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The Fraud Hunter

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 19, 2013

(Photo: Julie Brown)

(Photo: Julie Brown)

I’m back in the territory of my book, The Natural History of the Rich, for this story.  It’s my profile of Jim Chanos, the most successful short-seller in the world, and a Sherlock Holmes of corporate bad behavior.

Here’s an excerpt:

You would think that by now financial types would stop to listen when Chanos says “Uh-oh.” He has been raising the red flag on companies—from the merely troubled to the outright fraudulent—for more than 30 years, often while corporate executives and Wall Street analysts were still eagerly flogging those companies to gullible buyers. “He’s been pretty much right about everything,” says Nell Minow, a leading advocate for responsible corporate governance. “He’s a smart guy.” The investments he has shorted constitute a nearly complete chronicle of bad business behavior in our time. The most famous among them landed Chanos on the cover of Barron’s in 2002 as “The Guy Who Called Enron.” But the list of his targets stretches from Michael Milken’s junk bond empire through the real estate boom of the late 1980s, the telecom bubble of the late 1990s, Dennis Kozlowski’s Tyco and Bernie Ebbers’s WorldCom at the turn of the century, subprime mortgage lenders and homebuilders in 2007, and most recently an entire nation. (China, he says, is “on an economic treadmill to hell.”)

Chanos has inevitably also been wrong about some companies—or right, but Read the rest of this entry »

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