CNBC’s Bubble-Era Ethics Haven’t Changed

The media operation that helped create the 1990s stock bubble hasn’t learned much from the experience. As the New York Times reports:

“Maria Bartiromo, the stock-market reporter and anchorwoman for CNBC, opened her hourlong television interview earlier this month with Sanford I. Weill, the chief executive of Citigroup, with an unusual disclosure. She told viewers that she owned 1,000 shares of Citigroup stock, then worth about $45,000.

Neither Ms. Bartiromo nor her supervisors thought her stake in Citigroup should disqualify her from questioning Mr. Weill about the company’s future and his decision to step down as chief executive at year-end. Amy Zelvin, a spokeswoman for CNBC, said Ms. Bartiromo had abided by the network’s policies, which Ms. Zelvin said were intended to ensure ‘compliance with the highest ethical standards.'”

Imagine how CNBC would behave with lower ethical standards.


Posted by: on July 28, 2003 12:02 PM

Dan, this doesn’t strike me as that bad.
Is she not allowed to own any stocks?

Posted by: on July 28, 2003 12:20 PM

It’s been traditional, or at least it was traditional before the Internet Bubble, that journalists who reported on companies for financial news, as well as many “analysts” who published newsletters on companies for the same market, did not own stocks, at least in the companies on which they reported.

The growth of 401K and other mutual fund types of investments have made these borders blurry. Add the perhaps desirable characteristic of a fellow market gambler preaching to other’s with the problem and these ethical bounderies are no longer perceived as needed.

Since journalists frequently report on subjects about which they no nothing, or next to nothing, perhaps it’s been seen as better that they have some stake in the financial markets when writing about them in public?

Posted by: Paul Murray on July 28, 2003 01:54 PM

“Imagine how CNBC would behave with lower ethical standards.”

Well, that’s easy: she wouldn’t have disclosed it. And then we would never have known about it, and they wouldn’t be geeting this press.

For me, the self-disclosure helps mitigate the issue. But yes, it would have been better if CNBC had found someone else to conduct the interview.

Posted by: on July 28, 2003 06:43 PM

Jim, of course she’s allowed to own stocks, but she shouldn’t be in the position of questioning the CEO of a company that a significant fraction of her own net worth is invested in. A different reporter should be chosen to do that interview.

Of course, Paul has a good point.

Posted by: on July 29, 2003 08:19 AM

What? She’s in trouble for disclosing? Reporters should be allowed to own shares, pal.

Posted by: on July 29, 2003 09:25 AM


Did she ask him the obvious question: Is it moral to cheat on your ethics exam?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Posted by: James Troutman on July 29, 2003 09:32 AM

The nytimes article omits a key piece of information: did she allow her stock ownership to influence the interview? That’s the data point one needs in order to decide if there is a problem. By all accounts she conducted a tough interview, asking the questions that Weill would have preferred not been asked.

I can see why someone would get upset if she had done a puff piece; then her stock ownership would mean something. But she disclosed it, and she didn’t let her ownership compromise the interview.

Frankly, given the nytimes’ credibility problems, I’m surprised that anyone would take this article seriously. It illustrates one of the many problems with journalism today (in this case not giving the reader a key piece of information). And I’m disappointed that Dan would unthinkingly swallow junk like this from any source.

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on August 10, 2003 02:31 PM

The very best story on the topic of CNBC and the bubble was titled “Rah-rah CNBC had the suckers going for a ride”
It was in the San Francisco Examiner (some time ago), written by Martha Smilgis

You can see the entire piece:

Here’s an excerpt:

THERE IS NO doubt in my mind that we fools who have religiously watched CBNC over the past three years have lost money in the stock market. My proof comes from the network’s ratings. When the Nasdaq zoomed to astronomical highs, CNBC’s viewership soared as well. Now, with the Nasdaq in free-fall, we remorseful investors click off the tube. The network of promise has become the network of pain.

History, however, teaches us to behave differently. The more scholarly sages of Wall Street tell us that the 6 percent of investors who buy at the bottom of the market make money and the 80 percent of us who fell for the CNBC daily drumbeat of casino hype — and bought tech stocks near the top —- are, simply put, suckers. We suckers are now turning away from what was our favorite feel-good network, disgusted at the sinking value of our once-beloved stocks.

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