http://cbs.marketwatch.com/ HERB GREENBERG Hello, MarketWatch readers Commentary: My rules of the road By Herb Greenberg, CBS MarketWatch.com Last Update: 12:01 AM ET April 12, 2004 Editor's note: Veteran financial reporter Herb Greenberg joins MarketWatch as senior columnist after more than a decade and a half of spotting trouble on Wall Street. He sent up early warning flags on EDS, Tyco, Planet Hollywood, WorldCom, and Network Solutions among others. SAN DIEGO (CBS.MW) -- Same column, new home department: Hello MarketWatch readers. You have no idea how thrilled I am to be here after several years of being hidden behind high-priced walls. Today's column is really designed to do little more than explain who I am (my ego isn't that big!), what I do, how I do it, who my sources are, how this column tends to operate and what we have planned going forward. I've been a reporter for 30 years and have worked in enough places, including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Crain's Chicago Business, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle and most recently, TheStreet.com, to have covered almost every beat and every type of company imaginable. Early in my career I even covered circuses and carnivals; who was to know it would be just like covering Wall Street? I take what I do seriously -- far more seriously than I take myself. (You'll understand that line after you've read me for awhile.) As has always been the case, my game plan is to always zig while everybody else zags. That means this column generally is not the place to turn if you want commentary on the biggest business story of the day. There will be exceptions, of course, especially if the subject du jour has been on my radar. What this column sets out to do On a good day, the goal of this column is to get ahead of the news. Not that you'll necessarily know it at the time. We're talking about often going against the grain on some of the day's most popular stocks if there's something amiss -- not just a wild valuation. EDS, Tyco, Sunbeam and Planet Hollywood are just a few whose dirty laundry was aired here long before it was apparent to most investors. (And don't go saying that'll be harder now that Corporate America has cleaned up its act. Doesn't mean management still can't get aggressive with accounting! GAAP, after all, is still GAAP, leaving companies with just enough gray area to hang themselves. And who's saying corporate America is suddenly spotless?) As you might guess, I'm naturally a glass-is-half-empty-type thinker, always on the lookout for worst-case scenarios. The mindset extends to my personal life, where I'm always trying to figure out whether I'm somehow being duped. I'm always wondering what can go wrong before figuring out what can go right. (No need to be surprised!) But isn't that the way investors are supposed to think? Aren't you supposed to consider the risk before reward? Sure you are. But that's so counterintuitive to the get-rich quick mentality of way too many investors who still haven't learned the lessons of the last bubble. Where do I get my information? Most of my ideas come from sources. Many are hedge fund managers of one type or another, but they also include brokers, regular readers and even mutual fund analysts. (I really love it when I get pinged by someone who stumbled on trouble when they were researching a stock they wanted to buy.) The bulk and the best of them, however, are short sellers. As I wrote in Fortune a few years ago, I believe short sellers wear the white hats on Wall Street because they have to be smarter and more thorough to go against the herd. Not that they always get it right; nobody does. But rather than being wrong, like the best value investors they're usually just early. Many of them also insist on not being named. As a journalist, I prefer attribution and get it when I can. But that's not always possible, especially on anything negative. (Which tells you more about human nature than it does the conviction of my sources! But it seems every time someone goes on the record with anything less than glowing they become the target of some kind of witch hunt.) From this column's perspective, especially with the amount I tend to write, I'm more interested in the quality of the information and whether it can be confirmed through further reporting rather than whether a source is willing to go on the record. That's how I've been able to snare some of my best stories. And regardless of attribution, the stock positions of all sources are included if a source is quoted. I don't invest in stocks Speaking of which: To avoid any appearance of conflicts, I'll be sticking with the policy I instituted for myself when I started writing this column for the San Francisco Chronicle: I do not invest (or short) individual stocks and don't invest in hedge funds. My stock-related investments are restricted to mutual funds and MarketWatch. (The only exception, right now, is the stock of my former employer, which will be sold.) My current fund holdings, most of which were bought by a sheer stroke of luck (rather than genius) at the market's low in October 2002, are the Dodge & Cox Balanced Fund (DODBX: news, chart, profile), the Matthews Asian Income Fund (MACSX: news, chart, profile), Olstein Financial Alert Fund (OFALX: news, chart, profile) (and for speculation -- and nothing but speculation) the RCM Pimco Biotechnology Fund-D (DRBNX: news, chart, profile) shares. My current angst, which I've been debating for months, is whether to sell 'em, take out my original investment, take out my profits (as I did a few months ago with the biotech fund after it was up 30 percent) or just let 'em ride and buy more if they fall. How often will I write? For the first month or so, expect upwards of five columns per week. And when the news simply can't wait, I'll also do special short alerts. You can get everything I write on MarketWatch e-mailed to you by clicking the "Create Alert" button on the upper right hand side above this column. The columns themselves can be focused exclusively on an individual company or the something as far flung as the silly games analysts still play, a full-blown revolt by readers or a simple hodge-podge of short items. Once I settle in, subscription-only access to my most compelling columns and alerts will be added to the mix in the form of Herb Greenberg's RealityCheck. It'll replace some but not all of the free columns. I like to think of everything I do as being part of a package: You never know where it will show up. Either way, as regular readers know, the more a company appears in anything I write, with such lead-ins as "the saga continues" or "the plot thickens," the more they need to pay attention. (See my accompanying Watch List) Oh, and if any of you regulars are wondering: I've pulled the Hostile React-o-Meter out of storage, oiled it up, plugged it into the computer and can't wait to get it spinning outta control again -- outta control, I tell ya! (Never heard of the Hostile React-o-Meter? You will.) Once again, it's great to be here. Herb Greenberg is senior columnist for CBS MarketWatch.com, based in San Diego.