From our come-hither desk

Funny what a couple of transposed digits will do for a media giant's respectability. News Corp.'s proxy lists a phone number for agent Georgeson Inc. - the folks who provide shareholder information - but as reported by MarketBeat, callers are connected to a woman who talks about getting together "with exciting people everywhere" and then mentions another number to call. "As of Tuesday afternoon," according to the post, "the automated voice that answered that second line greeted callers with a sultry 'hey, sexy guy.' The voice went on to eventually ask callers for their credit-card numbers to chat with 'working girls,' among others." It was a typo, of course, but News Corp. spokesman Andrew Butcher said no one had brought it up until now (not known is whether any working girls got any work out of the mistake).

Then we have Bloomberg's Seth Lubove who somehow manages to top a news feature about market quants - or quantitative analysis - thusly: "Weston Wellington looks out at his new recruits and warns them of one of the great evils of Wall Street: 'investment pornography.''' OK, so I proceed to scour the piece in search of call girls in trading rooms or MBA school nympths, but there's nothing but this quant theory stuff.

Wellington and his colleagues at Santa Monica, California- based [Dimensional Fund Advisors Inc.] preach that no one can predict which way stock prices will go. Their creed is rooted in the efficient-market hypothesis espoused by economist Eugene Fama. A University of Chicago finance professor and DFA director, Fama, 68, maintains that securities prices reflect the collective wisdom of all the participants in a market. Active investors -- people who actually pick stocks -- rarely beat the market over the long haul, his theory goes.


Unlike traditional index fund managers, which buy all of the stocks in, say, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, DFA tries to capture an entire asset class -- small cap or value, among others -- with the purchase of huge, seemingly indiscriminate, swaths of stock. Instead of buying all of the stocks in an index devised by someone else, DFA defines each asset class itself, based on companies' market capitalizations and book-to-market ratios, or book values relative to market values. The firm weeds out the stocks that aren't traded much because those shares are relatively expensive to buy and sell.

Actually, there is such a thing as "investment pornography" - usually misleading sales pitches you see on TV or read about in financial publications or newsletters that are meant to excite investors into putting their money in unsavory or ill-advised vehicles. Kind of like pimp-mobiles.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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