On Sell-Side Coverage of Google, Jeff Matthews Was Making Things Up (GOOG)

Feb. 1.06 | About: Alphabet Inc. (GOOG)

Today will be a good day for Scott Devitt. The Stifel Nicholaus (formerly Legg Mason) analyst has been roundly criticised by hedge fund manager Jeff Matthews for his negative rating on Google (GOOG) and positive rating on Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK). Mr Matthews, probably the most prominent OSTK bear on the Street, published a remarkably cutting -- and almost personal -- attack on Scott Devitt's work January 19th, titled A Stopped Watch Gets Google Right. The crux of Mr Matthews' criticism was that Mr Devitt succeeded in attracting signficant publicity despite the fact that his call on Google had been wrong. Mr Matthews didn't point out that Mr Devitt's position was sincere, courageous and highly contrarian -- even if it wasn't correct. And sincerity, courage and a willingness to buck the consensus are in short supply on the sell-side.

Now the tables are turned. Jeff Matthews published a series of articles on his blog over the last week predicting that Google's earnings would exceed expectations. On Friday, for example, he wrote:

Just yesterday, however, another data point emerged in the search-cost conundrum, squarely on the side of Google. 1-800 Flowers.com (yes, that’s the actual name of the company) reported 21% revenue growth, as well as continued dependence on, and effectiveness of, search-based advertising...I hesitate to extrapolate from this any firm conclusion about next Tuesday’s earnings report from Google. However, I suspect—to use one of Wall Street’s Finests' favorite, most clichéd, and least informative old sayings, “Our thesis is still intact.