Even The Professionals Can Be Wrong

I’ve never been much of a hero worshiper.  The fanboy gene just doesn’t seem to be a part of my DNA.

I’ve eaten dinner an arm’s length away from Lindsay Lohan and the Hilton sisters.  I once gave Justin Timberlake directions to the men’s room.  I’ve even cracked wise in Ellen DeGeneres’ living room (she laughed but Anne Hecht stood there stone faced).  Despite the star power present, none of these encounters seemed extraordinary to me.

There are however some public figures whom I find “interesting.”  People who I wouldn’t mind picking their brain for a couple of hours over a few pints of fine craft beer.

Anthony Bourdain comes to mind.  Neil Peart of Rush definitely.  And in the world of finance, Carl Icahn and David Einhorn would be at the top of my list.

On the surface these two couldn’t seem more different.  Icahn is a street wise kid from Queens who is known for saying exactly what’s on his mind.  Einhorn on the other hand grew up in Wisconsin and exudes a quiet, confident, and reserved nature in interviews.

Yet both attended Ivy League schools – – Icahn at Princeton  and Einhorn at Cornell – – both run hedge funds, and both are wicked smart.  To me, Einhorn, out of all the current crop of “star” fund managers, seems most likely to have a long and profitable career like Icahn.

But even a pro like Einhorn can be wrong.

Einhorn has been shorting $GMCR ever since unveiling an hour-long presentation two years ago that criticized the company and what he believes is their fraudulent accounting.

Even as recently as last November he reiterated his position on CNBC’s Fast Money.

Paraphrasing Einhorn he said…

There are many ways to win short on this stock.

I have questions about their numbers and how they have been disclosed.

The company has lost the patent on K-cups. 

The have earned monopoly type margins in the past, but as more competitors come in, price will fall, along with margins.

The day of that interview $GMCR closed at $70.57 per share.  Yesterday, after $KO announced that they were taking a 10% stake in the company, the stock soared 45% in after-hours trading to $117.33 per share.

Though it’s not clear if Einhorn still has his short position or if he had hedged it, I think it is safe to say that he was wrong.  And really the only type of wrong that matters, price action wrong.

David Einhorn will no doubt survive this setback and live to short another day, but this is a good reminder to those of us that don’t run multi-billion dollar hedge funds, that, in the words of my friend Brian Shannon, price is the only thing that pays.  No matter what we think the script is or how it might play out, we always have to respect and obey price action, as it is never wrong.

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