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Corruption Porn / May 5, 2011

This story first appeared in TheNation.com

The headline that topped the Drudge Report Tuesday morning had frightening news for its millions of readers: yet another credit ratings agency downgraded America’s debt, this time to “C”—at or near “junk” status in the letter-rating scales used by the big three ratings agencies, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. Clicking on the link takes the reader to a CNBC article [1] headlined, “US Debt Rating Should Be ‘C’: Independent Agency.”

The agency turns out to be not one of the big three but an outfit called Weiss Ratings. Scratch the surface, and it turns out that Weiss Ratings is far from “independent,” and the rating, itself, is bogus. Weiss Ratings, headed by Martin D. Weiss, an investment advisor who has more than once run afoul of the SEC, downgraded US debt to “C” (which the article says is equivalent to BBB- or “near-junk” status) despite that the fact that the last time the US defaulted on external and domestic debt obligations was 1790 [2]. Even the Economist has acknowledged [3], “Talk of America defaulting on its debt is just that.”

Meanwhile, CNBC failed to disclose the ratings agency has a content-distribution licensing agreement with TheStreet.com [4], whose chairman and co-founder is CNBC host Jim Cramer.

 

Cramer’s company owned Weiss Ratings until last year, when TheStreet.com sold it back to Weiss for an undisclosed sum. Since then Weiss and Cramer’s firm TheStreet.com have had a cross-licensing agreement to promote each other’s ratings. CNBC should have done journalistic due diligence. But instead it hyped the rating. At the very least, portraying a ratings agency as “independent” on CNBC when a top CNBC on-air personality has a business interest in that relationship is misleading.

Jim Cramer has a history of making controversial investment calls. The host of the popular CNBC show “Mad Money” has come under fire from the New York Times and Jon Stewart’s Daily Show [5] for repeatedly misleading his viewers. In a videotaped interview in 2006, Cramer boasted about how to manipulate stock prices by spreading false rumors.

Weiss also has a history of misleading investors. In 2006, the same year that Cramer’s company bought the Weiss Report, the SEC accused Weiss of misleading investors and violating securities laws, and slapped the investment advisor and his company with a combined $2.1 million fine. Among other things, the SEC charged [6] Weiss with making false claims that readers who followed his advice earned up to 400% returns: “In fact, during the relevant time period, many subscribers who followed each Weiss Research trading recommendation – as Weiss Research encouraged its subscribers to do – experienced overall returns that were substantially lower than Weiss Research’s profit examples and most actually lost money.”

This isn’t the first time Weiss has been charged by the SEC with violating securities laws: In 1972, the SEC suspended Weiss for four months [7], charging that Weiss’s investment publication “had been used to promote the sale of a fraudulent unregistered investment contract.”

The Daily Show

Although Cramer hasn’t been charged or fined by the SEC, he is notorious for repeatedly misleading his viewers with some of the most disastrous investment advice any television stock picker has given.

To read the rest of this story click: TheNation.com.

Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.

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25 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Dean Sayers  |  May 5th, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Jim Kramer, a fraud to the end, hilariously includes images of Lenin in his show. He has said he used to be a Trotskyist.

    Apparently he’s a good Leninist, since he works to defraud the people who watch him. Now, if he was using pictures of Marx, NBC might be afraid to put his mug on TV, since it wouldn’t be friendly to the oligopoly like Lenin…

  • 2. Dammerung  |  May 5th, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Funny how all those paid trolls claim the USA is DEMONSTRABLY defaulting on its debt, ie: printing money. Please keep reporting on economics, it’s embarrassing to everyone who is a Koch shill even though they’ll claim that’s not how shilling strategies go at all; your website is the target demographic for the Koch astroturfers to convince.

    Oh, and the fact that I come on here all the time posting comments proves that I’m not bothered a lick by what you’re publishing. Nosirree! Otherwise, if I was bothered, I’d just ignore you. (Plus, thanks for improving my retarded comments. Sorry, it’s hard to write in your mother’s urine-scented basement-bedroom as I do.)
    How can the War Nerd put up with all the idiot commenters on this site?

  • 3. Dammerung  |  May 5th, 2011 at 9:13 am

    We’re the real Koch shills, o mighty editor, effortlessly defending the same billionaires that provide them with the delusion that they care about shills like me, who get anti-competitive regulations designed only to protect the Kochs from market forces, and every so often blatant cash handouts like biofuels and ethanol subsidies. We’re providing political support to the very same organization who makes all these scams happen, which makes money by speculating on derivatives and pretends to hate bankers who give themselves bonuses. The ones shedding crocodile tears are US (in CAPITAL LETTERS), gullible goons, who have no health care.

  • 4. Portnoy's "Anarchy 99" Complaint  |  May 5th, 2011 at 9:21 am

    The chance for a perfectly good decentralized revolution of self-management of the people, by the people was seized by power-hungry opportunists, the Bolshies. The Revolution happened because it had to happen, but the work is as yet incomplete: Russia had been busting out at the seems for at least a hundred years before, with the failed Decembrists’ revolt of 1825.

    Cramer is a self-serving pig who works to spread the gospel of wealth, leaving financial carnage wherever he goes (ala W., Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan, et al.) — not exactly what Andrew Carnegie had in mind with his phrase “doing well by doing good”.

    Middle America embraces such clowns because middle America is full of losers who mess up on a smaller scale and they dream of becoming “successful” losers someday ‘cuz in America we don’t depose czars by telephone polls we become Koch whores.

  • 5. 16 Shells from a 30.06  |  May 5th, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Kramer’s such a fucktard that anyone who falls for his dog and pony show shuckin’ and jivin’ deserves to be fleeced of their money. Part of what ails us, as a nation, is that too many morons have more money than sense. I wouldn’t piss on that shyster shylock Kramer if he was on fire. How stupid do you gotta be to trust him with your money (either directly or indirectly)? The only benefit I get from his show is the certainty that the whole lot of them, rubes and shysters alike, are gonna end up falling off a cliff on some investment graph or another and cratering like a mofo. I can hardly wait.

  • 6. wengler  |  May 5th, 2011 at 11:16 am

    It sounds like they are trying to short treasury debt. That’s a nice scheme that would end up making taxpayers shell out on the order of hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars.

  • 7. winter  |  May 5th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Between Wall St. and AIPAC, Americans are going down.

  • 8. Fissile  |  May 5th, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I’m not defending this Cramer grifter, but the reality is that Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch are really only marginally more respectable. The above mentioned “legitimate” rating agencies were the ones who were stamping AAA+ all over that CDO crap that Wall Street was pushing on a hapless public. Cramer is a troll and bottom feeder, but the real damage is done by the “respectable” people…..they are also the ones who scoop up most of the money.

    BTW, Drudge is nothing but a shill for the Chicken Hawk Party. Drudge’s main function is to provide propaganda for pushing this country into WWIII.

  • 9. Joshua  |  May 5th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Off to the right-hand of my screen is an advertisement for Cramer’s services…

    HOW FAR DOES THE RABBIT HOLE GO

  • 10. CapnMarvel  |  May 5th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Pretty funny that this ad showed up at the bottom of this article.

    Cramer is a fraud.

  • 11. Wyse Guy  |  May 5th, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    The fuck is wrong with you people ? Don’t your realize that I’m paid by TheStreet.com to troll these comments, and I’m going to pretend that I’m all up in arms because you’re not showing enough patriotism over the US taking out Bin Ladin? And you lead with this brutal takedown of a freemarket fucking scumbag???

    What the fuck is wrong with me, why am I so obsessed with Ames, why do I dream I was Mark Ames, someone with a spine rather than the pig swilling, over the hill, mid-life crisis facing boot-licker that I turned out to be!!!

  • 12. James Wilson  |  May 5th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Kind of hilarious that some PR trolls know how to read an article, look at a google ad on the article, see a google ad for Jim Cramer on it that says “Profit with Jim Cramer” Lol, Exile, lol.You’re no different from Jim Cramer. It’s the exact same–no actually, you’re much, much worse. You’re more like Gestapo Nazis groping poor Jim Cramer, who is merely guilty of the crime of being for free-markets.

  • 13. James Wilson  |  May 5th, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Actually, I’m a devoted worshipful fan of The Exile…I honestly wasn’t trying to incite anything more than your passing recognition of my existence. (Kind of flattered that you bothered to edit and improve my post though) I know how the Google Ads system works and just thought it was funny how an article deriding Cramer would bring up ads trying to hock him. That’s all I was trying to say.

  • 14. James Wilson  |  May 5th, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Fuck. I shouldn’t have even left a comment! Someone else said what I wanted to!!!!

    Reading is hard.

  • 15. Chris Connolly  |  May 5th, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Is it just my imagination, or are the comments on this article that haven’t been improved by the moderator especially stupid?

  • 16. Stephen "Other Way to Enter A Woman" Rojack  |  May 5th, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I think that the celebration of Mexico from the Habsburg onslaught is having a field day here with how the neurons are firing. Is it me or is it just me that everyone would seem to be Under The Volcano?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_the_Volcano

  • 17. Spomer  |  May 5th, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    the rabbit hole runs deep

  • 18. vortexgods  |  May 5th, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    It occurs to me that the fact that ratings agencies and discredited cable news hosts are actually messing with the ability of the U. S. government to continue to function goes along with the theory Michael Hudson (the Economist, not the other one, though he is also cool) espouses that the financial sector has become a parasite running the brain of the US economy.

    http://michael-hudson.com/2010/12/deficit-hawks-one-two-punch/

    http://michael-hudson.com/2011/04/rating-junk-economics/

    I mean we can laugh at the evil Cramer all we want, but his is the economic theory guiding the central government of this creaking behemoth.

  • 19. RT Carpenterr  |  May 5th, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Cramer and other Wall Streeters got in trouble at CNN and CNBC about 15 years ago for not disclosing their positions in the stocks they promoted. Cramer now tells us that he owns this winner in his “charitable trust”. I often wonder who is the true beneficiary of this “trust” or if Cramer even has a personal account, which I have never heard him mention. But he is a true entertainer!

  • 20. Buster Mountebank  |  May 6th, 2011 at 8:58 am

    There is an amazingly well orchestrated counterintelligence and propaganda campaign. People like Chomsky and even Orwell were onto it very early on. Sadly, this sort of manipulation works on most people most of the time. How is the average Tea Party Koch dupe any different from the Hutus who went hunting down their Tutsi friends and neighbors because of some freaks ranting on the radio?

  • 21. Wyse Guy  |  May 6th, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Actually, fuck no, I’m not interested in patriotism or any of that bullshit. Bin Ladin’s killing is a game changer and throws a lot of propaganda mind games into the shitter for a lot of insavoury individuals. It certainly helps all the Presidents Middlebrows, however you fuck-for-faces, it it does mean that that manifesation of white spite you’ve created, called the War Nerd has some ‘splainin’ to do. Because white spite might be gratified right now. I read the Exile because its a fun take on the news. However, if you’re suffering such a mental breakdown that you can’t even follow the news, then that is something else entirely. It calls into question, your capacity for assessing the Washington power circles and how to deal with them.

  • 22. Alan  |  May 12th, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I followed Cramer a while before the 2008 crash on the advice of a neighbor who was making a little money using his program. I did it mostly to educate myself on stocks. I remember, at that time, that he used the curious phrase “government of, by, and for the corporation.” I couldn’t tell whether he was joking or not. He also liked to throw around the word “Bolshevik” between the “b-b-booyahs.” But he seems to sidestep politics and GOP economic theory on his show. Democrats want to gamble on Wall Street too.

  • 23. Alan  |  May 12th, 2011 at 9:24 am

    I followed Cramer a while before the 2008 crash on the advice of a neighbor who was making a little money using his program. I did it mostly to educate myself on stocks. I remember, at that time, that he used the curious phrase “government of, by, and for the corporation.” I couldn’t tell whether he was joking or not. He also liked to throw around the word “Bolshevik” between the “b-b-booyahs.” But he seems to sidestep politics and GOP economic theory on his show. Democrats want to gamble on Wall Street too.

    My “Corporatopia” video about the dystopia we are heading into: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar0_zA6xTco

  • 24. t. hallman  |  June 19th, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Jim Bob’s Ratings Agency and Pizza Emporium (buy one, get one free) agrees with Cramer.

    But let’s just flip it around. USA owes $14 Trillion. No plans are in place for repayment because it can’t be done.

  • 25. jeromed  |  May 11th, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Cramer still has not claimed responsibilty for extoling Bank of America stock when it was in the $12-$15 dollar range last year. He went on the “Lightning Round” every week telling us it was a “buy”. As the months went by and the stock went lower, he no longer took callers asking about BAC. Then he started saying it was a “hold” or “sell”. Finally in the summer f 2011, when it was below $10 he started making strange faces when asked about BAC, saying it could could lower, and that he “could not get behind the big banks right now.” This guy probably was shorting BAC to line his own pockets. A FRAUD to the end


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