CNBC’s Fast Money – Practice What Your Anchor Dylan Ratigan Preaches

Usually, the anchor of a Television show has a consistent personality and a set of views that establishes his brand. That is especially true of CNBC anchors.

But, then Dylan Ratigan of CNBC’s “Fast Money” is no ordinary anchor. He changes his views, his mission, his personality and recasts himself as no other anchor can.  

When Dylan Ratigan launched Fast Money, he was ebullient, cheerful and on top of the world like your typical Wall Street CEO in 2006-2007. His show was a huge success; most ideas thrown on TV by his merry band of traders became winners in the wonderful days of the credit bubble and huge hedge fund returns.

Then in October 2008, Dylan recast himself as the financial reincarnation of Lou Dobbs and ranted against the bad Wall Street CEOs and the damage they did to America. (see our article – “Dylan Ratigan of CNBC – He Doth Protest Too Much” – October 18, 2008 ––he-doth-protest-too-much.aspx).

Now Dylan Ratigan has reinvented himself as the fire and brimstone preacher for the mission to engender transparency in American society. With his loyal assistant Joe Terranova in assiduous agreement, Dylan lectures all guests and his audience on the virtues of transparency.  

We are also in total agreement with this new Dylan and we will, in this article, try hard to follow on his declared path by applying his preachings to his own show.

Fast Money – Follow Your Leader & Embrace Transparency

The Fast Money show advertises its team as experienced traders who can make fast money for their audience. “Faster than the ticker” is the motto of the show. Not only are they fast but they are entertaining as well. The show brings to its audience the experience of the proverbial jock-filled Wall Street trading room. The nice thing about a vicarious experience is that you can omit the inconvenient realities, like for example, the necessity of meeting your  P&L (profit-loss goals).  

Like Wall Street Bonuses, the show was meant for the days of the hedge fund bubble when the fast fire-ready-aim tactics of the show had more than an even chance of making the audience money. Those days, unfortunately, are long gone like Wall Street bonuses.

Listening to Dylan’s lecture on the virtues of transparency this week, it occurred to us neither Dylan nor his show have practiced what he is preaching.

Dylan has not made public the performance of his traders. We do not know whether or how well their ideas have made money for the audience. Dylan has advertised the skill and performance of his traders at their day jobs without ever providing us details of their performance records. For example, Dylan has NOT told his viewers:

  • How Karen Finerman has performed either in her hedge fund or in her personal accounts?; 
  • How Jeff Mackey has performed as the manager of his family’s trading accounts? (Mr. Mackey has declared on the show that he trades to “put food on his family’s table”);
  • How Tim Seymour performed at his hedge fund?
In fact, not one iota of information has been provided to his viewers by Dylan about the success or failure of any of these traders. Not one piece of data to show us why we should listen to their recommendations. Not one.

Levity aside, this is serious stuff. The Fast Money audience includes many from middle America who work hard for a living and watch Fast Money to help them get a higher rate of return. It includes retirees who are trying to make their savings go a little farther. These people have a right to know details of the performance of the Fast Money trader team.

Without such disclosure, how could they decide which trader to follow and which to avoid? It is a well-known fact that traders, like ball players, have their streaks and slumps. The Fast Money viewers have the right to know which Fast Money traders are doing well in their picks and which traders are in a slump either of their own making or because their style is not appropriate for current market conditions.

Investing and Television are different businesses.  Look at the personalities on Fast Money.

  • Karen Finerman is an attractive, elegant, polished woman, a quintessential lady. Most viewers like her and feel comfortable with her and the ideas she presents.
  • Jeff Mackey, in contrast, presents himself as a surly lone wolf, often baring his fangs at the market. his viewers and sometimes at his colleagues.
  • Pete Najarian, the pony-tailed aggressive options trader shouts “giddy-up” and offers option trades that sound risky.  
As a television viewer, we would probably rank Karen Finerman as our first choice and Pete Najarian as the last choice.

But, Karen Finerman has blown up viewers with safe sounding picks such as Microsoft at $30 (it closed at $18 yesterday) while surly Jeff Mackey, barring a couple of mistakes, has sensibly advised viewers to stay in “cash or fetal” position. Pete Najarian has preached safe capital preservation type trades by asking people to buy puts to protect their stock positions. As we said, investing and television are different businesses.

We make a public request here and now of Dylan Ratigan, Fast Money’s executive producers and CNBC Management, that they release the 2008 performance of each of the Fast Money traders and the January 2009 performance immediately and that every month going forward, they release this information within ten days of the closing of the prior month.

Without such transparency, Fast Money is simply playing with the financial health of its viewers and the show’s anchor, Dylan Ratigan, is transparently changing his persona to fit the mood of the moment.  

The True Calling of Dylan Ratigan

Dylan Ratigan has amply demonstrated his rhetorical skill and his ability to change his message & style as winds change. Frankly, we can picture him as a Congressman lecturing a panel of television executives about the vices of fast trading and the dangers it poses to the audience. We can imagine him thundering from his Congressional perch that every one claiming to be a trader on TV must publish their own trading performance and not doing so is tantamount to false advertising. We can also picture him demanding “clawbacks” (his favorite term) from Television Management for their failure to do so.

Actually, we like what we just imagined. Please Mr. Ratigan, embrace your true calling and run for Congress. We need some one like you to lead the Congressional Committee on Television Trading shows.

CNBC Management, doesn’t this specter haunt you? – Your own ex, Dylan Ratigan, thundering at you from his Congressional seat of power at an “Abuses of Financial Television” hearing.

Don’t wait for that day. Make  “Fast Money” transparent today.

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