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discussion: Who's to blame for the worst excesses of the Internet bubble? Did Wall Street betray the public's trust?


Dear FRONTLINE,

Unfortunately, being this side of the pond, I didn't see your programme, but I must comment that your website is excellent. A truly fantastic resource of non-leading information: letting the viewer decide the conclusion, that makes a change!

Please don't let the bubble phenomenon and the crash taint your views of technology, though. The dot.com situation has taken technology to the next level, the customer focused level. We are seeing less and less abusive, tech minded online companies and more and more traditional customer service and discounts. The future is bright!!

Mark Jennings
aberdeen, scotland


Dear FRONTLINE,

Interesting piece. I have to agree that it seems like one big pump and dump.

In regards to my company, MotherNature.com, it appeared to me that the focus of actually building a business dramatically changed to a focus of building a story to raise money as soon as the VC came in.

As in most of the .coms, I, as a passionate founder was quickly pushed out of my company and my desire and drive that built the original concept was cast aside. Once the balance between entrepreneur and VC was changed the story was over. Instead of coming in and helping, nurturing and supporting the company and concept, the VC were only interested in the exit.

I found it interesting that the show had no focus on the actual building of a company in the documentary. I would have liked to have known why it took $8M a month to run the company that made 14M in sales. They took a 5 time Gomez winning website, $100M+ in investment, 14 VC, and a Harvard management team and board. And they lasted a year? What academic support is there for the decisions that were made by this kind of highly trained MBA management team?

There is more to the story÷ when is part two?

Ross Love Founder MotherNature.com

Ross Love
tampa, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

PBS always seems to be first to tackle the real issues that seem to get pushed aside by the so called media that "keeps you informed," like CNBC and CNNfn-- one of whom I work for.

Yes, I believe we smiled and were happy when the Netscapes and Yahoo's all were making record gains after their IPO debut.....hey! we're getting great ratings,".... lets talk them up, because that's what the "viewer" wants.....

Well, I believe that's what we wanted, positive market stories to bring in more viewers. Granted, we did have analysts on our shows that told us to be careful with what was happening, but nothing really cautionary.

As said in your piece, it wasn't until the SEC came to us and asked us for analysts to disclose their holdings, did we really begin to play a part in "informing the viewer." While I believe I work with a wonderful and dedicated bunch of people who's integrity is among the best, I sometimes wonder what the information we're giving is for......to attract the viewer, or to inform them?

ft.lee, nj


Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm disappointed. From Frontline I was expecting a complex, nuanced, and critical analysis, but instead we were treated to the standard story of naming and blaming - as if bubbles are an anomaly, as if people don't ever lose money in the market, as if everything would have been okay if only certain bankers and financiers hadn't been "greedy."

Everyone, top to bottom, was simply following what they thought was their best interests, which is the way markets are supposed to work anyways.

'Who's to blame' in the game, or which rules are faulty, is the wrong question. To blame is the game itself.

cambridge, massachusetts


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your excellent report exposes what sociologists call an 'economy of reciprocity' -- a system of exchange propelled by mutual back-scratching rather than familiar money exchange.

In such a "quid pro quo" system, the firms that give the most "quid" are those with the most "quo pro" at stake. In the current system, this means firms with the most to gain from favorable analysis will tend to be those whose analysis should be least independent.

It is clear that contemporary approaches to financial services integration lead to "synergies" and incentives that tempt firms beyond what they have shown themselves able to bear. Maybe it's time to rethink these arrangements.

Mark Kennedy
evanston, illinois


Dear FRONTLINE,

While it was interesting reading the discussions on "whose to blame...", I would think it would be more informative to hear what reforms should be taken in fixing these problems.

Perhaps another excellent program to talk about this is in the works--I hope so.

With more than 50% of us now in the stock market and the current Adminstration pushing for changes in Social Security system to allow investment; it seems to me that we should be worried about reforms. There certainly seems to be plenty of things that need to be changed but if history is any indicator, I'm not hopeful that a true change will happen.

Chuck Mahlow
la verne, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

The $100,000,000 CSFB fine is to be paid to the U.S. Government, obviously, a Very Happy Big Winner!

And the Investment Banker Con Artists are also rejoicing in knowing, they will be following the CSFB Settlement in accepting the S.E.C.'s exoneration of: "not Guilty of Any Wrong Doing".

Witness: The Perfect Crime.

Paul Monroe
huntington wds., , michigan


Dear FRONTLINE,

The most troubling thing to me is the the analysts that were all saying "Buy! Buy! Buy!" have come under no scrutiny by the SEC and yet they are the public's closest and most visable link to the world of investing--especially the less savvy.

Not only did the actions of the "big fish" on Wall Street do much to undermine trust in the eyes of investors but the news media did so as well.

Am I missing something here or has the media been bought and paid for by Wall Street?

Clinton Brantley
torrance, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

Only a fool would think that the shell game practices of Enron and the Dot Cons are only practiced by these high profile violators.

How many other so called reputable institutions of trust are doing the same thing with our money ?

We don't need another advisor, mediator or regulator. What we need is the truth played so loud and clear that we the people will finally arise from our slumber and take back our responsibility that we have so freely given to the Enrons of the world.

Dennis Marshall
yelm, washington


Dear FRONTLINE,

A very timely event today (January 25, 2002):

Beyond.com, one of the companies highlighted in the FRONTLINE program, today declared bankruptcy, their shares last trading at 79 cents, down from their high in the 400's in 1999.

san francisco, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your dot.com episode reaffirmed the answer to the age old question:

What is the difference between the stock market and a casino? - The casino has rules.

Brian Campbell
toronto, ontario, canada


Dear FRONTLINE,

Nothing has changed since the dot.com bubble burst. These parties continue to operate in very much the same way as told in your story (albeit with fewer people due to financial industry layoffs). They don't deserve the public's trust.

May God help small investors before the financial industry picks our pockets clean.

redmond, wa


Dear FRONTLINE,

Great show and website (I like to read the complete interviews so the quotes are in context).

I still can't believe you aired this two days after the SEC announcement of the settlement with CSFB. Hats off to Martin Smith for a comprehensive view of a complex situation.

I've been wary of analysts and investment bankers since the M&A craze but I've rarely heard it discussed outside of business-oriented publications.

Now do a show on derivatives because derivatives featured in the Orange County, Long Term Capital and Enron bankruptcies (and Barclay near bankruptcy) . . .

Margaret Smith
los angeles, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

One thing that has been overlooked which allowed investment bankers to bring public unseasoned companies was the federal legislation known as the National Securities Markets Improvement Act of 1996 in which Congress preempted merit review standards in states such as California.

Prior to that, companies had to show a record of earnings before being qualified for sale to the general public in such states. Once venture capitalists could take a company public that had never earned a cent, the risk of holding cheap shares until earnings had been achieved was removed. The result was to change the venture capital industry into hot air artists whose basic stock in trade became bullshit.

san jose, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

The Dot Con Frontline show was excellent. It shows that greed overtakes human emotion and one ends up losing more than one can chew. I give credit for the ex former CEOs from mortgage.com and mothernature.com for their integrity. One of the venture capitalists should also be applauded for his honesty.

After watching this show, big wall street firms do not really care about small investors. They are so corrupted.

I hope there will be a sequel to this one. Once again, PBS have quality shows.

new york, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

You all did it again. You tackled a complex problem that goes to the heart of a significant problem most doen't understand. It opened my eyes to events in ways I never imagined.

I learned a great deal about investment banking in your piece. The problem is truth in markets. We as a nation need truth in markets. Everyone must believe that the markets are equal to everyone. If they aren't the capital flow will not go into the markets from the public. If that believe goes away the money will soon follow. The current problem with Enron and what you mentioned in the dot coms points to a series problem that threatens us in America that deserves action. Thanks for contributing.

Thomas Magee
overland park , ks

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