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How About Suing Wall Street Analysts Over Apple Snafu

All right, here’s the deal: When Steve Jobs announced last week that Apple was dropping the price of the iPhone by $200, the company’s stick took a dive. Indeed, even though this was supposed to be a good thing, some Wall Street analysts went out on the limb with ill-informed claims that this was some sort of fire sale, that the iPhone had tanked and Apple took a desperate move to reinvigorate the product to meet its sales goals.

Cut to July, where the same gang of alleged analysts claimed that Apple failed to meet its estimates of selling one million iPhones on the very first weekend, rather than 270,000, as indicated in their quarterly earnings report. Only Apple never many any such estimates, ever, anywhere, although this fiction was repeated over and over again online, in print and on the airwaves as if it were something truthful.

Clearly the initial sales figures also caused Apple’s stock price to drop and reduce the company’s market cap by billions of dollars. Now maybe a volatile stock price is a good thing if you’re hedging your bets and using your money as if it were Monopoly cash to eke as many profits as you can on back of the misfortunes of others. Don’t pass go, and don’t collect $200!

Now I understand the profit game. What I don’t understand is telling blatant lies to manipulate a company’s stock price. Isn’t that supposed to be illegal in some quarters?

Yes, I realize that mistakes can be made, too, but the foregoing erroneous reports were not based on any known facts whatever. There was no indication in the sales channels that the iPhone was in difficulty, and, as I already said, Apple never made a sales prediction on that first weekend.

On the contrary, AT&T jubilantly announced that no wireless phone had ever exhibited sales that high in the first 36 hours. Even the original Motorola RAZR, which the mobile phone provider formerly known as Cingular debuted, didn’t attain a similar milestone for a month.

In July, it was reported that the iPhone had beat out all comers in the smart phone market in the U.S., and matched the sales of the LG Chocolate, a popular if highly flawed feature phone.

Not to add fuel to the conspiracy theories, but it does seem as if certain Wall Street analysts and pundits ache to rain on Apple’s parade, and find bad news even where it doesn’t really exist.

Contrast that to the way Microsoft is treated. When they took an over one billion dollar charge to cover repairs of millions of defective Xbox 360’s, it doesn’t seem that their moribund stock price moved significantly one way or the other. I suppose they expect Microsoft to fail, or they have grown bored of the matter entirely, so there weren’t all that many complaints.

Surely, if Apple took even a few hundred million dollars in charges against a defective anything, you’d hear yowls aplenty from lots of sources.

Is Apple the victim of its own success? Does the image of Steve Jobs as the smug, mercurial CEO offend certain people so much that his company’s operations are given excessive scrutiny?

Perhaps Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are imagined as flawed beings who might rant and rave about things, but can’t be taken seriously.

Except, of course, that Microsoft is notorious for embracing and then double-crossing its partners, and in promising products that it simply cannot deliver. Yes, Apple is also blamed for unsavory dealings with third parties, but Microsoft was there first, and acted in a far more blatant fashion. Just look at their history in the way they partnered and then competed against Apple, IBM and others for the full sordid story.

Now put yourself in the shoes of the person who invested a lot of hard-earned money in Apple Inc., or perhaps the manager of pension fund. Consider how they are hurt by the shenanigans of a small number of unscrupulous individuals who regard Apple has a plaything that they can spread fake stories about with a clear conscience.

Do they have a right to sue? Can they call the S.E.C. and demand an investigation of these possibly illegal practices? Sure, it’s the right of a journalist to report the news, even if they get it wrong. But can you do something about people who make a living on Wall Street and do it for financial gain?

Is anyone listening and does anyone care?