Mr. Dow 1000

Written by Ned Vizzini on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.


A good jingle
can sell a radio program, and "Radio Free Wall Street," broadcast
locally early Sunday mornings on WABC 770 at 1:00, just might have the nation’s
best jingle. The opening looped arpeggios of "Secret Agent Man" are
hardly given the chance to register before a narrator comes on: "From an
undisclosed location somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s everything
Wall Street doesn’t want you to know…"

Now the
singing has started: "There’s a man who lives a life of danger…"
Interspersed with the music, in a voice pitched right between Howard Stern and
Rush Limbaugh, with better timing than either, the opening barbs are thrown.
"How come Wall Streeters aren’t running for their lives?…
Why is no one talking about the eight trillion dollars they wiped out?"

"Secret
Agent Man…"

This is
Nicholas A. Guarino Jr., better know to his audience as "maverick international
financial analyst Nick Guarino," publisher of the Wall Street Underground
newsletter, former foil of Bill Clinton, convicted federal criminal, and
recent defendant in a civil action brought forth by the U.S. Commodity Futures
Trading Commission.

Guarino
has been portending the collapse of Wall Street for more than a decade, most
recently calling this summer’s rally "stok[ing] the coals" and
"a mighty bull that’s now a steer [that] kind of lost his manhood."
He is a perma-bear, down on the market through the late 90s and I-told-you-so
gleeful since 2000, when major losses let him forgo the word "crash"
and use his preferred term: "wipeout." Mr. Guarino has a fondness
for the sweeping doomsday statement.

"The
stock market’s been wiping people out for centuries, okay," he said
on his May 26, 2003 "Radio Free Wall Street" broadcast, archived with
all the rest at wallstreetunderground.org. "Every single one of the great
bull markets that they’ve had in stock market wonderland has always ended
up in a bear-market bust, and get this: a Great Depression… [T]he ‘deflation’
word [is] the buzzword for depression. The U.S. economy is going into a 1930s-style
depression. We’re talking bread lines, soup kitchens, selling apples on
street corners and a wipeout of untold proportions."

According
to Guarino, his speculation will become truth by autumn–"by the time
the leaves start turning in Central Park"–at which point a final,
critical piece of the U.S. economy will go bust: real estate (more on that later).
He also says that simply by revealing this information, he is putting himself
in mortal danger, which is why he must continue to broadcast from his Cheneyan
"location" and communicate with his underlings via scrambled satellite
phone.

Citing these
concerns, his "staff"–an outsource located in England–repeatedly
dodged interview requests.

Americans
are in a record amount of debt, as is the U.S. government–an all-time world
record, in fact. The predicted recovery in corporate earnings has yet to materialize,
and unemployment is at a 9-year high. Home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies
are reaching record highs, while interest rates are at their lowest in a generation.
Every large state is broke–California is double-broke–while cuts in
federal taxes are being offset by hikes in state and local taxes.

These are
the signs of fiscal apocalypse regularly given airtime by Guarino, and they’re
largely true–no matter how extreme they may sound in his delivery. Also
accompanying Guarino’s analysis and advice is a criminal past and a long
history of fleecing customers in the under regulated world of small-scale Wall
Street newsletters.

The number
of independently published stock- and futures-picking financial rags skyrocketed
in the 90s, alongside broker-free online investing, according to the Commodity
Futures Trading Commission, the government agency currently attempting to bring
Guarino to task. Publications such as Louis Rukeyser’s tony Wall Street
(est. 1992) and Wall Street City Pro’s Wall Street Digest (est.
1996) spent the last decade charging high subscription rates–in some cases,
thousands of dollars–to those interested in alleged insider information
on the markets.

"These
sorts of things [newsletters] come up on a daily basis," says Rocell Cyrus
in the Chicago regional office of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
"I couldn’t give you a figure of how many people are making recommendations."

No single
organization regulates these newsletters, so charges of fraud can be filed by
different agencies. In Guarino’s case, since his Wall Street Underground
came with a trading system that recommended futures, the CFTC filed charges
last April. For the most part, the newsletters are watched over by a confusing
juncture of the Better Business Bureau, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service ("[T]hat
would fall under the mail fraud statutes," says David Ng, New York Postal
Inspector), the aforementioned CFTC, and the SEC, through its self-regulatory
arm. No one is directly responsible for overseeing claims made in newsletters–let
alone websites, chat rooms, and message boards–except for the customers
themselves, once they get screwed.

Guarino
came under investigation because he was selling information on exactly when
to buy specific futures and accompanying it with outrageous claims: He once
guaranteed $1 million returns with false money-back promises. With more than
$5 million from his 1000-plus Wall Street Underground subscribers, he
started filling up the banks of the Cayman Islands.

In what
seems to be questionable judgment, Guarino wears his criminality on his sleeve:
"Will the nutcase, the criminal rogue of Wall Street–that’s me–be
allowed to continue to air his prophecies of doom and gloom and poison the Wall
Street investors’ minds against the greatest hustle in history?" During
one broadcast, he claims to have "been fighting the Wall Street establishment
for 20 years," who "hate [his] guts." The establishment has "tried
to run [him] out of business." He’s been "criminalized."

Guarino’s
"criminalization" has a long history. According to the charges filed
against him in April, he was registered with the National Futures Association,
the CFTC’s self-regulatory agency, in 1984. He had his own company at that
time, H.G.S.E Commodities, Inc., and was a certified commodity trading advisor
until 1986. He operated out of Arkansas (and still uses the Midwest as a home
base).

At some
point, Guarino began to commit mail and wire fraud, using a scheme to sell investors
on gold and silver. On March 24, 1992, he was convicted by the U.S. District
Court for the Western District of Arkansas and sent to federal prison. According
to an April 22, 2003 filing by the CFTC, he also was ordered to pay the government
$1,250,678–a fine that remains uncollected.

In the early
90s, the machinations of then-governor Bill Clinton captured Guarino’s
fancy, leading to eight-page, single-spaced public letters in which the recent
ex-con called Whitewater a "pure hustle" and asked like-minded citizens
to send him money–"no credit cards"–to fight Clinton. His
book, The Impeached President (a prescient title if ever there was one),
accused Clinton of drug running, beatings, arson, airliner sabotage,
rape, and 56 or so murders.

Then, in
the mid- to late 90s, Guarino entered a new line of business, once again operating
out of the middle of the country. He began Carnival Brands Seafood Company,
intending to sell microwaveable seafood meals. At the International Boston Seafood
Show in March 1997, the new fishmonger presented a product to a reporter from
Quick Frozen Foods International with that catchy 100 percent money-back
guarantee. He later sued another Carnival foods company, Carnival Brands, Inc.
of Louisiana, for trademark infringement, although the defendant was incorporated
in 1990–six years before Guarino’s company. The Eleventh Circuit U.S.
Court of Appeals found for the other Carnival seafood company on September 3,
1999.

These days,
Guarino has a $100 million federal agency and its own enforcement officers taking
him and his associates to court. The CFTC has revealed his "undisclosed
location" to be Merriam, KS, and has painted Guarino’s offenses in
the sort of black-and-white paints he proudly employs on his radio show. According
to the CFTC, Guarino and his associates have "fraudulently overstated the
profit potential of the trading systems…omitted material facts about Guarino’s
criminal background and history of fraudulent conduct, and made false money-back
guarantees."

But Nick
Guarino has one ace up his sleeve: His operation is in Merriam, KS but
his own whereabouts are unknown.

"We
are still in the process of seeking to serve Mr. Guarino," says Rocell
Cyrus of the CFTC. "I did get the order from the judge regarding the preliminary
injunction hearing and the judge did find in favor of us, the plaintiff… The
judge enjoined the defendants from further practices and actions of distributing
or advertising or marketing the Wall Street Underground products to the public,
so there is a preliminary injunction in place." However, wallstreetunderground.org
remains in operation, offering its archive of Nick Guarino’s financial
radio broadcasts and his calls to "join the underground."

That preliminary
injunction, when decided upon, could stop wallstreetunderground.org from posting
Guarino’s radio rants. In the meantime, the "criminal rogue of Wall
Street" is still out there broadcasting.

"That’s
right, do you realize you’re listening to a criminal broadcast?" Guarino
asked on May 19.

"This
is the forbidden broadcast. You might want to ask why. Well, I’m a criminal,
and Wall Street will be sure to tell you about that. But what they’ll forget
to mention to you is that criminals have made a lot of people very wealthy.
And I’ve helped millions of people just like you get out of the Wall Street
clutches… Now you better believe that really chaps Wall Street’s butt."

Guarino
predicts a bear market the likes of which we have never seen–Dow 1000,
NASDAQ 100–and a depression that’s been setting in for years. His
proclamations are so repetitive and so harsh that, coming at such a period of
economic uncertainty, it’s not hard to imagine frightened investors sending
him money. Looking beyond the issue of fiscal responsibility, however, his comments
can also be appreciated as enormously entertaining, thought-provoking contrarian
rants–available 24/7 on the Web:

"The
U.S. consumer, which is 70 percent of the U.S. economy, has run out of money
to beg, borrow or steal.

"You’ve
been screwed, blued and tattooed, rode hard, put away wet…

"Oh,
by the way, refinance your house, take out the equity, and go buy some plastic
junk from Taiwan… See, you’re being set up for the kill."

Guarino’s
current argument, repeated for the last three months, is that after toppling
the stock market, the caretakers of "the Wall Street poop chute" will
go after your home. Market rallies are just temporary flourishes designed to
get you to throw more money at stocks, which will lead to the looming real estate
crash.

"The
only thing that has saved the U.S. economy over the last two years from a full-blown,
in-your-face depression…is the fact that trillions of dollars have been
put into the U.S. economy by mortgage refinancing," he says.

The International
Monetary Fund predicted a 40 percent chance for a real estate bubble, with the
current run-up in the market the largest since 1970. Ronald E. Roel of Newsday
acknowledges that low interest rates and a torrent of mortgage money are
keeping the market going.

Guarino
predicts a real estate fire sale that will feature mansions selling for pennies
on the dollar. To prepare, everyone should get out of debt and start renting.
Keep your money in cold, hard cash and take charge when everything goes wrong:

"Buckle
your seatbelt, prepare for airbag deployment, wait two years and this wipeout
will be as obvious as the stock market wipeout and you will be rewarded for
the cash you save."

Guarino’s
appeal lies in the fact that no one wants to know what’s happening on Wall
Street these days. Another accounting scandal or another earnings disappointment.
The man who seems like a safe bet, the one who made $5 million off his readership–and
that’s only what the government knows about–is a self-described "old
man" who doesn’t seem to shave or shower, and who dispenses advice
from a hole in the ground.

But what
is he really looking for? His track record does suggest money to be his primary
goal, but his advocacy and near-religious fervor against Wall Street seem to
hint at other intentions:

"I
hate Wall Street. I got it in for them…I’ve seen many people close
to me wiped out in these Wall Street little scandals, okay. I’ve seen many
people’s lives destroyed by Wall Street and I don’t like it. I have
got a bone to pick."

Clearly,
he relishes his role as a perma-bear, an underdog, a creature apart from the
Wall Street insiders. He’s the self-proclaimed recession messiah. And like
Gray’s Papaya’s "Recession Special," if you advocate something
for long enough, it will eventually become true.

In many
ways, Guarino is an exemplary stock-market figure for our times, much like James
J. Cramer in the late 90s. But Cramer was and remains a disgusting individual:
all arrogance, obviously out to make as much for himself as possible, but willing
to bring you along for the right price. From his sharp suits to his goatee to
the fact that he pushed Internet stocks while starting his own Internet
stock to push Internet stocks, he was an insider, a guy who knew what was going
on.

The thing
is, both Cramer and Guarino seem to have some truth in them. Their rhetoric
is clearly inflated, but by putting scruples aside, perhaps one could make some
money. That’s why it’s hard to listen to that "Secret Agent Man"
music and not get caught up in a Wall Street Underground of your own.
Nick Guarino is a criminal, but really, in finance these days, who isn’t?

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