Asensio Exposed!                                                     
       Warning: may contain loud, rattling skeletons

                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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  03/18/06  The Elgindy Files (new items 2/07/06; 3/19/06; 3/22/06; 07/14/06; 12/18/07)                              
   
 05/05/04  Appeals Court Upholds Fraud Verdict Against Asensio
   04/04/04  Asensio Charged Again
  
 01/11/04  Bill Wexler Update
  
12/24/03  How Asensio Duped Regulators                                                                            
  
     
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Site Updates
He Tries to Silence Us
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How He Duped NASD
1989 Fraud Verdict
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Who Writes the Script?
Review of Sold Short
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Asensio Under Oath
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Who's Writing the Script?

Asensio has long touted his company as "built on research."  But whose research is it?  Given the evidence that clients, not Asensio, pick some of his targets, it's only logical to ask if they provide him with research.

The question is especially relevant with stocks that Asensio calls "medical frauds."  How he became qualified to detect such fraud is quite a mystery.  By his own admission, he has never taken a single college-level course in biology or chemistry--and has "no particular interest" in either subject.  

Asensio offers no explanation for this curious state of affairs.  He does insist, however, that the words in his reports are his own.

Expert without Expertise

But how could a man who has never taken Biology 101 write a paragraph such as this one from an ACI report:

Hetastarch solutions can also cause a similar disease, a reversible acquired von Willebrand-like syndrome (Factor VIII deficiency associated with platelet aggregation abnormalities), in which both clotting and bleeding abnormalities occur. . .  Hetastarch solutions can also cause disseminated intravascular coagulation (consumption of the clotting factors within the bloodstream) and hemolysis (destruction of the red blood cells intravascularly).

Or reach a conclusion like this, about an investigational drug:

This entire class . . . was long ago superceded by far more advanced nucleic acid pharmaceuticals such as the promising antisense and triple-stranded technologies, and the FDA-approved interferon.

Above all, if Asensio writes his own reports, why is he unaware of what they say? Consider this paragraph, from his initial sell recommendation on CCSI: 

Bilirubin is a metabolic by-product produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. If the liver does not process bilirubin correctly, concentrations can build up in the blood and tissues. This condition is known as jaundice. 

During his deposition in the South Carolina case, Asensio was asked, "What is bilirubin?"  He inexplicably replied:

It's a disease of the blood, I think of the kidney or some internal  organ that isn't developed yet, so the baby gets discolored.

It was not the only question about his report that he could not answer accurately, if at all.

Hedge Fund Helper? 

Just as remarkable is the timing of Asensio's "medical fraud" allegations. He's been publishing short-sell recommendations for eight years.  Yet, coverage on every "medical fraud" was initiated between November 1997 and September 1998.   He hasn't detected a single medical fraud since.

This timing strongly suggests that someone with the ability to write the reports was available for 10 months and never replaced.  It's no mystery who that might have been.  Her name was Judy Stone.  She was a cancer specialist who changed careers and became a short-seller at Quilcap, one of Asensio's clients.

We don't know how long Dr. Stone was at Quilcap--only that she died in 2000.  Undoubtedly, she had the expertise to write the initial recommendations on his "medical frauds."  There are five of them, and all focus on topics that a cancer specialist addresses regularly.  These initial sell recommendations also follow a distinctive format that others issued during the same time period do not.  This makes it appear that the medical reports had a single author, someone not involved with commentaries about non-medical stocks.

Although he claimed at his deposition to be sole author of his work, Asensio tells a somewhat different story in his book, Sold Short. Describing Judy Stone's importance to his business, he makes this revealing statement:  

Judy performed her analyses of medical claims anonymously, as one must in her position.

Surely Asensio must realize that Wall Street analysts routinely sign their work. Yet, for some reason, he takes exception to the practice.  It makes you wonder if he has something to hide--and whether that something includes other anonymous analysts.

Beyond Medicine 

Asensio has also targeted many technology or telecommunications stocks.   Here, too, the source of his expertise is elusive.  He has never worked in either sector.  His degrees are in economics and finance.  How does he come up with comments like this one? 

ISIL is the leader in selling microchip sets used in 2.4 GHz WLAN products that comply with the first generation IEEE 802.11b ("11b) operating standard. IEEE 802.11a ("11a") is the established operating standard for next generation WLAN products. The IEEE 802.11a standard has inherent advantages over 11b.

Perhaps with a little help from his clients?  A few facts about them:

  Client Quilcap is a "high-technology" fund that also invests heavily in pharmaceuticals. West Highland also favors these sectors and is known for investing in telecommunications.  Blue Ridge has had many investments in the drug, technology, and telecommunications sectors as well.

  Internet stocks have been an integral part of Quilcap's portfolio.  Both the fund and an employee were contributors to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN supervises the Internet's domain name system.

  Tony Tristani, who worked at West Highland from 1996 to 2002, was previously a technology analyst at Southcoast Capital. He holds degrees in electrical and chemical engineering; has been a chip design engineer at IBM; and lists telecommunications among his current specialties. 

Asensio has targeted very few stocks outside of the sectors favored by his clients.  In fact, Diana--the "pick" that launched his career--was targeted soon after making an acquisition that landed it among the Internet stocks so important to a hedge fund client.  Mere coincidence, or nothing of the kind?

Independence for Sale?

It seems clear enough that Asensio has people whispering in his ear, if not scripting his lines.  Less clear is why clients would give picks and research to him rather than publish these on their own.   Since hedge funds are prohibited from advertising, issuing such reports might be a good way to attract investors.  

Evidently, Asensio offers something even more valuable to the bottom line. Something worth allowing him to put his name on work that cannot possibly be his alone--and paying him to do so. We can only guess what it might be, but the appearance of independence seems like the best bet.

Asensio's strategy depends heavily on media coverage, and in some cases, legal actions such as shareholder lawsuits.   Neither are likely to result from reports written by hedge fund analysts, who are seen as self-interested.  By contrast, a seemingly independent opinion can open the floodgates--leading to sharp declines in a stock's price.   Even if the effects are short-lived, big profits can be made in the process.  

It's a clever strategy.  But what ever happened to full disclosure?  Obviously, investors would view a broker's analysis differently if they knew it was co-written by clients with a vested interest in the outcome.   Asensio's comment about Judy Stone shows that he understood this well.

And was nonetheless willing to deceive you.

 

Page Created 10/23/03