Inappropriate Behavior on Cable TV

Have you ever wanted to encapsulate everything which is meretricious, deplorable,

and downright odious about financial TV in one five-word phrase? For most of

us, "Mad Money with Jim Cramer" does the trick perfectly well. But

you – you can do better. Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present the winning

phrase: "CNBC Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge".

The Challenge was an ill-advised stunt from the very start. It treats stock-market

investing as a game where he who takes the most ridiculous risks wins. It encourages

individuals to try to beat not only the market, but everybody else: a 2,000%

return doesn’t even get you to the finals if enough other people manage to get

a 2,200% return. And contestants are aiming for the kind of returns on a daily

basis that most sensible investors would be happy with on an annual basis. In

a nutshell, it turns the serious business of investing into a hype-drenched

horse race seemingly designed to glorify the most destructive and idiotic behavior


So, it’s good that BusinessWeek is taking

the Challenge down a few notches. But it’s depressing that Tim Catts concentrates

in his story on a very narrow reading of what is and what is not acceptable

with such games. He never once takes issue with the basic idea of the Challenge,

or how it works. And when one of the contestants admits to Catts that he was

gaming the system from the very start, Catts is quite unfazed:

When Kraber heard about CNBC’s million-dollar challenge earlier this year,

he knew he wanted to enter. But it wasn’t until he read the rules of the game

that he figured he had a pretty good shot at making the finals. The key was

that CNBC put no limit on the number of portfolios a player could manage,

and only the best-performing one would count. So Kraber, with his expertise

in statistics, computer-programming, and stock selection, could set up hundreds

of different portfolios, all pursuing high-risk, high-return strategies. By

sheer chance, at least one of his portfolios would do well, and he figured

that with smart strategic picks he’d rank near the top of all the participants.

"I realized I had an almost 100% chance of making the finals," he


In the end, Kraber ended up putting together no fewer than 1,600 different

stock portfolios, just to make perfectly sure that one of them ended up doing

really well. Did he violate the rules?

Well, they do say:

CNBC reserves the right to terminate Contest participation by any Participants

suspected of cheating, attempting to exploit the contest or other inappropriate

behavior. All such action will be determined by CNBC in its sole discretion.

It seems to me that Kraber, quite clearly, was "attempting to exploit

the contest". Yet Kraber, according to the BusinessWeek story, is the good

guy! He complains that other contestants engaged in even more egregious behavior.

By fiddling around with queues in browser windows after the market closed, says

Kraber, they effectively managed to buy stocks in the knowledge that their earnings

releases would beat market expectations and result in a large boost to their

share price the following day.

If the allegations are true, then those contestants should probably be disqualified

for inappropriate behavior. Kraber doesn’t need to be disqualified, since he

only managed to come in in 12th place anyway – but if he were a serious

contender, then I’d be minded to disqualify him, too. But then again, I’d be

minded to disqualify the entire Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge as the epitome

of inappropriate behavior on the part of a cable TV channel.

And the scary thing is that Rupert Murdoch’s new business channel hasn’t even

launched yet. I fear to think what kind of stunts the Fox masterminds are going

to come up with to boost ratings.

This entry was posted in Media. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Inappropriate Behavior on Cable TV

  1. uggboots says:

    to join after the body does not stimulate your skin soft, soft comfort UP. Fashion can not without

    presence in Winter.and ugg boots have many series.such as:

  2. uggboots says:

    we know winter is very cold,we began ? We professional supply






    online,this winter the best way to keep your feet warm is to get a pair of ugg Boots.

  3. uggboots says:

    we know winter is very cold,we began ? We professional supply






    online,this winter the best way to keep your feet warm is to get a pair of ugg Boots.

Comments are closed.