Betting on the Market

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frontline: betting on the market: Untitled | PBS


FINAL Credits
As of January 27, 1997 10:22 AM

[This transcript is provided as a service of Journal Graphics. The WGBH Educational Foundation is not responsible for any errors or mischaracterizations in this transcript. JES]


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FRONTLINE Show #1506
Air Date: January 14, 1997

Betting on the Market

JAMES CRAMER, Money Manager: It's the most objective industry in the world. If your numbers stink, you're out. If your numbers are good, you get more money. It's the most Darwinian. It's beautiful. It's brutal. It works.

All right, guys. Let's roll. Buy 5 HMTT at an eighth. See what happens. It's against puts. We're fine. I want to see if you can even buy it. Colgate opens up an eighth.

IBM... August, '95 calls? I want an offering on a thousand. I want an offering on a thousand! I want an offering on a thousand! Yes! Double down. Double down. I want ten... I want a thousand!

MANAGER: Pfizer, 17-and-a-quarter. It's X. We get the dividends.


JOE NOCERA: A new faith is sweeping the country, gathering strength by the day.

JAMES CRAMER: It's 25. It's 25! Okay? It's 25!

JOE NOCERA: Over the years, as a financial reporter, I've watched money manager Jim Cramer turn into one of the market's most avid missionaries.

JAMES CRAMER: Colgate, Colgate, Colgate! Get me, get me, get me!

There are a thousand stocks out there that could make you rich totally independent of what you do for a living, all right? If you had bought Merck in the 1950s, just bought 10,000 shares of Merck instead of buying U.S. Savings Bonds, you would not ever have to work again.

Forty-six-and-three-quarter bid Cascade!

I believe that stocks like Bristol-Meyers, had they existed 100 years ago, there would have been no Marx. There would have been no communism because what's happened is these stocks have made many millions of people rich and they're going to do it again.


JOE NOCERA: Take a look around. We've all become hooked on the stock market.

1st INVESTOR: Within about 14 months, made about 30 percent, 40 percent of my money.

2nd INVESTOR: I'm up 35 percent in three months.

3rd INVESTOR: Yeah. I mean, I did 178 percent last year, so I'm doing well. I really enjoy it.

JAMES GRANT: The 1996-model stock market is the most overwrought, over-excited thyroid case, if you will, we've ever seen in this country.

RON CHERNOW: We're now using the stock exchange as a kind of souped-up, turbo-charged national piggy bank and retirement plan.

DIANA HENRIQUES: People are in the market today because they're afraid not to be in the market and this represents a tremendous change in the psyche of the country.

MANAGER: Okay, you want to pay 52 for 4,300 General Mills? That's for W.D., right? I gotcha, baby.

JOE NOCERA: For most of this century the stock market belonged to insiders, men who spoke in a coded language and worked in the arena we call Wall Street. But today the stock market belongs to all of us. During a bull market that's lasted 14 years, a time that's seen the Dow-Jones Industrial average rise more than 5,000 points, tens of millions of Americans have become investors. There's never been anything like it.

4th INVESTOR: I can make twice as much money in the stock market as working real hard in my regular business and so I think it's an opportunity. And it's cleaner. It's less people. It's your brain and how much time you want to put into it.

JORDAN GOODMAN, "Money" Magazine: There's a feeling, like, "Everybody's making all this money on Wall Street. How do I get in on the action?"

JAMES GRANT, "Grant's Interest Rate Observer": I have an office on Wall Street. I look out the window and I can see people queued up to visit the stock exchange, to kind of go in in the visitors' gallery and watch their wealth fructify. They want to go in there and watch the stocks go up. It's like they're visiting some French cathedral. They're out there taking pictures in front of this building, this Mecca.

JOE NOCERA: Wall Street is one of the great symbols of the free market, but it's always been something most of us feared rather than embraced. That's what's changed. Today's market, we believe, is there for us, helping to send our kids to college or to provide our retirement nest egg or to make our lives better in 100 different ways.

5th INVESTOR: This is corporate America at its finest, where the little guy gets to go in and buy a piece of Walgreen's and be co-owners with all the rest of the Walgreens, Charles and all those very nice people. And we are part owners. We're not gamblers.

RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Good morning, everybody. This is Gary Goldberg on Money Matters. Welcome to the program. And we are here to...

JOE NOCERA: Today everybody's a part owner.

RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: ...because for the first time many of you have decided to invest and...

JOE NOCERA: And they all want to talk about it.

RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Hello, Sharon. Good morning.

CALLER: Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You're welcome.

CALLER: We currently have most of our savings invested in the stock market. We're investing, making a profit and selling it so we can pay off our credit cards, set up retirement and the college for the children.

JOE NOCERA: We found Sharon and her family in upstate New York. They are modern American investors.

SHARON GORNIE: We don't have any retirement, owning our own business. That's why we're in the stock market. We're trying to make some aggressive money very quickly. Russ works very hard. It's almost demeaning that he works this physically hard. It should be more mental.

INTERVIEWER: How much of your savings are in the market right now? How much of your life's savings?

RUSS GORNIE: Almost all of it.

INTERVIEWER: Almost all of it?

RUSS GORNIE: Almost all of it, yeah.

TELEVISION REPORTER: The whole industry continues riding high, but there are some clouds on the horizon.

SHARON GORNIE: Gee, IBM's 95 and I see Nike went up to 108, also. I could sit here all day and watch this and just watch them go up and up.

Guys, come on! One hundred and eleven and seven eighths... down two and five eighths. It was one twenty-five. I guess everything's still falling.

Russ started watching CNBC and I put it on at the carpet store. I just put it on one day and I just watched the tickertape go by. The stocks were going crazy. Some of them were starting at $10 and going to $80 a share.

RUSS GORNIE: Something like Microsoft, I mean, you... when I first started watching it, I think it was almost $50 a share. What was that, about a year and a half, two years ago? And you sit there and watch that stock go up to $120. You know, you get kind of giddy about it.

SHARON GORNIE: What kind of stock do we have?

CHILD: Microsoft.

SHARON GORNIE: Yeah? What are those... what are the call letters?



If you look at the stock market, the overall, when it started back 100 years ago, the stock market was here. It's 1996 and it's up here. And it's gone up and down, but eventually it has ended on the up.

JOE NOCERA: Sharon and Russ live in a small and modest house, but they have big plans.

SHARON GORNIE: This is our dream house. Look, here's the plans inside. This is where we're going to live, in the back. There's a nice big "great room." It's got an arch window up the stairs. We all picked out our own bedrooms. We look at it when we're off to work in the morning and when we come home tired. It's just like an incentive. Isn't that beautiful? Isn't that nice?

JOE NOCERA: The investment industry has aggressively courted baby boomers like Russ and Sharon and no part of the industry has been more aggressive and more successful than the mutual funds, which offer people the alluring prospect of handing over their money to an expert, a fund manager, and watching him make dazzling gains.3

JORDAN GOODMAN: Eighty-five percent of the money now in mutual funds has come in since 1990. So far, in 1996, we've had more money come in, into stock mutual funds, than in any previous year in history.

CONFERENCE SPEAKER: Good morning and welcome to another mutual fund conference. It's a pleasure to see so many familiar faces and welcome you back. A little concerned about the beautiful nature of this room and can't help but wonder what that tells you about where we are in the market cycle.

JOE NOCERA: By the spring of 1996, when we attended this mutual fund conference, the fund industry had topped the $3 trillion mark. That's more than the gross national product of France or Germany. And much of that money has streamed in in just the last three years as the market has made some of its most spectacular gains.

DIANA HENRIQUES, Author, "Fidelity's World": There are 7,000 individual mutual funds. There are 400 mutual fund families, all with their product wares spread out for you. There are bond funds. There are emerging market funds. There are Canadian resource funds. And if you want to invest in something and you can't find a fund for it, wait 15 minutes and someone will devise a fund to sell to you.

1st SALESMAN: Well, we have 15 no-load mutual funds, the emerging growth fund, capital appreciation fund...

1st SALESWOMAN: We don't invest in companies involved in the manufacture of weapons or the production of nuclear energy.

1st SALESMAN: ...value fund, growth and income fund...

2nd SALESMAN: We generally tend to pick stocks that pop up on our buy list as a result of our computer screens.

1st SALESMAN: ...government fund, money market fund and reserve fund.

JOE NOCERA: I have to ask you. I've never heard this before. I've never heard of anybody with a Nebraska tax-free fund.

3rd SALESMAN: Well, it's both federally and state tax-free and invests in municipal bonds.

JOE NOCERA: But you got... you have to live in Nebraska to get this, right?

3rd SALESMAN: That's right.

JOE NOCERA: Is it just our imagination, or do these funds all seem to do nothing but go up?

2nd SALESWOMAN: The small-cap fund, which is directly correlated to our managed accounts, is up 36 percent.

4th SALESMAN: It was up 20.41 percent.

5th SALESMAN: Last year it was up about 59 percent.

JOE NOCERA: A thousand percent or something?

2nd SALESMAN: I don't know if it's that much, but it would certainly approximate that.

JOE NOCERA: And the better these funds do, the more the people who run them seem like superstars.

JIM CRAMER: Five years from I think you'll be able to name the top 25 mutual fund managers in the country in the way that you'll be able to say who runs IBM and who runs Ford Motor and who runs Chrysler.

JORDAN GOODMAN: There's a tremendous pressure on the mutual fund managers to get the top performance on a quarterly basis, certainly on an annual basis, because if they don't, they'll lose their shareholders. They might even get fired. Yet if they do very well, they can become very wealthy very young.

JOE NOCERA: The competition is fierce and the top mutual fund managers are like modern-day alchemists, creating magical market gains. And right now no one has the golden touch more than this man, Garrett Van Wagoner, who runs a one-man shop out of San Francisco.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: That's... then that's my final offer.

JOE NOCERA: Dozens of stocks cross Garrett's desk every day, everything from U.S. Robotics to the Rainforest Café.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Want another Hard Rock Café version, except this time it's got a jungle motif? You think that has a lot of staying power, the old jungle motif? How many ways can you serve a hamburger, you know?

No, thank you. Next?

JORDAN GOODMAN: Here's somebody who has a great track record, a very smart guy.


JORDAN GOODMAN: He's done very well for himself and his shareholders coming out of nowhere, basically, in the last two or three years. Everybody else wants to be a Garrett Van Wagoner, too, and get along while things are going well.

1st MAN AT CONFERENCE: I was wondering, can I get your autograph here?

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Garrett Van Wagoner.

2nd MAN AT CONFERENCE: Hi. I'm [unintelligible]

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Nice to meet you.

WOMAN AT CONFERENCE: I'm Kim McAllister. [sp?] I wanted to meet you. This is... you're why I came to this conference.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Well, that's great. I'm glad that we had a chance to meet.

It's hard to consider myself a superstar in anything, but, I mean, that's the title that has been thrown out by various people and I guess there's the old line of everybody gets 15 minutes. The thing that's disconcerting is I don't know if I'm on my 14th minute with 59 seconds or I'm on my first minute.

JOE NOCERA: Van Wagoner struck out on his own last January. By the summer he had the number one fund in the country, up 60 percent in less than six months. The fund started with $100,000. By May he had a billion dollars under management and the money kept pouring in.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: At the peak, we had some days that were over $40 million in a day. At one point in time in late March and early April, the funds were doubling every day.

JOE NOCERA: Fund managers at the top of their game become gurus, dispensing their wisdom on eager investors. Their every word is listened to with rapt attention. "What's going to happen to the market?" people want to know. What companies are about to explode? What is he looking for in a stock.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: We're looking for, being in small-cap growth, companies that we think are the best and the brightest candidates out there. These are going to be the next Microsoft, so to speak.

Hey, Rick, how are you? Good to see you.

JOE NOCERA: Getting an audience with Garrett can be a critical event for hungry young companies.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Garrett Van Wagoner. Nice to meet you. Oh, there it is!

WHITNEY A. McFARLIN: Our device.

Innovative solutions for cardiac arrhythmias. That's what we're about, primarily driven by the bi-phasic wave form and...

JOE NOCERA: Just tell us a little about why you were up there. Why were you visiting Garrett just now?

WHITNEY A. McFARLIN, CEO, Angeoin Corp.: Well, he is a potential funder of our company and we're in the process of doing the financing, basically selling stock. And to put it simply, we were up there begging for money.

This business is about human life. It is about quality of life and it's certain experiences like that that bring that home to us in the corporation.

JOE NOCERA: You're the CEO of the company.

WHITNEY A. McFARLIN: That's correct.

JOE NOCERA: You're the top guy in this company. Is this the most important thing you can be doing right now? I mean...

WHITNEY A. McFARLIN: It absolutely is the most important thing I can do.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Wonderful. Thanks again. It's good seeing you again.

WHITNEY A. McFARLIN: Thanks again.


RON CHERNOW Author, "The House of Morgan": What I find very interesting about the mutual fund managers is that here are people who are the new "masters of the universe." Their managing billions or, in certain cases, tens of billions of dollars.

JORDAN GOODMAN: Well, Wall Street is really running the country today, in many ways, and this is a pressure that the corporate executives feel. And they see it time after time. If they don't perform, they're out of there.

JOE NOCERA: Companies will do cartwheels to please powerful shareholders and when mutual fund managers want stock prices to go up, they feel they have a right to demand it.

JIM CRAMER: Don't forget the mutual fund guys keep their job only if they pick the right stocks. You can make companies into the right stocks by demanding certain changes, by demanding changes at Sears, by demanding changes at Xerox, by demanding changes at IBM.

JOE NOCERA: Changes like last year's announcement that 40,000 workers would be down-sized from AT&T. The share price instantly bounced up almost $3. The merger of Chase and Chemical Banks... 12,000 jobs lost, but Chase shareholders made over a billion dollars. Directly or indirectly, the immense influence of the mutual funds were responsible for these upheavals.

And sometimes the employee a company fires is also a shareholder who makes money when the price goes up. Consider, for instance, Mary Jane Range. A vice president at CitiBank, she was laid off as part of a restructuring two years ago.

MARY JANE RANGE: It was going to be the place I retired from. It was a company that I had targeted and wanted to belong to for a very long time.

JOE NOCERA: Mary Jane, who is divorced and single, has all her savings in the stock market and her biggest holding is in the corporation that cast her out, CitiCorp.

[interviewing] How did you feel about holding the stock of this company that had laid you off?

MARY JANE RANGE: I never made the connection. I never made the connection that this is... this is stock in a company that just took away my ability to earn a living.

JOE NOCERA: After the down-sizing at CitiBank, the company's stock, which had hit an all-time low, rebounded.

MARY JANE RANGE: The stock, as I recall, went down as low as just slightly below 12.

JOE NOCERA: Twelve dollars a share.

MARY JANE RANGE: Twelve dollars a share.

JOE NOCERA: And now where is it?

MARY JANE RANGE: Eighty-nine.

JOE NOCERA: Eighty-nine dollars a share.


JOE NOCERA: Today she's her own boss, a partner in an executive search firm matching up candidates, often people who've been down-sized, with potential employers.

MARY JANE RANGE: How's your job search going?

In what I do now, I am totally reliant on myself. I don't have a pension. I can't even conceive today of being in a position where you would have total job security.

JOE NOCERA: So what do people have to do?

MARY JANE RANGE: They have to take care of themselves. No one will take care of you any longer in this country, in terms of long-term job security, withering pensions.

JOE NOCERA: And where does the market fit in that scheme?

MARY JANE RANGE: The market is an enabler. It is a way for people to increase their accumulated wealth and to take care of their future.

SHARON GORNIE: Twenty-four and seven eighths.

DOROTHY FREE: It's got to go back up. It's got to. It was already up there. It's... everything has got to go back up.

JOE NOCERA: Dorothy Free was also down-sized after many years as an employee at IBM. She, too, has cast her lot with the market.

DOROTHY FREE: I have another job now, as a secretary. I down-graded my salary something wicked. This is it. I've only got a couple more years to work. So you put money away in investments and then, if you ever need something, when the time comes, you do have some money put away.

JOE NOCERA: Dorothy is Sharon Gornie's mother. Together they have a neighborhood investment club, one of 10,000 across the country that have been formed in just the last year.

SHARON GORNIE: Fortune Adviser, Fortune 500...

Here's the America's 100 Fastest-Growing Companies.

I saw an article in Women's Day magazine, "How to start an investment club," and I said to my mom, "Mom, do you want to start a club with me? Let's do this."

We could get The Wall Street Journal and see what the high was.

Why not take a shot at it? Why not be with everyone else that everyone's making so much money, a lot of money?

JOE NOCERA: For the first time average Americans like Sharon and Dorothy see the stock market as both necessary and safe.

DOROTHY FREE: I don't think savings banks are the way to go anymore at all. I don't even think you should have a checking account in a bank anymore.

JORDAN GOODMAN, "Money" Magazine: I was doing a radio show in Kansas City recently and this woman had gotten into 20th Century Ultra, which is probably about the most aggressive mutual fund you can get. And it was up about 50 percent last year... something like that. So she said, "Even if I don't get 50 percent, it's okay. If I get 25 percent, that's okay." I said, "Well, how about if it went down 25 percent?" "No, no. Not down. Just... I'm not greedy. I don't have to get 50 percent." Well, in these people's minds, the idea of it going down 25 or 50 percent is nonexistent.

DOROTHY FREE: If the stock market does drop, that's okay. It will go back up again. It has to because the economy grows all the time. I'm very careful with my... with my money. I would not ever gamble on anything. I will not gamble.

JAMES GRANT, "Grant's Interest Rate Observer": People... I think people should expect the stock market to deliver good returns over time, with the understanding that from time to time it will tear your heart out. The stock market is a little bit like a savage beast. It is a nice thing to think you've domesticated, but every once in a while it'll remind you suddenly, maybe by taking your hand off, that it is not the pet you think it is.

JOE NOCERA: So how did we come to trust such a savage beast?

NEWSREEL NARRATOR: The tremendous crowds which you see gathered outside the stock exchange are due to the greatest crash in the history of the New York Stock Exchange.

JOE NOCERA: The crash of '29 turned out to be the greatest market disaster of all time, but there was a big difference between then and now.

RON CHERNOW: Main Street was really not involved in the stock market in the 1920s. It was considered the sort of thing that racy and rather corrupt city slickers did. It was not considered a place for the whole family, as the stock market is considered today. And so when news of the crash came, probably a lot of people in small towns and farms across America felt a sense of grim satisfaction.

JOE NOCERA: But nobody knew how bad it was going to get. The crash led to the Depression, which affected everybody. And the Depression created a set of financial habits that would last generations. We became extraordinarily risk-averse. We hoarded what we had. We never borrowed. And as for investing, it was a laughable idea.

The years went by. The New Deal came and went. World War II began and ended. Your children grew up and had their own children and color television was invented all before you recovered the money you had lost in the crash of 1929. It took 25 years for the Dow to reach 381, which had been the pre-crash peak. The year was 1954.

ACTOR: ["Mr. Webster Takes Stock," Merrill Lynch promotional film] Playing the market? You're not serious.

ACTRESS: Not playing the market, investing. There's a difference.

JOE NOCERA: The market came back in the '50s, more than tripling by the end of the decade. But the old financial habits of the Depression were still with us. Besides, didn't Americans have life-long jobs and guaranteed pensions? What did they need the stock market for? It wasn't until their children, today's baby boom generation, came of age that the stock market started to matter. Why? Because by then there was a force at work that seemed to practically demand it.

RON CHERNOW: Every generation, I think, has a defining economic event. For the generation before the baby boomers, the defining event was the Depression and that left people very preoccupied with jobs and it created a generation of people who were very security... security-oriented. When the baby boom generation left school, the first great defining economic was the great inflation of the 1970s.

Pres. JIMMY CARTER: The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN, Money MANAGER: The fear of inflation was everywhere. People believed ... and you could go back and read articles that were written at the time ... that there was no way the inflation rate was ever going to be brought under control.

JOE NOCERA: As inflation surged, people watched their savings erode in the bank, which meant they had to do something different with their money, either spend it or invest it. A new psychology was taking hold in America.

RON CHERNOW: It was really at that point that stocks began to lose their stigma as a very risky investment.

JOE NOCERA: And so, when the modern bull market began in August of 1982, a generation sat up and took notice. And one man more than any other became the new Pied Piper for the millions of baby boomers who were poised to become investors. He managed a little-known mutual fund called Magellan. His name was Peter Lynch.

LOUIS RUYKEYSER: ["Wall Street Week"] Peter, what did you do that the other fellows didn't do?

PETER LYNCH, Vice President, Fidelity Management & Research Co.: Well, I'm not sure what the other people were doing, Lou, but what I've tried to do is I've worked as hard as I could. I've visited over 200 companies every year.

JOE NOCERA: But hard work was just the beginning. Lynch also had an incredible instinct for picking stocks that were about to explode. And what were these great picks of his?

PETER LYNCH: Well, right... right over here we have a Kentucky Fried Chicken, the old colonel. I remember in the early, mid-'60s, when I started at Fidelity, this was one of the single most exciting stocks. I mean, it was more exciting than Netscape. It was more exciting than Microsoft. It was it. It was better than a microprocessor or anything. And then, right next to it, we have one of my great companies of all time, Dunkin' Donuts. Amazing company. Made great coffee and they put it in a china cup. They didn't serve it in a crummy paper cup. If somebody invents a new logic chip, I'm not going to know about it. No one's every going to invent a better donut.

JOE NOCERA: One reason Lynch became the stock picker for the middle class was that he had such middle class tastes. He used to prowl shopping malls and watch what people were buying and what stores they were visiting.

PETER LYNCH: This is like the New York Stock Exchange, right here, you know? Look at over here to Athlete's Foot. I mean, here's... here's a chance for the public, if they knew something about Nike... their stock went to over 100. Here's my... one of my biggest stocks in my life, Taco Bell, right over here. And here's Cinnabon. I like to research that if that went public.

JOE NOCERA: Well, we can do a little research right now.

PETER LYNCH: One Cinnabon, please.

DIANA HENRIQUES, Author, "Fidelity's World": Peter Lynch is a genial, open, reassuring person. You know, a good dose of Peter Lynch and you feel empowered. The stock market looks easy. Investing looks fun. Mutual funds look like a sure thing.

JIM JUBAK, "Worth" Magazine: If the mutual fund industry had not had a Peter Lynch, someone would have had to have gone out and invent Peter Lynch.

PETER LYNCH: I mean I'd rather have this than a logic chip.

JIM JUBAK: People can understand what Lynch was all about.

JOE NOCERA: Sometimes the bets Lynch took were breathtaking.

PETER LYNCH: Well, Joe, this is my greatest stock ever for the fund. This was the largest position in my fund, in Magellan, in 1982, and everybody thought I was crazy.

JOE NOCERA: Remember Chrysler in 1982?

LEE IACOCCA: Me, I'm in the car business.

JOE NOCERA: It was on the verge of bankruptcy. The U.S. government had to guarantee its loans just to keep the company in business. Lynch put $23 million, 5 percent of his fund, on Chrysler and its new minivan. And what did the Chrysler bet add up to, and all of his other great stock picks?

PETER LYNCH: Well, if somebody had invested $1,000 in Magellan on May 31st, 1977, the day I left, that $1,000 would have been $28,000, May 31st, 13 years later, 1990.

JOE NOCERA: That's a pretty incredible...

PETER LYNCH: Yeah, that was...

JOE NOCERA: I can see why that would attract a lot of attention.

PETER LYNCH: Yeah, I was... I was happy.

JOE NOCERA: What that means is that the Magellan Fund was up nearly 3,000 percent in the 13 years Lynch ran it. But all of Wall Street was booming in the '80s. Corporations were merging and acquiring and taking each other over. Stock prices were skyrocketing. The Dow more than tripled between 1982 and 1987. It seemed as though the bull market would go on forever. And then:

TELEVISION ANCHOR: They're calling it the "Monday massacre," the worst drop in Wall Street history. By the closing bell the Dow-Jones Industrial average was in the steepest fall in its 103-year history.

JOE NOCERA: It was October 19, 1987. That's me with the beard, outside a Fidelity office in Boston, watching the Dow self-destruct. Like millions of other Americans, I thought this was the end.

JORDAN GOODMAN: I remember going out at lunch time to the local Fidelity office and seeing a huge crowd gathered around, watching the tickertape, in shock that the market could fall 100 points and then 200 and then 300 just... and there was no breaks on this thing.

PETER LYNCH: Well, I was very well prepared for the crash of 1987. I... my wife and I took our first vacation in eight years and we left on Thursday in October and the day... I think that day the market went down 55 points. And we went to Ireland, first trip we'd ever been there. And then on Friday, because of the time difference, we'd almost completed the day and I called and the market was down 115. And I said to Carolyn, "If the market goes down on Monday, we better go home." It went down 508 on Monday, so I went home. So in two business days, I had lost a third of my fund.

JOE NOCERA: But in the end, the 1987 crash turned out to be, oddly enough, rather reassuring.

PETER BERNSTEIN, Investment Consultant: Here we had, for a single day, probably the biggest drop we've ever had in market history and nothing happened. And in time, and really not so long, stock market got back to where it was. And that led to the feeling that, in the long run, being in the stock market is great, that weak markets are buying opportunities, not times to sell. This wonderful event in 1987 is what people today are carrying around in their heads. "Don't worry if the market goes down. Nothing bad can happen."

JOE NOCERA: After the crash, American investors embraced the market, and especially the mutual fund industry, with renewed fervor. Today one in 50 American households has money in the Magellan Fund and the customers of Fidelity Investments alone constitute some 4 percent of the country.

[interviewing] There's a huge amount of money that flows through here. I mean, we're talking about billions and billions of your and my money.

PETER LYNCH: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

JOE NOCERA: American money.

PETER LYNCH: Absolutely. We do... you know, it's public information. We do between 5 and 7 percent of the trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

JOE NOCERA: Comes out of this room?

PETER LYNCH: This room, right over here.

JOE NOCERA: These people.

PETER LYNCH: You got it, these people.

JOE NOCERA: Even after he retired from Magellan, Lynch remained a fanatical popularizer of the stock market. But he had one important caveat: You needed patience.

PETER LYNCH: My best stocks have been the third year I bought them... not the third week, not the third month, the third, fourth year. People want something to happen in a week, in two weeks. It doesn't work that way.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: You've got it all KNBR, 68 San Francisco.

JOE NOCERA: It's only been six years since Lynch left Magellan, but today's fund industry has a whole different mindset.

MAN ON PHONE: Garrett?


MAN ON PHONE: We're going to try to cross 75 G's [unintelligible]


MAN ON PHONE: Do you need to be involved either way?


MAN ON PHONE: Asking? No?


MAN ON PHONE: No interest?


Yes? No, thank you. Next.

Hey, if you hear of any pieces of Cardiac Pathways down in the hold this afternoon, let me - give me a call, please.

MAN ON PHONE: AAS, you serve a whopping 800 shares at 32 and five eighths.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: That's what I like.

MAN ON PHONE: Beautiful.


MAN ON PHONE: Thank you.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: 'Bye. God bless this country!

JOE NOCERA: Garrett Van Wagoner is still the new kid on the block, but the comparisons have already begun.

[interviewing] How do you feel when you get compared to Peter Lynch?

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: A little embarrassed, a little bit surprised and flattered, I guess, would be the things that come to mind. I- you know, he- he's a legend in this business.

Does he want to come out of the position or is it just trimming?

It's going to be a long time before I'm willing to sort of accept that kind of status. I'd like to do it for 10 or 15 years first.

JOE NOCERA: But Garrett won't be given that kind of time. In the overheated market of the '90s, fund managers are scrutinized not just year to year, but week to week and even day to day.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: This is not a charitable business, a charitable institution.

JOE NOCERA: By the summer of 1996 Garrett's fund had long since hit its peak of 60 percent and was stumbling badly.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Yeah, 45... under 45, give me a holler.

JOE NOCERA: Thousands of people who came in at the top were losing money with Garrett.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Right. I want to... I want it flat on its butt.

JOE NOCERA: How much did you lose yesterday?

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: I lost about $18 million in the big fund.

JOE NOCERA: And that was the worst day you've had since you opened for business?

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Worst day I've had since I've been open for business.

JIM JUBAK: You've got a tremendous amount of money in that fund that came into the fund after it was up 40 or 50 percent or 60 percent, with the expectation that that's what the future is going to look like.

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN: My guess is, as he got close to being up 60 percent, he probably raised 80 percent of the money he has under management, so it's quite likely that the overwhelming majority of his investors, their first taste of his performance was a sharp setback.

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN: Under this kind of short-term pressure, Garrett doesn't have time to buy and hold the way Lynch did. His strategy is all about moving in and out of stocks quickly, sometimes in a single day. Always he's taking the pulse of the market, trying to stay one step ahead of it. It's high-stakes poker.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: I got one more for you today. I've got 25,000 RXT to buy with a 6 top, please.

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN, Money Manager: What's particularly dangerous about the present mutual fund boom is what is called investing is really speculating. The techniques are more about trading, rapid turnover, paying any price for a stock, as long as it goes up or behaves a certain way. It is about crowd behavior and stock price behavior, not about analyzing the underlying businesses.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: God bless this country. Let's feed the old ducks while they're quacking.

JOE NOCERA: The companies Garrett is investing in aren't Dunkin' Donuts and Kentucky Fried Chicken. They are mainly technology and health care stocks that most of us have never heard of.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: HNC Software has gone from up 1 to up seven and a half in about a minute and a half.

JOE NOCERA: New companies with little or no track record.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Marking them up!

DIANA HENRIQUES: The way the fund industry has changed has been to liberate fund managers to pursue hot performance anywhere they can find it. And the result of that is when you buy that fund, you have no idea what that fund manager is going to do with your money. He's free to put it in almost anything.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: That's what I like!

JOE NOCERA: Garrett's stock picks are among the most vulnerable and volatile around, but at the end of the day they can produce eye-popping results.

GARRETT VAN WAGONER:Oh, my God! Look at Integrated Systems today, up 8-and-three-quarters! What, did they discover gold?

JOE NOCERA: [interviewing] Did you make money today?

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: Yeah, we made good money today, actually, and we had some real high flyers today, so we had a good day today.

JOE NOCERA: Do you have a guess how much?

GARRETT VAN WAGONER: I'm going to say we made... we probably made about $13 million, $14 million, is going to be a guess today.

JOE NOCERA: Actually, he guessed wrong. It was more like $22 million.

[interviewing] Not bad?


RON CHERNOW, Author, "The House of Morgan": The problem is that all of the mutual fund managers, I think, are trapped in this rather deadly, vicious circle, that the more successful they are, the more money flows into their mutual fund. The more money that flows into their mutual fund, the more difficult it is for them to beat the market averages or even to match their own past performance. And I think that we may see future situations like that of Jeff Vinik at the Fidelity Magellan Fund, where mutual fund managers will try to do very strange and unconventional things because it becomes increasingly difficult to outsmart the averages.

JOE NOCERA: Jeff Vinik was a young whiz kid at Fidelity when he inherited the Magellan Fund in 1992. Within three years Magellan had ballooned to over $53 billion, making it by far the biggest fund in the country. In early 1996 Vinik made a dramatic move, shifting Magellan heavily into bonds and out of stocks. He was betting, in effect, that the bull market was about to end, but he bet wrong.

JAMES GRANT: Jeffrey Vinik made a bad guess and bought bonds and missed out on a truly, you know, wonderful levitation in the stock market and had the epaulets of his celebrity stripped from his shoulders and left the Magellan Fund.

PETER JENNINGS, ABC News: ["World News Tonight"] The man who runs the world's largest mutual fund has resigned. Jeff Vinik...

JIM JUBAK: Jeff Vinik's departure should send up cautionary flags for the mutual fund investor.

PETER JENNINGS: Magellan's returns this year have been well below most other comparable funds.

JIM JUBAK: His departure means that people are really not willing to take short-term under-performance in the expectation of future return. I think that's the really scary thing, that he really only under-performed for a couple of quarters.

JOE NOCERA: The public's impatience for big gains is so great that many people have taken investing into their own hands. The Internet is crowded with hot stock tips, financial chat rooms and lots and lots of so-called "advice." One of the most popular sites on the net is an on-line investing forum called The Motley Fool. Its founders, two brothers named Dave and Tom Gardner, claim that if their subscribers invest their money the Motley Fool way, they can count on 20 percent growth in their portfolios per year... guaranteed.

DAVID GARDNER, Motley Fool Co-Founder: We've identified a couple mechanical investment approaches which can be used by anybody, take only about 30 minutes a year, and for more than 25 years have returned that 20 percent and we don't see any big change in the next 25 years. So when we teach that approach, we're teaching people financial self-reliance.

JOE NOCERA: The Motley Fool is based in a townhouse in Alexandria, Virginia, and staffed by 20-somethings who, like the Gardner brothers, are true believers in the market. They lead their 250,000 subscribers in a vigorous hunt for the next big winner.

TOM GARDNER, Motley Fool Co-Founder: Microsoft 10 years ago, had you bought it, not traded it, with your broker recommending that you trade it, not in a mutual fund, where it would have been diluted by 60 other stocks... had you bought it, it's grown at 60 percent a year, so $10,000 is worth a million dollars 10 years later.

JOE NOCERA: The problem is, how do you know which of the thousands of hot stocks out there are going to turn out to be the next Microsoft? That's the hard part and it's something Motley Fool's subscribers found out the hard way.

The company was called Iomega. In early 1995 it came out with a jazzy new computer device called the Zip Drive. Motley Fool subscribers fell in love with the product and started an on-line bulletin board devoted exclusively to Iomega. In this electronic hothouse, the stock caught fire.

DAVID GARDNER: And so we bought the stock at 2-and-a-half, added it to our on-line portfolio, and over the course of the next year and half, it ran up as high as 55.

TOM GARDNER: When the stock was at 55, our $5,000 investment ... think about it ... was worth over $100,000.

JOE NOCERA: As the stock attracted more and more attention, the Motley Fool chat board became a frenzied, giddy place. The more Iomega went up, the more of their livelihoods people poured into the stock.

[on screen: computer messages reading, "As I went to bed last night and thanked the Lord for his blessing, I thought: how lucky I am to be in a stock up 1,500 percent," "I put 75 percent of my portfolio in Iomega," "My whole family is in Iomega and it will pay for my son's first two years of college," "This is better than sex."]

By 1996 the Iomega phenomenon had spread well beyond the Internet. Last summer, at a Charles Schwab office in San Francisco, people were talking about little else.

2nd INVESTOR: Iomega was the talk of the town, so to speak, on the stock market and I would read about it and I would see that it would rise incredible amounts in a day.

5th INVESTOR: I bought it at 24 and it went up to 80 and it split. And after it split, it went back to 54.

2nd INVESTOR: And the next morning I woke up and called up the broker and it was at 55. And I... I was, like, "You know, this is kind of silly, but it's great, you know?"

JOE NOCERA: But what had the company done to deserve this kind of run-up? Not much. It was a three-product company with profits of only $14 million. But at the peak of the frenzy Iomega stock was worth over $5.5 billion.

JAMES GRANT: Stock prices going up case people who would not have dreamt have buying them when they were down to go out and buy them because, after all, they will continue to go up. And the manifestation of this psychology in the marketplace has been an extraordinary array of overpriced specimens... you know, companies that change hands at 600 times the sum of money they can expect to earn this year. Literally, things that are seen once, twice or three times in an entire investment lifetime have come to pass in 1996. It has been a living museum of speculation.

JOE NOCERA: In Iomega's case, it was a bubble that was destined to burst and eventually it did.

2nd INVESTOR: And I watched it go from 55 to 54 to 53 to 52 to 51 to... all the way down to, like, 48. And I go, "I got to... I"... you know, "I got to get"... I sold, at that point.

5th INVESTOR: And I put in a stop and sold it at 40, 43.

JOE NOCERA: So and the yearly high is 55-and-an-eighth and it's down now to 23?

6th INVESTOR: Right. Iomega's been dropping like a rock for a good week or two weeks.

JOE NOCERA: And the Motley Fool boards were full of howls of pain.

[on screen: computer messages reading, "Nobody gets it. The opera is over," "Last time I listen to you."]

[interviewing] Show us Iomega here.

JIM CRAMER: Okay. Now, this has been a very severe correction of Iomega.

JOE NOCERA: Look at that.

JIM CRAMER: The real hype, Motley Fool hype, was working right around here. It was a good horse, but it was just a horse and you had to get off it. And there are other horses out there. Try to pick a horse that's not a sprinter. Try to pick one that's going to be around.

DAVID GARDNER: The stock got ahead of itself, as often will happen with great growth companies, we think. And so somebody could have bought the stock at 55 and seen his investment melt down to about 21 today. Now, at the same time, many other people bought at 2 and 5 and 10 and 15 and 20 and may have sold at 48, for all we know.

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN: In Japan they had a name for this. They called them the shin gin ri and it literally meant "new human being." They were the 20-something-year-old people who had had no experience in the market who were put in charge of all the investing. And... and they thought that nothing would ever go wrong.

JOE NOCERA: The Japanese stock market, which had been the wonder of the '80s, crashed in 1989 and it's never recovered. Even today the Japanese market is just over half what it once was and once euphoric Japanese investors now feel burned.

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN: I find it somewhat ironic that here we are, seven years after that bubble burst, the Japanese are still trying to pick up the pieces. At that moment in time, we are doing many of the very same things. People are buying stocks for one reason: They are going up.

6th INVESTOR: I have two kids I want to put through college and I figure this is the best way to be able to double my money.

2nd INVESTOR: Necessity is the mother of invention, so I've heard, and I have a wife and four kids and I'm a policeman in the city here and I figured I needed to make some more money.

JOE NOCERA: Well, why not just put it in the bank?

5th INVESTOR: Well, the bank only pays you 3 percent and it... it makes you feel like you're not gaining ground and the stock market's faster.

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN: People have confused need with certainty. "We need this to work. It seems like it will, therefore it will." That's a little bit like going to the track and betting on number 3 and saying, "God, I really need this horse to come in for me." Well, just because you need it to come in doesn't mean that it will.

PETER BERNSTEIN, Investement Consultant: It's funny that people are motivated by anxiety to take a risk. You think that anxiety would make them risk-averse.

SHARON GORNIE: Let's go! Time to go home! Come on!

JOE NOCERA: Sharon eventually sold Microsoft. The next time we caught up with her, she and Russ had put their life's savings into two tiny, volatile technology stocks. Why?

SHARON GORNIE: Because we're working very hard and not furthering ourselves. It's too slow. We have got to do something aggressive.

RUSS GORNIE: It is scary, but, you know, it's... at this point, she just wants to... Sharon... well, actually, she took a little more and just invested recently that was very conservative and she kind of went and did something that I think we'll make out on, as long as the market doesn't crash. But yeah, right now, just about everything is in there.

INTERVIEWER: What'd she do?

RUSS GORNIE: She went and invested in a stock that she was told was going to do very well.


To tell you the truth, I don't even know the name of it. I know the call letters are A-M-L-N. It's supposed to double by August.

INTERVIEWER: Do you worry about your future, financially?

RUSS GORNIE: Oh, yeah. All the time. That's why we're trying to do something. That's just what I'm saying. There's really nothing to depend on except yourself, so... yeah, we worry about it.

PETER BERNSTEIN: The money that people used to put in the stock market was money that they hoped to get rich on or get... play with or maybe finance their trip to Europe or something. What's going in today is blood money. With jobs less secure and with, really, the... the wonderful corporate pension fund that promised you a pension of X percent of your final salary when you retired... with that no longer as important and taking care of a smaller and smaller proportion, this is blood money that's in there.

RON CHERNOW: I think that what has been happening is a kind of fear approaching a panic that's spreading through the baby boom generation, which has suddenly discovered that it will have to provide for its own retirement.

NARRATOR: [Mutual Fund Advertisement] If retirement is a bridge to be crossed when we get there, then let us begin.

JOE NOCERA: Have you thought about how much you're going to need to retire?

MARY JANE RANGE: Sure. I have. I think I'm probably going to need anywhere between a million and a million-and-a-half dollars to retire.

JOE NOCERA: That sounds like a lot of money.

MARY JANE RANGE: It is a lot of money.

JOE NOCERA: Are you there?

MARY JANE RANGE: No! No, I'm not there.

JORDAN GOODMAN: All these particularly late baby boomers, people in their late 40s and 50s, they've been spending their whole life. They have not been saving. And now they see their retirement not that far off... 10, 15 years. Hey, people don't believe there's going to be any Social Security. There will be something called Social Security, but it's not something you're going to live... want to live on.

MARY JANE RANGE: The stock market was not a factor of my parents' lives. My father was a member of the... of the union. He had a pension. He retired at 60 years old and my mother still lives on the survivor's benefit of that pension.

JOE NOCERA: And that's never been a possibility for you?

MARY JANE RANGE: It was not the road I chose. I'm counting on the market for my retirement.

Micron Technology up a quarter... 1-and-a-quarter. Excellent.

JOE NOCERA: With so much riding on the market, we seem to have forgotten what a fragile and human instrument it actually is, how much its movements depend on how we feel about it. Right now, at a moment when we're counting on the market as never before, we feel it will always take care of us, but will it?

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN: In nature, in life, in everything, there are cycles. There's no such thing as the elevator that only goes up, which is what the stock market is in people's minds now. The risk is that if that process gets started again, and we only traverse back to what the average level of expensiveness, never mind cheap, like we were in 1982 when this process, this bull market, started, but if we only get to average, that would mean a decline in the stock market of 50 percent.

JOE NOCERA: In other words, just to revert to its historic norm, the market would have to lose some 3,000 points.

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN: What'll happen is we will simply get too high. There won't be enough new money coming in to keep the market going up. Losses will start and losses will beget losses and then people will be people and they'll sell.

JIM CRAMER: Five hundred in 295s, five hundred [unintelligible] [unintelligible] Buy me five ANET! Buy me five ANET! I want to bring in these shorts! I want to bring in the [unintelligible] okay, the impossible stuff to buy and HMTT!

JIM JUBAK: The real trap for any investor in a market that's been as volatile as this one, where rumors sweep through the Internet, is believing that you can get in early and you can get out early and you can beat the consequences. And of course, if everyone believes that, it means no one gets out early.

JIM CRAMER: I want another 10 Boeing. It's absolutely right, okay?

DIANA HENRIQUES: It may be true that, over time, the stock market will out-perform other forms of investment. But it is also true that you can take 10, 15, 20-year slices out of that long track record and find very disappointing returns. For example, if you'd invested at the height of the 1960s go-go market, in 1968, you didn't recoup your investment until 1982. If those happened to be your retirement years, you were in real trouble.

There is no immunization of the American stock market that keeps us from ever having a long, dull, grinding bear market. It could happen again.

RON CHERNOW: One of the things that I find myself worrying about is what would happen if we had a sustained bear market after a lot of the baby boomers had retired? They were all past 59. They were beginning to draw from these different retirement plans that were invested in the stock market and yet, suddenly, their stocks were under water. On paper, their investments were down 30, 40, 50 percent. What would they do?

PETER LYNCH: Still interested? FRONTLINE online at goes beyond the broadcast. Ask top professionals your own investment questions.


PETER LYNCH: Get their wisdom on whether or when a bear market is coming.

WILLIAM FLECKENSTEIN: ...there are cycles.

ANNOUNCER: And check out strategies for young investors and lots more at FRONTLINE online at

And next time on frontline: If it bleeds, it leads. But what happens when the news cameras go away?

ROSS McELWEE: It's supposed to be real life, what we see on the news, but it seems increasingly unreal to me.

ANNOUNCER: From Ross McElwee, the creator of Sherman's March, comes an intimate encounter with God, fate and the "Six O'clock News". Watch FRONTLINE.

Now your letters. "Secret Daughter," producer June Cross's personal story of her mixed-race upbringing, prompted hundreds of you to respond.

RICK EIDEN: [Colorado Springs] Dear frontline: For my wife and I, the racial gap in this country was narrowed for those two hours.

MICHAEL LEDOUX: [Boston] I believe this program transcended race. It was about family.

ANN CALDWELL: [New York City] June was able to show each person's humanity, frailties and strength of character.

ANGELA BURT-MURRAY: [Brooklyn] While watching "Secret Daughter," I found myself getting angry for June Cross.

LIDIA LoPINTO: [Yonkers] June Cross could never have been successful if her mother did not do what she did.

C.J. HICKMAN, Jr.: [Phoenix] This could have been one of the media's finest hours, responsibly exposing the pain of racism from both sides.

ANNOUNCER: But many of you had an opinion about June's mother, Norma's, decision to give her to a black family to be raised.

LOUIS J. BEASLEY, Jr.: [Reston, VA] Dear frontline: I wonder if June Cross's saga is more about the failure of a mother to meet her responsibilities than race. My wife and I have been married 27 years, bore and raised a 26-year-old bi-racial son ... Our view as that choice of mates was our personal business and society could take it or leave it. Can't understand the importance which June's mother placed on the acceptance of "friends."

ANN CALDWELL: [New York, NY] Dear frontline: I wanted very much not to like Norma. It would be very clear-cut to say that she abandoned June for her self-interests. However, she obviously was determined to remain in her daughter's life and not to abandon her ... This is a celebration of the fact that we are human. We make mistakes and don't always understand why things happen. Bravo, June ... Thanks for sharing your story.

ANNOUNCER: There are dozens more fascinating responses at FRONTLINE's Web site. And don't forget to write. [DEAR FRONTLINE, 125 Western Ave., Boston, MA 02134; Fax: (617) 254-0243;; e-mail:].

Rachel Dretzin and Joseph Nocera

Rachel Dretzin

Ned Bastille

Joseph Nocera

Ned Bastille

Lauren Cooper

Gregory Andracke Bob Elfstrom

James Helling
Robert Hanna
Mark Molesworth
Foster Wiley

Ray Day
Jeff Edrich
Duncan Forbes
Michael Scott Goldbaum
Kirk Nehring
Rick Patterson
Dean Sarjeant
Nelson Stoll
Paul Vanderveen

Shady Hartshorne
Steve Audette

Grant Maxwell

Jon Ehrlich

Clive Helfet

Jonathan Daitch

Amy Armstrong
Shari Soloman

Alexis Robie
Jodie Rosen



This program was based, in part, on the book "A Piece of The Action", by Joseph Nocera


Tim Mangini

M.G. Rabinow

Steve Audette
Shady Hartshorne

Andrea Davis

Mark Steele
Mary E. Fenton
Jim Deering

Dennis O'Reilly

The Caption Center

Jim Bracciale

Richard Byrne

Diane Hebert
Tess Oliver

Eileen Walsh

Tracy Loskoski

Lee Ann Donner

Min Lee

Anne del Castillo

Karen O'Connor


Robert O'Connell
Valerie E. Opara

Janel G. Ranney

Robin Parmelee

Kai Fujita

Marrie Campbell

Michael Sullivan

David Fanning

A FRONTLINE coproduction with Ofra Bikel Productions, Corp. © 1997



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