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

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9:00 AM EST, Friday, May 29, 2009. Thanks for all the nice words about Michael.

This is a good idea. From today's Bloomberg:

May 28 (Bloomberg) -- David Einhorn, the hedge-fund manager who bet against Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. four months before the firm collapsed, is shorting Moody’s Corp., whose flawed ratings on asset-backed debt helped fuel the credit crisis.

“Even Moody’s largest shareholder, Warren Buffett, has said he doesn’t believe in using ratings,” Einhorn, 40, said in a speech last night at the Ira W. Sohn Investment Research Conference in New York. “We are short Moody’s.”

Moody’s, whose founder created credit ratings in 1909, reported a 25 percent profit drop last month as the recession sapped demand for debt grades. Rating companies have been criticized by the European Union, members of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for ignoring conflicts of interest and risks that contributed to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Einhorn, who runs New York-based Greenlight Capital Inc., said regulators could improve the stability of financial markets by eliminating the formal rating system. He titled his speech “The Curse of the AAA.”

Moody’s, which climbed 40 percent on the New York Stock Exchange this year before today, fell $1.26, or 4.5 percent, to $26.89 in composite trading at 4:01 p.m. Investors who sell short borrow shares with the expectation that they can be repurchased at a lower price to pay back the loan.

‘Vital Source’

Moody’s spokesman Anthony Mirenda said the company’s research and credit opinions play an “important role” in the markets. “Moody’s opinions are a vital source of information and continue to be widely sought by market participants of all types,” Mirenda said in an interview.

“The problem is not that ratings are fundamentally flawed, but rather that of a misalignment of incentives,” said Sean Egan, president of Egan-Jones Ratings Co., an independent ratings firm in Haverford, Pennsylvania. “The issuer-pay model discourages the publishing of timely accurate ratings. What’s needed is a switch to an investor-pay model whereby the rating firm is punished with a loss of revenue if it does not provide accurate ratings.”

Greenlight, which Einhorn started in 1996, manages about $5.1 billion in assets. The firm’s Greenlight Capital LP fund gained 4.4 percent in the first quarter, after losing 23 percent last year. Greenlight has returned an annual average of 20.8 percent from its Greenlight Capital LP fund since its inception.

Belief in Brand

“The truth is that nobody I know buys or uses Moody’s credit ratings because they believe in the brand,” Einhorn said. “They use it because it’s part of a government-created oligopoly and often because they are required to by law.”

Buffett, the chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said earlier this month that assigning ratings to debt and other securities “is still a good business.” Berkshire owns about 20 percent of Moody’s shares.

Still, Buffett said he doesn’t rely on the major credit rating companies to make his own investment decisions.

“We do not think the people of Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, Fitch or anyplace else should be telling us the credit rating of a company,” Buffett said May 2 when Berkshire had its annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. “We don’t believe in outsourcing investment decisions.”

Einhorn said opinions like that undermine the rating companies’ business models.

“If your product is a stamp of approval where your highest rating is a curse to those that receive it and it’s shunned by most who are supposed to use it, you have problems,” he said.

Einhorn criticized Lehman’s accounting during a speech at last year’s conference. Four months later, Lehman filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Einhorn said Lehman hadn’t disclosed its holdings of collateralized debt obligations properly and wasn’t valuing its commercial mortgage-related assets based on market prices.

Last night’s conference raised $5 million for cancer research, compared with about $3 million last year.

David Swensen is not entirely sanguine. He earned 16% a year for Yale for eons. Recent markets have taken their toll. Going forward, he's cautious. He likes reading. He recommends Charles Ellis. He likes TIPS and energy markets. He doesn't like most professional managers -- too many conflicts. "Size is the biggest enemy of performance." Listen to a seriously interesting tape of him being interviewed by Consuelo Mack. Click here.

Talk about price reductions! When prices fall, we have deflation. The economists don't like it because it messes with their nice statistics, dropping GDP numbers. They show we're getting poorer. Items:

+ A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal told me a one-year renewal for my subscription would $349. No reductions for beautiful people (like me). Yesterday they called and said I could have the Journal and full access to to for $99 a year. I hear everyone else is being offered the $99 price also. That's a 70% price reduction. Funny thing, now I get it again, I don't find much of interest to read.

+ From Bloombergs this morning: Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee-shop operator, is pushing some U.S. landlords for as much as a 25 percent reduction in lease rates, taking advantage of a declining real estate market to save on rent. Personally, I'm surprised they only want 25% reduction. I see rents down as much as 50%. Landlords don't want empty stores, and are caving.

+ If you have any expensive subscriptions, cancel them. They'll come back with a cheaper rate, or you can read it online, or, most likely, you don't need it anyway

Lastest tips on buying retail:

+ Sign up for the store's credit card.

+ Ask about upcoming promotions. Can they be applied to your sale, now?

+ Buy one online. Wait for the inevitable "20% off on your next purchase" coupon.

Virus alert: The message reads


We were not able to deliver postal package you sent on the 14th of May in time because the recipient’s address is not correct.
Please print out the invoice copy attached and collect the package at our office.

Your United Parcel Service of America

Attached is a zip file which has a virus. The sender is "United Parcel Service of America []." Do not open the attached zip file. Delete the message instantly, if not sooner.

Adam Neff is only 7 years old. He lives in Cincinnati. He's the face of American tennis 10 years from now. Watch him playing on YouTube and marvel. He's only 4' 4". You can't get him off the court.

French Tennis Open 2009 TV Schedule -- US broadcast times

Friday, May 29
5:00 am - 12:00 PM: French Open Early Rounds - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - LIVE
12:00 PM -6:30 PM: French Open Early Rounds - ESPN2 + ESPN2 HD - LIVE and tape
6:30 PM - 5:00 AM: French Open “Tonight” show - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape

Saturday, May 30
5:00 am - 1:30 PM: French Open Early Rounds - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - LIVE
1:30 PM - 4:30 PM: French Open Early Rounds - NBC - LIVE
4:30 PM - 5:00 AM: French Open “Tonight” show - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape

Sunday, May 31
5:00 am - 3:00 PM: French Open Early Rounds - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - LIVE
3:00 PM - 6:00 PM: French Open Early Rounds - NBC - tape
6:00 PM - 5:00 AM: French Open “Tonight” show - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape

Monday, June 1 - RD. of 16
5:00 am - 12:00 PM: French Open Round of 16 - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - LIVE
12:00 PM - 6:30 PM: French Open Round of 16 - ESPN2 + ESPN2 HD - LIVE and tape
6:30 PM - 5:00 AM: French Open “Tonight” show - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape

Tuesday, June 2 - QUARTERS
8:00 am - 12:00 PM: French Open Quarterfinals - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - LIVE
12:00 PM - 6:30 PM: French Open Quarterfinals - ESPN2 + ESPN2 HD - LIVE and tape
6:30 PM - 5:00 AM: French Open “Tonight” show - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape

Wednesday, June 3 - QUARTERS
8:00 am - 12:00 PM: French Open Quarterfinals - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - LIVE
12:00 PM - 6:30 PM: French Open Men’s Quarterfinals - ESPN2 + ESPN2 HD - LIVE and tape
6:30 PM - 5:00 AM: French Open “Tonight” show - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape

Thursday, June 4 - SEMIS
5:00 am - 8:00 AM: French Open Men’s Doubles Semifinals - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - LIVE
8:00 am - 1:00 PM: French Open Women’s Semifinals - ESPN2 + ESPN2 HD - LIVE
1:00 PM - 6:30 PM: French Open Women’s Semifinals - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape
6:30 PM - 5:00 AM: French Open “Tonight” show - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape

Friday, June 5: - SEMIS
5:00 am - 10:00 AM: French Open Women’s Semifinals - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape
10:00 am - 1:00 PM: French Open Men’s Semifinals - NBC - LIVE
4:00 PM - 11:00 PM: French Open Men’s Semifinals - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape
11:00 PM - 6:00 AM: French Open Men’s Semifinals - TENNIS CHANNEL (HD) - tape

Saturday, June 6: - FINAL
9:00 am - 12:00 PM: Women’s FINAL - NBC - LIVE

Sunday, June 7: FINAL
9:00 am - 2:00 PM: Men’s FINAL - NBC - LIVE

Technology at its best -- from yesterday (in case you missed it). A nice reader emails, "This has to be true. I live here."

Police in Radnor, Pennsylvania, interrogated a suspect by placing a metal colander on his head and connecting it with wires to a photocopy machine.

The message "He's lying" was placed in the copier. The police pressed the Copy button each time they thought the suspect wasn't telling the truth.

Believing the "lie detector" was working, the suspect confessed.

Top joke in Belgium
Why do ducks have webbed feet?

To stamp out fires.

Why do elephants have flat feet?

To stamp out burning ducks

Top joke in Australia.
A doctor says to his patient, “I have bad news and worse news”.

“Oh dear, what's the bad news?” asks the patient.

The doctor replies, “You only have 24 hours to live.”

“That's terrible”, said the patient. “How can the news possibly be worse?”

The doctor replies, “I've been trying to contact you since yesterday.”

Top joke in Cambridge, Mass.
Texan: “Where are you from?”

Harvard grad: “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions.”

Texan: “Okay – where are you from, jackass?”

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.