I would like to make an addendum to the title. It should really read Why Analysts Should Not Be Investors nor be allowed to give any form of advice to the unsuspecting public at all…
Back in October, Andy Zaky put out his sixth “buy” recommendation on Apple stock. The first five — in July 2006, November 2008, August 2010, June 2011, and May 2012 — all did spectacularly well, and all hit his price target within the time span he specified. Zaky was a first-rate Apple analyst, quoted by me and many, many others; as Philip Elmer-DeWitt says, he had “a series of spot-on predictions”, of everything from Apple’s earnings, to its iPhone sales, to — of course, its stock-price movements.
………….Unlike most analysts, however, Zaky soon discovered* that his subscribers actually followed his recommendations — to the letter, in many cases. They weren’t using his analysis to inform their own decisions, they were outsourcing all of their decision-making to Zaky, simply placing the trades themselves. And so Zaky made a fateful decision: in that case, he might as well start his own hedge fund.
Bullish Cross Asset Management was launched in late 2011, and by November 2012 some 28 investors had invested a total of $10,607,815 with Zaky. And had lost it all. For Zaky, it turns out, was a truly dreadful fund manager: the kind of guy who not only put all his eggs in one basket, but the kind of guy who would also desperately double down upon incurring trading losses. With that kind of a trading strategy, even someone who’s right 85% of the time is going to blow up pretty quickly.
………But the most astonishing part of the Andy Zaky story is not that he set up a tiny hedge fund which failed. Rather, it’s the lemming-like way in which the subscribers to his newsletter lost a mind-boggling sum of money — quite possibly well over $1 billion.
Elmer-DeWitt has heard from 36 former subscribers to Zaky’s newsletter; between them, they lost a whopping $92.5 million. Just one of them claims to have lost $50 million, or five times the total assets of Zaky’s hedge fund. If you ignore that one outlier, the rest of the subscribers have still lost an average of $1.2 million apiece — vastly more than the $380,000 or so invested by the average partner in Zaky’s hedge fund. And if you include the $50 million outlier, then the average loss rises to $2.6 million. Multiply either number by 700 subscribers, and it’s easy to see how total losses could reach the billion-dollar mark.