Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Do Big Media Journalists Do Research Anymore?
(Or do they just follow the DNC talking points?)
In all the whining about President Bush and Harken Energy, apparently only Byron York at NRO has bothered to dig into the public records from the SEC investigation the last time Democrats complained. Follow the link to read the detailed analysis, but my favorite part concerns Enron consultant, DNC water carrier, and would-be NYT columnist, Paul Krugman:
In addition to the questions that have been raised about Bush's decision to sell his stock, there are also questions about when he informed federal regulators of the sale. Last week, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote, "Oddly, though the law requires prompt disclosure of insider sales, [Bush] neglected to inform the SEC about this transaction until 34 weeks had passed. An internal SEC memorandum concluded that he had broken the law, but no charges were filed. This, everyone insists, had nothing to do with the fact that his father was president."

The documents tell a somewhat different story. Although Krugman did not mention it, Bush was required to file two disclosure forms with the SEC. One, which was known as a Form 4, was due the month after Bush made the sale. The other, known as a Form 144, was due at the time of the sale. Bush filed the Form 4 several months late, but he filed the Form 144 on time. In the view of some experts, the Form 144 was the more important of the two.

Bush filed the Form 144, officially known as a "Notice of Proposed Sale of Securities," on June 22, 1990, the day of the sale. In the form, he listed, among other things, how many shares he intended to sell, when he had originally acquired them, how much they were worth, and which broker would handle the transaction. "The 144 is probably the more market-informative form," says Edward Fleischman, who was an SEC commissioner between 1986 and 1992. "It gives market-watchers an indication of what is coming." In contrast, Fleischman says, "The Form 4 is totally retrospective and was originated for a very different purpose, to keep track of dates and prices." If the purpose of disclosure was to make regulators and investors aware of Bush's insider sale, then the Form 144 was the more important document.
I'm sure the Times will tell us all about it.