culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Tic tic... boom! Who knew? Apparently there's a whole industry of people whose job is nothing but to spot the tics of corporate liars, and to help their hedge fund clients profit from the resulting investment implosion by shorting the stock. From Barron's profile of
Barron's recently stumbled across several hedge funds that have hired a five-year-old Boston company called Business Intelligence Advisors, which employs a number of former CIA and other national-security operatives to do behavioral analyses of corporate executives. The intent: to detect when managers are being less than candid or lying in their communications with shareholders, during interviews and quarterly earnings conference calls or even in press releases or management discussions in 10-Ks.


Other cues that BIA experts place a lot of stock in are management replies larded with irrelevant specifics, meant to obscure some troubling issue. Often the details are accurate as presented.

Qualifying words can be important also. When executives resort to such locutions as "candidly," "honestly" or "to tell the truth," watch out. They might be trying to manage perceptions rather than convey fact.

Ad hominem attacks on accusers are another staple of managements seeking to cover up problems and blunt charges. Typically, whistle-blowers and other critics are dismissed as "disgruntled former employees" or "cranks." The aim is both to impugn an accuser's credibility and to avoid having to directly deny the charges.

Nonverbal cues can also be important, though they are often subtle. For example, BIA officials assert that, in judging credibility, most people are overly biased by such nonrevelatory externals as lack of eye contact, apparent nervousness and posture. Instead, BIA looks for such indicators as what it calls "shifts in anchor points." Executive zingers are often proceeded by a sudden shift forward in body weight, for example. The onset of fidgeting -- such as playing with a water bottle or cup of coffee -- can likewise betoken acute discomfort in an executive. This is particularly telling if it contrasts with previous mannerisms and tics.
Where are the ex-CIA spooks when you really need them? I'll tell you where: in Boston, collecting sweet fees from hedge funds grown fat. Too bad, because I think can think of a really big liar who regards himself as a CEO to whom all of this applies. Everything: the reliance on irrelevant specifics meant to obscure some damaging truth, the verbal qualifications, the ad hominem attacks on accusers as an avoidance strategy, the disingenuous body language. It's all there in a highly managed choreography of deception.

Except that this whopper of a liar doesn't have a stock to short. Wait a second, hang on, I almost forgot — he did.

Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top

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