finely-honed fomenting skill and make money with it. Where else could one use a background in technology to disingenuously misdirect people and profit from it? I’ll leave my readers to reconcile the SEC directive that Blodget be “banned from the securities industry” with Blodget’s current title of “Co-Founder, CEO, and Editor in Chief of The Business Insider, a blog about internet business trends”.
So what pearls of wisdom has Henry bestowed upon the technology community? Most recently, he’s been butchering the “OMG Android will so crush iOS any day now” riff worse than the intro to “Smoke on the Water” at an Intro to Electric Guitar class. But Blodget persists, despite the fact that several smart people have made rational arguments as to why the claim is little more than rhetorical masturbation. In his own words, here are some of the precocious one’s most valuable gems:
About the aforementioned Android market share: “As we’ve said before, Apple is fighting a very similar war to the one it fought–and lost–in the 1990s…Importantly, it’s not a question of which platform is “better.” (This is irrelevant.) It’s a question of which platform everyone else uses.”
On “Locationgate”: “Apple built a system into your iPhone that secretly tracks and records everywhere you go. This system records your exact location and the exact time you were there–down to the second…Please explain, with a straight face, how that could possibly be a ‘mistake.'”
Henry Blodget is a valuable lesson to all of you career-minded individuals who have been dealt a setback – say, a $4 million fine – that challenges you to reinvent your most valuable asset. One day Blodget was fellating value onto something worthless to make money off idiots who took his advice; now Blodget is fellating value onto something worthless to make money off pageviews from people who want to tell him how much of an idiot he is. Now that is making a silk purse out of sows’ ears.
So it is my distinct pleasure to welcome Henry McKelvey Blodget to Douchebag’s Row. Although he is its youngest member, he has provided us with one of the earliest examples of why we currently hate traders slightly more than lawyers. Equal parts dishonest broker and spin doctor, Blodget has shown us that the mantle of douchebaggery can be carried proudly by my generation.