If CNBC can do This to Regis Philbin, What could CNBC do to the Average Viewer?

Sometimes the funnier moments on Television end up being the most educational. The appearance of Regis Philbin on CNBC’s Fast Money is one of these rare moments.

What can we say about Regis? The man is genuine and funny. We enjoy watching Fast Money but see big problems with that show. So we looked forward to hearing what Regis had to say to the Fast Money team. For once, the reality far exceeded our expectations.

Regis began his appearance with “I hope I get some good answers here”. The gentle skepticism in his voice told us this was going to be good. Melissa Lee asked Regis how he got started in investing.

Regis explained a bit and then said “You hooked me & you owe me big time“.

Amen Brother Regis!. You just said what almost every CNBC viewer feels, including us. CNBC Fast Money is intoxicating TV – it is fun, fast with a deft touch of gender innuendo. It talks of making big money fast. The way we see it, Fast Money hypes the stocks that go up quickly and ignores them after they break. Regis is so right. It is addictive. Are you listening Tobacco lawyers? Just kidding!

The idea of getting rich on a stock tip is everyone’s dream. This is what Fast Money appeals to. Today’s Fast Money is a steroid version of the 1999-2000 Squawk Box of Haines-Kernen-Faber. We can still hear their morning yells “Qualcomm, Qualcomm”.

Look at the results. Look at what Regis Philbin ended up owning in his portfolio. Watch his clip. Regis is honest. Among the things he said are:

  • I have got some stuff here that I want to lay down…
  • When do I tell you what my problems are?
  • Ten years ago in 1999-2000, Regis like everyone else got involved in software – Oh. its gonna be the greatest & I bought some at high levels and I watched it go down. I was so enamored with this new thing that I thought it is going to bounce up. I keep buying it as it goes down, down Adami listen to me, here we are UIS, Unisys. It is selling at $2.15 and after buying it for 10 years now, it is at $3.76.
At that point, Karen Finerman laughed and said to Regis  ‘if you buy a million shares more (or did she say a billion, we could not tell), you will get your average down” – Every one at Fast Money laughed.

Then Guy Adami lectured to Regis and then Regis stopped him “I agree with you and I am past that”. Fast Money traders lectured Regis some more until Regis told them “You guys don’t want to hear what is reality here… This is what it is now”.

Thank you Regis for telling them. All over America, viewers of CNBC feel exactly the same way – “These guys put us in these stocks. Now we are down huge and these guys have the guts to lecture us”. 

This, of course, is not valid. CNBC did not force any one to buy these stocks. In reality, neither CNBC nor Fast Money traders did or today do anything to us. We listen to CNBC and we do what we do based on our free will and our money. But as every viewer knows, it does not feel that way. We know in our hearts that we would not have bought that stock if we had not been swayed by what we heard on CNBC.

Today, the allure is China and not Technology. CNBC has demonstrably hyped the growth in China as today’s “new new thing”. To paraphrase Regis, “its gonna be the greatest”. We have no doubt in our mind that CNBC viewers all over America own stocks that are supposed to benefit from the Chinese miracle. May be these stocks will and hopefully do so for a long time. But, the long history of CNBC tells us that when the music stops, CNBC viewers will end up holding these China-miracle stocks and suffer for the next 10 years or so like Regis & so many viewers have for the past 10 years with technology stocks.

Regis Philbin is a very affluent, very smart and a very well-connected man. He has enough income and resources to not get hurt by his stock picks. The majority of CNBC’s individual viewers may not be so lucky. They might have invested their serious money – their retirement money, their kid’s education fund –  in stocks they hear on Fast Money.  

Unfortunately, in our opinion, Fast Money does not seem to care about these viewers, the same viewers that provide the ratings that pay for salaries of Melissa Lee and the Fast Money traders. These traders merrily celebrate on air how Tiger Woods and Pete Carroll are fans of their show and Melissa Lee proudly wears the superbowl rings that Joe Theisman brings when he is invited to the show. 

We would not mind so much if CNBC made Fast Money a pay-per-view show with a high fee so that just the rich, the connected and celebrities could watch the show. Then, Fast Money could be what they want it to be – a show of the rich, by the rich and only for the rich. 

When we criticize, we like to offer constructive suggestions. We have done so in the past.

  • Back on February 21, we requested CNBC to publish the track records of all Fast Money Traders so that we the viewers can decide which trader to listen to and which trader to ignore. This article, titled CNBC’s Fast Money Practice What Your Anchor Dylan Ratigan Preaches, has become the second most popular article on this Blog. It was ignored by Fast Money.
  • Then on May 9, we requested Fast Money to publish every recommended trade on their website and make it each trader’s responsibility to close that trade out. This would protect viewers from holding their stocks for many years in the vain hope that they will bounce back. This article, titled Tim Seymour Admits A Real Problem With CNBC’s Fast Money Show, was also ignored by Fast Money.
But we try again today. We request Fast Money to do a survey of the largest positions held by their viewers. This can be done easily on the Fast Money web site. Once they have this information, Fast Money should review each of these popular stocks and explicitly tell viewers what to do with the stock now – Buy, Sell or Hold? If they say Hold, they maintain the responsibility to revisit this stock and tell viewers what to do. 

This is easy to do and they should do this every week. This may cost them some ratings but what is the price of a moral conscience? That is the question the “Preacher” in the Clint Eastwood movie Pale Rider asked Coy LaHood, the bad, rich guy. They should remember that LaHood agreed to pay each small miner a thousand dollars (a huge amount at that time) for their mining stakes. LaHood was a bad guy but even he wanted a clean conscience.

CNBC is a good network and Fast Money Traders are good people. But even good people can learn a thing or two from bad guys, can’t they?

Send your feedback to [email protected]