Making an Example of Mark Cuban: Keeping Billionaires in Line

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When I heard of the charges being brought against Mark Cuban for insider trading, the first thing that crossed my mind is that he is the victim of a political hit-job.  Today there is an interesting article in the New York Times that shows the awareness and hostility of the SEC towards Cuban’s involvement in Loose Change.    This sends a powerful message: “You can believe what you want, but keep your mouth shut.”

Insider Trading, or Political Persecution?

Floyed Norris

Notions on High and Low Finance

 

The post was updated at 4:30 p.m., with S.E.C. statement and closing stock price. It was updated at 7 p.m. to correct the percent of the Mamma.com stock Mr. Cuban owned.

Did Mark Cuban, the Internet entrepreneur turned owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, and would-be buyer of the Chicago Cubs, violate insider trading laws in a particularly egregious fashion?

Or is he the victim of a political hit job because he helped finance a movie that was scathingly critical of President Bush?

Either way, the insider trading complaint from the Securities and Exchange Commission today arouses a lot more interest than most enforcement actions.

I’ll get to the facts of the complaint in a minute, but first here is Mr. Cuban’s reaction. His lawyers issued a statement saying:

This matter, which has been pending before the commission for nearly two years, has no merit and is a product of gross abuse of prosecutorial discretion. Mr. Cuban intends to contest the allegations and to demonstrate that the commission’s claims are infected by the misconduct of the staff of its enforcement division.

Mr. Cuban stated, “I am disappointed that the commission chose to bring this case based upon its enforcement staff’s win-at-any-cost ambitions. The staff’s process was result-oriented, facts be damned. The government’s claims are false and they will be proven to be so.”

A person close to Mr. Cuban provided me with a copy of an e-mail message said to have been sent by Jeffrey Norris, an S.E.C. lawyer in the Fort Worth regional office (and no known relation to me.) This e-mail message seems to have been sent after an exchange in which Mr. Norris complained that Mr. Cuban had financed a movie called “Loose Change” that discusses the president’s actions relating to Sept. 11.

From: Norris, Jeffrey B. [mailto:NorrisJ@SEC.GOV]
Sent: Saturday, May 05, 2007 2:27 PM
To: Mark Cuban
Cc: Cox, Christopher
Subject: RE: “Lose Change”

I AM SHARING THIS WITH CHAIRMAN COX. NEITHER HE NOR THE COMMISSION ENDORSE MY OPINIONS, BUT IN LIGHT OF YOUR THREAT, I THOUGHT SHOULD SEND THIS TO HIM.

Mark:
If this upsets you, I wonder how George Bush feels. I assume that Mr. Cox would view your involvement with “Loose Change” much as I do. After all, he served his country as a Republican Congressman from Orange County for nearly 20 years and was appointed by President Bush. If you feel like sharing my thoughts with Chairman Cox, be my guest.

Previously, I thought you were merely foolish and naïve. Now, however, I see that you are also a hypocrite. I guess your belief in free speech has severe limitations. If someone else is the victim of an absurd conspiracy theory, you defend your right to participate in smearing the good name of a patriot like President Bush. But, when you are the subject of a parody of the attack you have endorsed, you suddenly issue threats.

I think I will e-mail this to Chairman Cox myself. I think he will enjoy it. I’m sure he is also a Laker fan.

Since Chairman Cox may not know the background, I will explain. Mark Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and has participated in distributing the vicious and absurd documentary, “Loose Change,” which posits that President Bush planned the demolition of the World Trade Center as a pretext for going to war against Iraq. We have had some past exchanges about my opinion the Mr. Cuban’s support for this project is irresponsible and immoral. Below, I parodied his position that every opinion, no matter how absurd and vicious, deserves to be broadly disseminated.

The copy sent to me does not include the previous parody.

John Nester, an S.E.C. spokesman, said this afternoon that the investigation was conducted by the S.E.C.’s Washington office, and that Mr. Norris was not involved in it. He added:

“Chairman Cox has never met the individual who corresponded with Mr. Cuban, nor has he spoken or corresponded with him in any way. After those communications came to light, the matter was referred for disciplinary action against the individual. To avoid any potential appearance issues, Chairman Cox recused himself from the Commission vote, and he has not been involved in this investigation at any time.”

The vote he refers to was the commission’s vote to file the case.

Article continue here.

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