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You are hated in the City! Yup tell me something I don’t know

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 20 June 2013

And so someone I respect told me yesterday that I was hated in the City.  Not by everyone but in certain quarters. Tell me something I didn’t know. Apparently some folks feel that saying nasty things about companies, advisors, PR firms etc. is just despicable. “Other journalists don’t do it…why do you?” And it gets better.

Apparently this person was told by a well-respected City group not to be seen to work with me because I was being sued for libel by Sefton. To give them credit they did ask the City Group if they knew about the case and was told no. There was just the assumption that if listed company issues libel proceedings then the person it is suing must be a baddun.

Where do you start here? Without commenting on the specifics of this case I would point out that I have had legal proceedings threatened and commenced before. The companies who tried it on before have all disappeared or been censured (in the end) because they were liars or crooks or both.  Any trade body/City group which in a blinkered fashion believes that companies always tell the truth and so without doing any research automatically sides with the company in such matters is frankly a joke organisation. Perhaps these folks have never heard of Robert Maxwell or Asil Nadir or Bernie Madoff? Some companies are bent…just accept it.

And so why write articles which point out that certain shares are overvalued, that certain companies are – if one analyses their published statements – running out of cash or that certain companies have issued RNS statements that are verifiably false or over optimistic?  Let me think for about fifteen seconds:

  1. It is precisely because I can see so few – if any – other journalists writing such stuff today that I want to. In the “old days” folks like Clive Wolman would expose such nonsense on a weekly basis. But financial journalists are these days either young and inexperienced or so in bed with the PR firms such that they do not wish to ruffle feathers. The state of my industry is not a good one, it has been corrupted and emasculated at the same time. The fact that financial Fleet Street has lost the plot is no reason for me to do so too.
  2. There is a whole industry in the City working on IR/PR for shite small caps.  Offering one contrary view is surely a good thing. Balance?
  3. It is fun.
  4. It is intellectually honest. To pretend that all shares are buys & all companies good companies is intellectually dishonest.
  5. Because it means that in some parts of the City I am hated. That means I am doing a good job. Those City folk who ALWAYS side with companies on the assumption that ALL companies must be on the side of right are either blinkered and deluded or are  simply corrupt and in it for the money. Do I want to be liked by folks who are either complacent unthinking fools or part of the culture of greed themselves?  No. I despise such folk, I make no bones about it and to be told that they “hate me” is a vindication of my work. Not that I really give a flying fuck what they think.

My friend tells me that writing the way I do will not make me rich. And that these grubby CEOs, PRs etc. will try to take me down with law suits and by making my life hard. Tell me something I do not know.

I guess I had my time of being forced to make compromises, of kissing arse of not writing what I thought and it left me miserable and was unsustainable. Not entirely through choice I got another chance to go back to what makes me happy, to say what I want and to sleep soundly knowing I just did not have to make compromises which I would find hard to explain to St Peter. Oh yes, and living this way means that I never have to wear a suit either.

The first time I sunk a dodgy IPO was back in 1993. My first legal letter (from a company that does not exist anymore) was in 1994. The first time a company announced via an RNS that it was suing me personally was in 1997 (it went bust). The first time a company complained to the FSA about my writings and announced it was 1998 (Minmet!). That sort of list goes on and on.  I am delighted to see the Bison Ventures IPO bite the dust this week and reckon it is fair to add that one to the mantelpiece too.

There are days when I think about quitting writing about finance altogether. Life would be far simpler if I just organised an annual investor show and ran Real Man. To be told what I was told yesterday has spurred me on for another few months. It was a great pep talk.

Frankly to be told that you are hated by large numbers of people in the City is not exactly a dreadful condemnation. In case the City had not noticed, after numerous scandals folks in the City don't exactly have a great rep. out there. I would reagrd being hated by large numbers of City pigs and fools as being about as damning as being told that Jimmy Saville did not approve of your taste in girlfriends.





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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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