Sold Short

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Manuel P. Asensio, branded “the Devil’s own Trader,” specializes in selling stock he doesn’t own and using the Internet and other media to undermine confidence in companies in which he holds short positions. His book’s title encapsulates his thesis that he has been vilified because of honesty.

Sold Short: Uncovering Deception in the Markets is full of case histories predictably detailing success experiences. These chapters are crammed with names, facts, and figures which are hard to follow. Obviously, Asensio gave Jack Barth bushels of raw data and the ghost writer did a standard professional organizing job while making the book as colloquial and dramatic as possible.

Asensio claims his short sales and bearish recommendations are based on exhaustive research. It might be more accurate to call it detective work because he relies heavily on confidential phone conversations with a motley assortment of informants.

The value of Asensio’s blatantly self-promoting expose is in reminding investors of how many wolves are plotting to fleece them, how myopic and sluggish government regulation can be, how advisors are unreliable when motivated by self-interest, and how distinguished brokerage firms can be dead wrong, if not deliberately deceptive.

Asensio devotes one chapter to explaining short selling—i.e., betting against a stock with borrowed money. This is enlightening information from an expert, but few readers may care to play the dangerous game after reading about this intrepid Cuban immigrant’s brushes with bankruptcy. Unfortunately, Asensio succeeds in making the reader so suspicious of financial advisors that the reader ends up suspicious of Asensio himself.