Rob Bennett to Morningstar Site Administrator: “The Greaney Supporters Openly Discuss Tactics for Disrupting Morningstar Threads….They Have Taken Comfort in the Posts by Mel [Lindauer]“

Yesterday’s blog entry reported on an e-mail that I received from a Morningstar site administrator on April 17, 2006. The e-mail read: “Please direct us to the specific posting where you were threatened with violence by another Morningstar poster. ” Set forth below is my response, which was sent the following day. I will provide the text of my follow-up e-mail in tomorrow’s blog.

MStar Casey:

I’ve never been threatened by any Morningstar poster.

I have been threatened with violence by a poster from another board. This poster has made numerous threats against posters who in his view “cross” him by questioning his views on investing.

There are a group of posters at another board who support this individual. Several of them have signed up at Morningstar since I began posting there and have put forward disruptive posts as their attempt at harassment.

There have been several posts in which Mel and a number of others at Morningstar have posted links to the web site and the discussion board of the poster who threatened me. His name is John Greaney and he is the owner of the RetireEarlyHomePage.com web site. There is a discussion-board site connected with that web site at which he has several boards devoted solely to the topic of ridiculing me and any of the hundreds of posters who at earlier times supported me on a number of Retire Early boards at which I have posted. The obvious purpose is to intimidate posters who post at these boards not to offer support for me or to disagree with his views.

The posters at Greaney’s board have interpreted Mel’s linking to Greaney’s site and discussion board as support for Greaney’s tactics. I have seen the tactics used by Greaney supporters destroy a number of boards. These are not your ordinary discussion-board tactics.

The post that I put to the Morningstar board was in response to a post in which a poster complained about posters following me around from thread to thread and harassing me. My post was an attempt to explain the background. The Greaney supporters openly discuss tactics for disrupting Morningstar threads (and threads at other boards at which issues relating in some way to what the historical data says re long-term stock returns). They have taken comfort in the posts by Mel and a few others to the Greaney web site and the Greaney discussion board.

The root issue is that Greaney got an important number wrong in a study of safe withdrawal rates that he posted to his web site. There is no reasonable dispute about the fact that he got the number wrong. This has been confirmed by numerous experts, including William Bernstein and Scott Burns. It has also been confirmed by extensive examinations of the historical data on which the study is based. Greaney does not want to acknowledge getting the number wrong, and he understands that permitting honest posting on the safe withdrawal rate topic makes him look bad for failing to acknowledge the error. Honest posting at Morningstar embarrasses him because there are a good number of posters who participate at the various Retire Early boards who also participate at the Morningstar board.

It may take me an hour or two to find the post at Motley Fool at which the threats of physical violence were made against me. I will provide links in a follow-up e-mail. There were numerous threats made (the threats and the fallout from them caused just about all effective on-topic posters to leave the board). The posts in which the threats were made were deleted from the board, but there were several cases in which the threats were quoted in later posts. The last time I checked, the posts quoting the threats were still at the board. I will get back with links in a little bit.

Rob

Comments

  1. Evidence Based Investing says

    The root issue is that Greaney got an important number wrong in a study of safe withdrawal rates that he posted to his web site.

    The root issue is that you think that Greaney got an important number wrong in a study of safe withdrawal rates that he posted to his web site.

    However you have been unable to explain what he got wrong in his calculation and you have been unable to persuade anyone else of the merits of your case.

    This has caused you to pour forth millions of words in the belief that if you keep saying the same thing in a more verbose manner people will start believing you.

    It hasn’t worked, and eventually people get sick of your torrent of nonsensical posts and ban you.

    That is what played out at Morningstar.

  2. Rob says

    No, Evidence.

    The fact that I say that Greaney got a number wrong in his study would be immaterial if most of the Buy-and-Holders reading the claim did not understand on at least some level of consciousness that I am right.

    There would not have been a single death threat if they were not upset by what I said.

    There would not have been a single act of defamation if they were not upset by what I said.

    There would not have been a single board banning if they were not upset by what I said.

    There would not have been a single threat made against a single academic researcher if they were not upset by what I said.

    The Buy-and-Holders are in great emotional pain. Being sympathetic re the pain they feel makes all the sense in the world.

    Ignoring the pain they feel is cruel.

    That I cannot do. I will work to help the Buy-and-Holders learn and grow and feel better about themselves. I will not ignore a pain that is causing them and all the rest of us great harm.

    To fail to correct a retirement study that gets the numbers wrong for 10 years is an act of financial fraud. This is not one we can afford to duck, Evidence.

    I wish you well in all things.

    Rob

  3. what says

    Rob’s hilarious posts remind me of those Martian Invation movies where they always say “WE COME IN PEACE” while zapping everyone with death rays.

  4. Rob says

    It seems to me that my death-ray gun has been backfiring for 10 years now, What.

    I need to find a shop that repairs malfunctioning death-ray guns!

    Please take care.

    Rob

  5. Evidence Based Investing says

    They were not upset by what you said but by the way you said it.

    From the earliest days on Motley Fool to your more recent encounters the message has always been the same.

  6. Rob says

    I certainly agree that the message has always been the same, Evidence. I say the same things over and over again and the Goons say the same things over and over again.

    You say it is not what I say but how I say it. I say it is what I say. It is my message that is a problem for the Buy-and-Holders.

    I say that Greaney got the numbers wrong. That’s my message.

    Don’t you deny that up above in this thread? Isn’t that the problem?

    Is there some soft way to convey the message “Greaney’s retirement study gets the numbers wrong?” If there is, I haven’t been able to figure out what it is.

    How would you say it?

    Rob

  7. Rob says

    Here’s the softest way I can think of to say it, Evidence.

    I could say “IF you believe that the market is efficient, Greaney’s study and all Old School SWR studies are accurate.” That’s an honest statement.

    Rob

  8. Rob says

    Think about what Wade said in his blog post saying that Greaney was the hero of the 10 years of discussions.

    He quoted Greaney as saying (I’m paraphrasing here) “I know of no way to time the market, but if you want to take a smaller withdrawal, go ahead and do so.”

    Wade was not able to find a single study backing up what Greaney said here. Wade holds a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton and it is his job to know about these sorts of things. But he looked and looked and looked and never found a single study showing that long-term timing doesn’t work. Then he researched the question himself and found that it ALWAYS works. So Greaney was wrong.

    I can accept that Greaney never checked out the situation. He heard people say that timing doesn’t work and he believed it and so set up his study the way he did. But there is now 30 years of research showing that he was wrong. The data shows that timing ALWAYS works.

    We need to ADVANCE in our understanding of how stock investing works when we learn new things. We have known for 30 years now that timing always works and is required for long-term success. We need to join together to get the word out to millions of middle-class investors.

    Is anyone able to imagine any possible downside?

    Or am I saying things in “the wrong way” again?

    Rob

  9. Evidence Based Investing says

    John Greaney set up his study to calculate the highest withdrawal rate that survived in the past. If you beleive that he got the number wrong then you simple follow that statement “Greaney’s retirement study gets the numbers wrong” with a statement like “In the period XXXX to YYYY the actual number was A.BC%” where you replace XXXX and YYYY with the relevant years and A.BC% with the relevant percentage withdrawal rate.

    You see, that was easy.

  10. Rob says

    John Greaney set up his study to calculate the highest withdrawal rate that survived in the past.

    Then why not be honest about it?

    I suggested back in June 2002 that he call it an “Historical Surviving Withdrawal Rate” study. He still calls it a “Safe Withdrawal Rate” study.

    Why the dishonesty on a subject re which dishonesty is likely to cause many people to suffer very serious life setbacks?

    I do not feel comfortable engaging in dishonesty on this matter, Evidence. It is financial fraud.

    I’d be grateful if you would try to find someone else. I am not cut out for this kind of “work.”

    Rob

  11. Rob says

    If I agree to post dishonestly re this matter, are you going to cover the hundreds of millions in legal liabilities I am likely to incur as a result?

    If not, how dare you demand this of me?

    Please try to find someone else.

    Rob

  12. Evidence Based Investing says

    Then why not be honest about it?

    He was

    http://www.retireearlyhomepage.com/restud1.html

    “The table below assumes a $1,000 initial portfolio value and shows the maximum initial inflation adjusted annual withdrawal (as a percent of assets) that allows the portfolio to survive to the end of all pay out periods examined. “

  13. Rob says

    Including one honest sentence in a study that contains dishonesty in the title is not being honest, Evidence.

    Greaney wants to call his study a “Safe Withdrawal Rate” study because lots of people want to know what the safe withdrawal rate is to plan their retirements.

    But he doesn’t want to report honestly what the safe withdrawal rate is.

    So he calls it a safe withdrawal rate while not reporting a number anything even remotely in the right neighborhood of the number you get when you calculate the SWR accurately. And you say all is fine because there’s a sentence buried somewhere where he states something honestly.

    Why do we have to jump through all these hoops?

    Why not include an accurate title?

    Why is it that, when people came to the board, he was dishonest and told them that it was a safe withdrawal rate study when he knew perfectly well that it wasn’t?

    Why did he threaten to kill my wife and children when I pointed out the dishonesty?

    Why did he threaten to get Wade Pfau fired from his job when he asked the Trinity authors to correct their study?

    There would have been no legal liabilities had these errors been corrected when they were discovered. Those who have posted in “defense” of Greaney and Lindauer are now on the hooks for hundreds of millions of dollars. That is a good thing how?

    And the longer the financial fraud continues, the larger those liabilities grow. What good purpose does this serve?

    I don’t want to be involved. I don’t want my name attached to this sort of thing.

    Could you please try to find someone else?

    Rob

  14. Drip Guy says

    Rob said: “Or am I saying things in “the wrong way” again?”

    Yes, Rob, calling people “Dishonest” for over a decade, and threatening to sue them for [pinky in corner of mouth] $500 million dollars, just because you either can’t understand or don’t agree with what they are lucidly and accurately writing, is indeed doing it ‘the wrong way.’

  15. Rob says

    I didn’t call Greaney “dishonest” when I pointed out the error he made in his study, Drip Guy. I thought it was an honest mistake and I said that.

    The $500 million is the amount that I said I would consider as a possible settlement figure. I think it is fair to say that that is a rock-bottom number. I am pretty darn confident that the lawyers are not going to appreciate me having said that. My aim is to put the ugly stuff behind us so that we can all get on to the fun part of this — learning how to invest effectively and how to retire many years sooner.

    I “understand” the appeal of Get Rich QUick strategies. I don’t approve of them. The academic research shows that they never work in the long wrong.

    And this is not a question of what I agree with or don’t agree with. It is a question of what the data says. The entire benefit of going with a research-backed approach is that you avoid subjectivity, which is what makes investors emotional and what makes stock investing risky. If you are going to report the numbers dishonestly, you are better off not using research at all or not pretending you do. Saying that research supports your Get Rich Quick approach just gives it a credibility it does not merit.

    Buy-and-Hold started out as an effort to develop a research-backed approach. That’s the very thing I love most about Buy-and-Hold. The Buy-and-Holders betrayed their original vision when they failed to change their model after the publication of Shiller’s research. Now Buy-and-Hold is a con. It CLAIMS to be research-based but the last 30 years of research is not considered in any of the calculations.

    I favor an HONEST and ACCURATE research-based approach. That’s Valuation-Informed Indexing. That’s Buy-and-Hold with the GRQ element removed. That’s the future of investing analysis.

    GRQ has failed us. We need to move on.

    That’s my sincere take, in any event.

    Rob

  16. Rob says

    I do understand that it hurts the feelings of the Buy-and-Holders when I call them “dishonest,” Drip Guy. I get that loud and clear. I very much want to see conditions change so that I no longer need to say that.

    That’s why I keep saying that I want to see corrections in the Old School studies.

    One of the things that Wade said in his blog post is that I am “desperate” to see the studies corrected. This is why. We are all on the same side. Once we get the studies corrected, the dishonesty will be in the past and we can all be friends again.

    The thing that causes the friction is the dishonesty. No one likes to be called dishonest. So let’s all work together to get those Old School studies corrected before the close of business today!

    Please?

    Rob

  17. Rob says

    What do you see as being the benefit of NOT correcting the studies?

    Are you able to say?

    Rob

  18. Evidence Based Investing says

    I am pretty darn confident that the lawyers are not going to appreciate me having said that.

    These would be the lawyers that won’t take your case.

  19. Rob says

    I have not yet found a lawyer willing to take the case on a contingency basis, Evidence.

    Do you think that will remain the case after the next crash?

    Have you looked at how people ended up feeling about GRQ investing schemes following earlier crashes? It’s usuallly not a pretty site for those who advocated those approaches.

    Bernie Madoff was the toast of the town while he was working his fraud. Would you say he is the toast of the town now that it has been exposed? I wouldn’t.

    You want to subject yourself to that?

    I don’t.

    I am going to continue to post honestly. I am going to encourage all my friends to do the same. That includes you.

    I think it would be fair to say that I care much more about your long-term best interests than you do yourself.

    Which is a very, very, very sad reality.

    I wish you well (even when you don’t).

    Rob

  20. Rob says

    You make it sound as though you believe that the legal system is not influenced by GRQ thinking during a runaway bull.

    It is.

    Every institution in our society is influenced.

    The press is influenced. The academic researchers are influenced. The politicians are influenced.

    And they all swing the other way once the con is exposed.

    All the emotion that helps the Goons to continue operating the con will be turned against them after the next crash.

    If you were smart, you would not want to have your name associated with this fraud when the bad stuff comes down.

    I know I don’t want my name associated with it. I can say that much for absolute certain.

    No way, no how.

    No can do.

    Rob

  21. Evidence Based Investing says

    Do you think that will remain the case after the next crash?

    Yes.

  22. Rob says

    Can you understand why I am not willing to post dishonestly given that I do not think it will remain the case?

    Bernie Madoff thought he would always remain the toast of the town too. I’m not too interested in becoming Bernie Madoff’s roomie.

    Rob

  23. Rob says

    The people who covered up for Sandusky thought they would never get caught.

    They all think that until they get caught. They wouldn’t do the dumb stuff in the first place if they knew they were going to get caught.

    Please leave me out of it.

    Rob

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