Reader feedback on portfolio management; Sacklers Threaten to Pull Out of Opioid Settlement Without Broad Legal Immunity; I sent two coronavirus e-mails yesterday

By Whitney Tilson

Thursday, August 19, 2021
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1) I received more reader feedback about Tuesday's e-mail – in which I shared an excerpt about portfolio management from my forthcoming book, The Rise and Fall of Kase Capital – than about anything else I've ever written. Here are some of the responses...

  • "Wow! Thanks for being brutally honest. In reality we can all be 'too smart' about managing money." – Rodney C.
  • "Fantastic advice. Also admired your propensity to admit mistakes and willingness to share for the benefit of others." – James N.
  • "I have been doing all the wrong things you said. I have 200 stocks in my account, and have been trading on margin and options. I will take the lessons you taught and reduce my exposure to margin immediately." – Rana L.
  • "Thanks, for your sharing your highs and lows... obviously you are able to step over your ego to share trading experience that is worth Gold, God Bless. You are actually the only newsletter I look forward to and it's the human touch that gives it life... The dance of Life! Keep the Music playing!" – Frank L.
  • "Dear Whitney, I've been reading you for almost a couple years now and have meant to reach out and say thank you countless times, but this is the first time I will have actually done it.

"First, thank you for the 12 Questions To Ask Before You Marry Someone. I wish it had been around when I was in my 20s, but I have passed it on to my 20- and 30-something year old kidults (my term for grown kids) and I know it will benefit them greatly.

"Second, thank you for the humility and honesty you display for generously sharing your failures. Everyone knows about your successes. But it takes an honest desire to do good and truly help people to share your failures.

"I am in the midst of trying to extricate myself from almost every one that you mentioned in today's article. I can't tell you how valuable it is to have read the essay and clearly see myself making the same mistakes. It gives me the courage to take action, correct them and not repeat the mistakes in the future.

"Finally, thank you for, well, just being who you are. You inspire me to be a better person. To actually do the things I think about doing. To try to treat people even better than I already do. To stop grousing and start being a more consistently positive person.

"I thank you for everything you've shared so far and look forward to what you share in the future." – Dan F.

  • "Hey Whitney, When is your book coming out? Please do not wait to share the rest of the chapter on 'When to add to, hold, trim, or exit your positions.' This is very important at these high stock valuations." – Robert M.

First of all, thanks to everyone for the kind words. Most of the e-mails I get are from people who are angry about something, so it's nice to hear appreciation.

To Robert M.'s question, I'll probably release The Rise and Fall of Kase Capital by the end of the year. It's pretty much finished, but I've been told I shouldn't release two books within six months of each other...

And to his request, I promise that I will soon publish the rest of the chapter on portfolio management, so stay tuned!

2) What a sick joke this is: Sacklers Threaten to Pull Out of Opioid Settlement Without Broad Legal Immunity.

The Sacklers chose to have their company file for bankruptcy in White Plains, New York, because the only bankruptcy judge there is known to be very corporate-friendly – a bet that has paid off in spades with a disgraceful settlement that allows the most evil family in America to walk away scot-free, keeping the billions they've hidden in offshore accounts.

To understand this total disgrace, I recommend watching this segment (and the prior two) on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Opioids III: The Sacklers.

David Sackler's threat to walk away from the settlement is like someone saying, "Stop right there... or I'll shoot myself!"

The settlement should be discarded, every senior executive at Purdue Pharma when it was creating the opioid crisis should be prosecuted, and the Sackler family should be forced to disgorge every last penny of blood money it took out of the company.

3) I usually only send one e-mail per week to my coronavirus e-mail list (which you can sign up for by sending a blank e-mail to: [email protected]), but there has been so much news that I sent two yesterday, which you can read here and here. Excerpts:

In my last e-mail, I wrote:

As we struggle to overcome the misinformation that has led a third of our population down the anti-vax rabbit hole so they'll get their first shot, the rest of us will soon be getting our third shots, I confidently predict.

Thus, I wasn't surprised to see this news (though I was pleasantly surprised at the speed with which the Biden administration acted): Biden says some Americans will be eligible for booster shots in September.

This new recommendation is the result of new data from both the U.S. and Israel, which shows that:

a) The Delta variant is more dangerous than previously thought; and

b) The incredible protection that the vaccines provide fades somewhat over time.

... So what are the implications of this?

Most obviously, if you're not vaccinated, it's even more important that you get the jab because you're playing with fire. I think it's likely that the vast majority of the unvaccinated will eventually get COVID. Most will be okay, fortunately, but 10% to 30% will suffer "long COVID" symptoms like extreme fatigue and memory loss, a few percent will become so sick that they'll need to be hospitalized, and roughly half of one percent will DIE (not to mention nearly all people with COVID will likely infect at least some of their loved ones, friends, and others they come into contact with, thereby spreading illness and death and prolonging the pandemic for all of us).

In contrast, the vast majority of vaccinated folks don't need to worry. While the odds of a breakthrough infection have risen, they're still very low – and, even if infected, the chances of serious consequences are even lower.

That said, until they get a booster shot, those who are at the higher end of the risk spectrum (the elderly and those with other risk factors), as well as those who got vaccinated early (January and February) should begin taking greater precautions (e.g., avoiding crowded indoor spaces, staying away from anyone who's not vaxxed, more masking), especially if they're in a COVID hotspot like the southern states.

And:

Every time I send out one of these e-mails, I get flamed by a handful of misguided folks who've made the very foolish – possibly even deadly – miscalculation not to get vaccinated.

So why do I persist? Because I also hear from readers whom I helped persuade to get vaccinated – as well as those who use the data and arguments in my e-mails to persuade their friends and family.

If I can help avert even a few awful stories like this (which a close friend sent me this afternoon), then it's worth it:

Another COVID case for you...

My Dad, unfortunately. We just found out yesterday.

He is a Trumper, anti-vaxxer who lives in Florida and shuns mask wearing.

Guess what?

He's now in the hospital with bilateral, ground glass pneumonia and is fighting for his life. He started Remdesivir today. Fingers crossed.

Why are people so stupid? I told him this was going to happen.

If you aren't vaccinated and dismiss this story by telling yourself, "Oh, that's a rare outlier. It won't happen to me," then you're making a huge – possibly fatal – mistake. Since you made your original decision not to get vaxxed, the odds have shifted against you in a big way, putting your short- and long-term health – and life – in serious jeopardy.

I'm reminded of this quote that's been attributed to John Maynard Keynes, but actually appears to have first been uttered by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Samuelson:

Well, when events change, I change my mind. What do you do?

Best regards,

Whitney

P.S. I welcome your feedback at [email protected].

Whitney Tilson
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About Whitney Tilson

Prior to creating Empire Financial Research, Whitney Tilson founded and ran Kase Capital Management, which managed three value-oriented hedge funds and two mutual funds. Starting out of his bedroom with only $1 million, Tilson grew assets under management to more than $200 million.

Tilson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in government in 1989. After college, he helped Wendy Kopp launch Teach for America and then spent two years as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1994, where he graduated in the top 5% of his class and was named a Baker Scholar.

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