by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 18th 2008 6:11pm
I don't follow the process behind earnings conference calls too closely, but apparently there's an element of trust involved. People dial in, tell a moderator who they are, and a bunch of analysts from the most well-known firms are allowed to ask questions. That system is ripe for gaming, and apparently, some unknown guy has been doing exactly that over the past few months, calling into earnings calls and getting to ask questions by pretending to be someone else. No one seems entirely sure what game the guy is playing -- but it doesn't appear to be an attempt to hoax the overall system or be a practical joker -- as his questions aren't amusing. He just brings up odd questions about operations: supply chain initiatives, lean manufacturing, six sigma, etc. That has some believing that he's really working for some consulting firm, either trying to dig up dirt on other company's operations, or even trying to kick up more interest in supply chain work. Either way, it's fairly amazing to find out how the conference call system works and how easy it is to game. It's surprising that this hasn't been done more frequently, honestly. In response, some firms are now handing out special codes to analysts to let them ask questions in future conference calls, rather than just relying on who people say they are -- though, of course, that brings up a different issue: what's wrong with letting people other than your preferred analysts ask questions?
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