October 16, 2003 - 'Wall Street Words'
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AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster -- we invest some time with the author of a book about financial terms.
SCOTT: "Stock markets around the world have done fairly well, but in the U.S. money has come back into stocks for sure."
RS: So it's a good time for David Scott to come out with the third edition of his book "Wall Street Words: An A to Z Guide to Investment Terms for Today's Investors." Mr. Scott teaches finance and accounting at Valdosta State University in Georgia.
AA: Like any field, there's a lot of jargon, so we asked him to pick some terms anyone could understand.
SCOTT: "One term that's been used a lot is 'fallen angel,' which applies to securities or companies that at one time were really high flying, high valued, admired companies that have fallen out of favor. 'Shark repellant' is another. For example, if one company is trying to take over a second company, the company being taken over or in danger of being taken over might institute some kind of shark repellant that makes it very expensive to accomplish the task."
RS: "Now, are these words used in everyday speech, or do you actually see them in written documents?"
SCOTT: "They're used both. I think a term like shark repellant or fallen angel is used more in the industry than it is among individual investors. But it's used a lot in the press, and I think a lot of writers enjoy using kind of 'in' terms to make readers think that they are more sophisticated than they are perhaps. So I think a lot of these terms find their way into the popular press, and I don't think individuals always understand what the writers are talking about."
RS: "What are some more of these words?"
AA: "Would a shark repellant have anything to do with, let's say, a 'macaroni defense.' And what is a macaroni defense?"
SCOTT: "Well, it is. Actually, a macaroni defense is a type of shark repellant. For example, a macaroni defense is one where the directors of a company include in the bylaws that certain bonds have to be repurchased at above their face value in the event a company is in danger of being taken over. So it makes the company very expensive, and it relates to macaroni, as when you put macaroni in a boiling pot, it tends to expand in size. And so the cost of the takeover in this case expands in cost, and that's called a macaroni defense. I'm not sure that's used a lot, but it is used sometimes in the press."
RS: "This is a whole new world for me."
SCOTT: "Yes, I know."
AA: "What's interesting is when the stock market was last doing well, and we had the dot-coms, the technology companies were trading lots of shares, a term we kept hearing then was 'pump and dump,' and I wonder if perhaps we'll be seeing this again. If you could explain what pump and dump is."
SCOTT: "Sure, and that's a very good question. Individual investors would take a position in a stock. By that I mean they would start buying shares in a stock. And they would try to buy it at a relatively low price, and then they would spread information about the company or the stock, trying to get other investors interested in it, so that they would buy shares and run the price up because of the increased demand. This occurred a lot on Internet chat rooms, for example.
"If this was successful, then new investors would come in and start buying the stock, the price would start trending upward, and then the initial people that had spread the good word -- which much of the time wasn't true -- would dump their shares at a profit. And then the stock price would go down, but they wouldn't care. So that was called a pump and dump. You pump the price up, and then you dump your shares into the lap of someone else and let them worry about the fact that it's probably overpriced."
AA: "And was that illegal?"
SCOTT: "Yeah, it was. It sometimes used to be difficult to find out who was doing it."
AA: David Scott is author of "Wall Street Words, An A to Z Guide to Investment Terms for Today's Investors." And as for the term "Wall Street" itself, here's how he defines it: "The main street in New York City's financial district. The term is often used to denote the entire financial district in New York or the world of U.S. finance and investments. Also called the Street," that's with a capital S.
RS: And that's Wordmaster for this week. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And we're on the Web at voanews.com/wordmaster. With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.