Technology Investor 

Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor. Harry Newton

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9:00 AM EST, Tuesday, February 24, 2009. Google, Research in Motion and Apple haven't hit the wall, yet. They will. Advertising has fallen off a cliff (affecting Google). Consumer spending has fallen off another cliff. That will hurt RIMM and Apple. It's legitimate to have 5% of your portfolio in shorts.

This market is not coming back any time soon. It has become increasingly evident that Washington bailout efforts are not effective -- or worse, are not being perceived as effective. (That excludes the financing of handsome multi-billion dollar bonuses for Wall Street execs. They have proven very effective.)

The major problem remains mixing capitalism and politics. The prime example is GM, which, under the rules of capitalism, should be in Chapter 11 and being reorganized. But arguments like "it's too big to fail" and "there are too many jobs (i.e. votes) at stake" are muddying things and making finding an intelligent solution difficult -- if not impossible. And the stock continues to crumble.

GM's market cap is now just over $1 billion -- far less than some of its factories cost. Buy GM for $1.5 billlion. Put it into Chapter 7. Fire everyone. Sell each of GM's factories off at fire sale prices. Give the remaining cars to each of the workers -- their severance pay. I bet you could make a cool $5 billion on this deal.

CDARS suck. CDARS stands for Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service. Let's say you have $10 million to invest in FDIC-insured certificates of deposit. You go to your local bank. You give them your money. They put your money in their certificate of deposit for say $250,000. CDARS service then spreads the rest around through various FDIC-insured banks all over the country. So far, so good.

But, remember this is Wall Street. And there are FEES. Lots of them. Here's an example. Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust of New York will pay me 2.60% on a one-year FDIC-insured certificate of deposit in their bank. If I give them $10 million to invest through CDARS, they will pay me 2%. That means I'm paying them $60,000 a year for the privilege of saving me (or my assistant) an hour or two of calling other banks. I am not impressed.

Check. Check. Check. remains my motto. When IBM had THINK, I had Check. Check. Check. That was a great motto for a publishing company. Now it's even better for an investor. And today's warning (cracked record, drum roll) is securities made up by Wall Street, in particular:

1. Certificates of Deposit. Not all bank certificates of deposit are insured by FDIC. Check. Check. Check.

2. ProShares. Especially the double shorts, like the very popular SKF. For some reason that no one can figure (me included), they just don't seem to work the way they're meant to. I've written about these before and given examples. For now, steer clear of them.

Pick up and move on. He was 92. He was taking a lesson on the court next to me yesterday afternoon. He had just lost his family's entire savings -- his, his sister and his children. The entire family fortune was between $10 million and $20 million. He wouldn't be more specific.

What did he have left to live on, I asked? He replied, his social security and a small IRA, i.e. bupkas.

He was, by profession, a CPA. I asked how could he have given all his money to Madoff? He said he was skeptical in the beginning. "Madoff was a one-man show." But then Forbes magazine published an article praising the Madoff stock trading operations. "It wasn't like the typical Forbes article," he said, "which is critical and sarcastic. It was positive, upbeat, laudatory."

What were Madoff's returns like. I asked? "If the S&P went up 20% in one year, he'd be up 18%. If the S&P was down, he'd be flat. He never lost money in a single year. There were months when he lost a little money, but, by the end of the year, he was flat or up."

Weren't you suspicious? I asked? He replied, "I should have been. After all, I was a CPA. But Madoff flooded me with paper confirmations of trades, My statements were detailed and they looked solid."

Had you ever met Madoff? "No," he replied.

Our conversation was surreal, as though he enjoyed his new celebrity status of being a Madoff victim.

I pray when I'm 92, I play tennis as well as he does.

New York Magazine's latest cover. The press is having a ball with Madoff.

The Florida Burglary. Some of this is actually true.
When southern Florida resident Nathan Radlich's house was burglarized recently, thieves ignored his wide screen plasma TV, his laptop, and even left his Rolex watch.

What they did take, however, was a generic white cardboard box filled with a grayish-white powder. (That's the way the police report described it.)

A spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale police said that it looked similar to high grade cocaine, and they'd probably thought they'd hit the big time.

Later, Nathan stood in front of numerous TV cameras and pleaded with the burglars: 'Please return the cremated remains of my sister, Gertrude."

The next morning, the bullet-riddled corpse of a local drug dealer known as Hoochie Pevens was found on Nathan's doorstep.

The cardboard box was there too; about half of Gertrude's ashes remained.

Scotch taped to the box was a note: 'Hoochie sold us the bogus blow, so we wasted Hoochie. Sorry we snorted your sister. No hard feelings. Have a nice day.'

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.