Weil on Finance: Questcor Claws Bears

Morning links with Bloomberg View financial columnist Jonathan Weil

Howdy, View fans. You know the drill. Here are some fun links for your morning reading.

It's not easy being a bear.

There were some unhappy short-sellers after Mallinckrodt Plc said it would buy Questcor Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $5.6 billion, sending Questcor's stock up 19 percent. (Among Questcor's most vocal critics was Andrew Left's Citron Research.) Short interest in Questcor was about 31 percent of the company's float as of mid-March. So don't be surprised to see shorts pile into Mallinckrodt now. Here is what Herb Greenberg at The Street said he thought when he first saw the news of the deal: "Mattel buying The Learning Company . . . . Hewlett Packard buying Autonomy . . . . Medtronic buying Arterial Vascular Engineering. All three of the targets were the focus of short-sellers, and all three famously blew up, or otherwise caused havoc, once inside the new parent -- for the very reason the short-sellers had been short."


This is an odd Wall Street Journal story about Citigroup.

It starts: "Citigroup Inc. is warning investors it may miss a key profitability target after the Federal Reserve rejected the bank's capital plan last month, people familiar with the matter say." Now is it me, or do behind-the-scenes conversations like this with investors about important stuff conjure up images of selective disclosure? (The Journal reporters didn't address that point.) "Since the Fed's decision, Citigroup's investor-relations department has talked with shareholders to lower expectations," the article goes on to say. So was Citigroup really doing this? Beats me. You'd have to ask the unnamed people familiar with the matter. And I don't know who they are, although it's also noteworthy that the article doesn't mention anything about anyone from Citigroup declining to comment.


About that tech-stock selloff . . . huh?

Jim Cramer writes: "When you have a selloff as dramatic as we have had in certain Nasdaq names, the move can't be dismissed as something based on fundamentals. There are deeper forces at work that have to be explored, because the velocity -- the sheer ferociousness of it all -- is so extraordinary." So let me see if I understand: There are deeper forces at work than fundamentals? Does that even make sense?


Sometimes red flags take a long time to play out.

Coldwater Creek Inc. is preparing to file for bankruptcy, and it's been a long time coming. The women's clothing retailer hasn't been profitable since 2007. But this took a lot longer than I ever thought it would have. Back in 2002, the company hired the former Arthur Andersen partner who was in charge of WorldCom's audit to be its chief financial officer. Talk about a great tell. The amazing part is that Coldwater didn't go broke sooner.


Penta Daily blew up its slogan .

I keep picking on this Barron's blog, but only because Penta Daily has such a funny motto: "Insights and advice for families with assets of $5 million or more." So if you don't have $5 million of assets you're not allowed to click on this free link. Even if you do, the advice might not apply. Here's the headline from a post last month that I just got around to noticing: "How to invest $25 million." Next time they should just go straight for a cool $1 billion.


Some tax-preparation companies are rip-offs. So what would Dave Barry say you should do?

The New York Times reports: "There are as many as 1.2 million tax preparers nationwide, and reports have shown that a large majority of customers felt they were well served by their tax preparers. But with almost no regulation in the tax preparation industry and a tax code that is forbiddingly complex, the billions flowing into low-income households this time of year, primarily in the form of the earned-income tax credit, present a ripe target for the unscrupulous." And here's Dave's timeless advice from a column back in 1999: "Perhaps you are one of the many Americans who are afraid of preparing their own income-tax returns. If so, let me offer these words of encouragement: You stupid idiot. I say this because doing your own taxes has never been easier, thanks to modern technology such as the telephone, the personal computer and the canned frozen margarita."


Finally, if you think you're having a bad day, just be glad you're not this guy.

He got a tattoo on his arm with the University of Kentucky logo that says "2014 Nati9nal Champions." That was before Kentucky lost to Connecticut last night in its bid for a ninth national championship.


This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.