Over the LINE

 | Jun 18, 2013 | 3:53 PM EDT  | Comments
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Stock quotes in this article:

line

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bry

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clb

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oxy

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msft

Somehow, as Action Alerts PLUS people know, I have become Mr. Linn Energy (LINE). I don't want to be. I happen to like the stock. I have liked it from pretty much the time when Michael Linn started the company 10 years ago and came to New York to explain to me how the company worked and what it does. As someone who used to be a huge trader of options, I felt comfortable from the get-go with the company's strategy and accounting for its put and call strategy. I always wanted to know why other companies weren't similarly hedged. They should be. It makes so much sense. Why take the commodity risk if you can hedge it out?

I knew from time to time that people would not like this kind of accounting, which is why I have repeatedly shown the financials to my best forensic accounting guy who has repeatedly blessed it. I have sat down numerous times with Michael and with Mark Ellis, the current CEO. But we never pulled the trigger on the stock for the charitable trust until Linn made the offer for Berry Petroleum (BRY), because I believe Berry might have some of the largest undiscovered reserves in the country. It's an incredibly valuable property, much more than I think most people realize, that I have been enamored of from the moment when Core Laboratories (CLB) told me that there are some huge fields still to be discovered in this country, and I put two and two together and came up with Berry and Occidental Petroleum (OXY), another stock the trust owns.

There was only one problem, though. This company turned out to be the target of a group of short sellers who got together in unison and working with a contract research firm have performed one of the most well-orchestrated raids I have ever seen.

I have to congratulate them, even though I would have thought such a thing in violation of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. I get that because when I studied law I learned that FDR appointed Joseph Kennedy to the SEC because he knew that Kennedy orchestrated Linn-like raids and FDR wanted them stopped. Perhaps what's happened is that you are now allowed to do what FDR didn't want and get away with it. I don't think it is right, but I don't make the rules.

Anyway, I know from my Twitter feed that about 40 people have attacked me endlessly for everything I have ever done except leave the refrigerator door open at high school, wrecking everyone's sandwiches. I think only a naïve individual would think that this is coincidence. Unfortunately, when I have blocked these people and checked off the spam box, I figured that somehow there would be a human at Twitter who actually looks at these things. Turns out it seems to be like Microsoft (MSFT) when you pressed that ridiculous button to report a problem to Microsoft and you thought it meant something. Joke's on you both on Windows and Twitter.

Oh, and I think about 20 of the 40 people are the same funny guy.

All that said, there's a terrific piece on TheStreet about how Lee Cooperman, who is the dean of research in this country, likes Linn and another fabulous piece by Dan Dicker about the stakes here and how somehow this became, ridiculously, a referendum on me!

Here's where I come out. If you are a trader, you are nuts to be in it. The people behind the raid are unscrupulous enough to come right back, Barron's has written a hat trick of pieces about Linn, and I think that it has to come back or else it isn't Barron's.

The firm involved has staked its reputation on blocking the Berry deal, which, as I have said, is very good for Linn. The people who work at the firm, I guess, are all in, or they would have quit or contacted me that there is a rogue element to this whole evil fantasy. I don't even know if they have done work on Berry. I do know that they are doing their best to make the Berry people walk away. That's one of their many goals, and somehow I have gotten caught up in it. Also, because Linn is trying to get SEC approval for the Berry deal, it is helpless to do a thing.

The insiders have been buying like crazy, but I am sure that's just a nuisance to the ringleaders and the firm that's supporting them. If bear raids are legal, orchestrated bear raids, then there's no reason why these unscrupulous people can't make up anything they want and call it gospel. Rules are subject to interpretation. So is accounting. Why not keep ginning up negative stories? It's not like there are journalism police to stop this stuff, let alone real police on the beat in Washington.

If you are long-termer, I urge you to do some work. If the deal goes through, it is a huge win for Linn shareholders. If it doesn't, it will be because the bear raid worked and is legal and has the blessing of the authorities both at the SEC and Twitter.

This has been a horrendous experience for me. I have been attacked repeatedly on Twitter by people using multiple aliases. I have been besmirched and belittled as someone who has done no homework and doesn't know what he's talking about -- plus all the usual nonsense that's pulled out to make me look bad.

But, here's the thing long-time readers of me know. I am 100% motivated by these attacks. They energize me. I love the 40 against one deal. I love the multiple ripostes. I could do without the ad hominem nonsense, although I am certainly used to it. I have never shied away from these kinds of fights, and I guess that, yes, I have a particular set of skills that are a nightmare for the people who are coming after me. All they can say to me is "good luck." I have a tape-recorder-like mind about this stuff, though, and will get to the bottom of it.

I just wish the nice people at Linn weren't caught up in this fight, which has become me vs. some firm I have never heard of except for one guy who writes about restaurants.

Long after these guys are driven from the game, I will be writing here, just like I have for 31,000 columns before this. I urge those who doubt my resolve to ask anyone who has ever met me. Ever. Or go read Confessions of a Street Addict, which came out before many of these attackers were in middle school. I think they might find that I am, let's say, combative? Resolute? Implacable? A little bit of all of those. I wouldn't be that way, if it weren't a huge amount of fun for me to play D then go on the O and because I genuinely believe that I can help people -- not destroy stocks and people and firms -- but actually help people make some money in a good, honest and decent way.

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