A number of fraudbusters I hold in high esteem, such as David Einhorn and Sam Antar, have been sour on Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR). But I personally haven't written a word about it, even though their work is persuasive. I've even tried the coffee, and it's awful.
There are a bunch of reasons I've stayed away from this company, such as the imminent publication of my next book, but there's another, overriding reason: Nobody gives a damn. Nobody. Not the people stupid enough to own the stock, and certainly not the Securities and Exchange Commission, even though it is probing the company's accounting.
What I've found is that when you write about a bad company that makes bad coffee or whatever, all that happens is that people who own the stock get mad. They don't want to hear it.
Assuming that everything the critics say about the company is true, it won't amount to a hill of beans (pardon the expression) to people who have bought this stock. This is what is known as a "cult" stock. I have no idea why Einhorn or anyone would want to short it. (Sam just likes writing about bad companies, so at least he's not risking getting caught in a short squeeze.)
Sure, markets are reasonably efficient and the stock will eventually decline. But meanwhile... well, it's too annoying to watch.
Why are the holders of bad stocks so loyal? So dumb? Why does the SEC carry out half-hearted investigations and wind up doing nothing even when faced with an open-and-shut case?
All I know is that the love-bad-stocks phenomenon is with us, and is obnoxious. It's certainly endemic among investors in another stock that I've been following for a while, Overstock.com. Overstock, like GMCR, is being probed by the sharp-witted sleuths at the SEC.
Holders of that grisly little company, with its RWNJ (look it up) CEO and his staff of kid-stalking cyber-wankers, simply aren't interested in the truth. The truth is that this is a company with a faltering business model, dubious accounting and, as disclosed recently, is apparently on the road to insolvency.
Shareholders of Green Mountain, a far less loathsome company, are similarly indifferent to GMCR's red flags, just as holders of some really putrid microcap stocks used to slam the door in the face of an ex-FBI man I knew during his bureau days, when he would come around to investigate. He'd come around, flash his bad like Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in that old TV series, and they would literally slam the door in his face.
The case against GMCR is compelling. Sam Antar, who was early and outspoken in questioning Green Mountain's accounting, lays out a strong case that the company engages in questionable green-eyeshade practices. David Einhorn, who has a superb track record in rooting out corporate malfeasance, has made similar observations.
Yet the stock, while down significantly from its highs, continues to bounce upwards on occasion like a cat dropped from a seven-story building. Most recently, on Wednesday, it gained nearly 10% when an analyst named Scott Van Winkle at Canacord trumpeted the company's growth prospects.
Dig that name! How very Hudson Valley-ish. Now, if you were his great-uncle Rip Van Winkle, and you took a nap and woke up in twenty years, where do you think Green Mountain will be? Riding high or a distant memory, as foul as the odor of overroasted coffee at the local Starbucks? I'd suggest the latter is likely, and the same can be said for the even fouler-smelling Overstock.com.
But meanwhile, people keep buying the stock while the SEC listlessly continues its investigation. Some of the buyers are day-traders who plan to bounce out within a few minutes. Some are morons.
If people want to buy the bad stock of a company that makes bad coffee, who gives a damn? That's why I won't write about Green Mountain Coffee.
Hey, wait a minute. I just did! Darn it.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.