In defense of Martha Stewart

Gawd, this is distasteful - fairness requires it, though. Trust me, this is the first time I’ve had anything noncontemptuous to say about Ms. “It’s a good thing”, and it’s only gonna be marginal.

We’ve all heard a great deal about the US Justice Department investigation into insider trading at ImClone (obligatory link) - how the CEO, Sam Waksal, tipped off friends and family members just before the stock did an impersonation of David Caruso’s career. But the only one of those persons prominently in the news for that is Martha Stewart. As annoying as I and many others find her, I think we have to admit she’s being treated unfairly by the press. But she’s a public figure, used to it, and can handle that part. However, news reports such as the CNN one I just linked seem (perhaps incorrectly) to imply that only Stewart is being targeted from among all the recipients of inside ImClone information.

What concerns me is the possibility that some young, ambitious, career-oriented legal beagles at Justice are going trophy-hunting here. It’s all well and good to bring senior-level miscreants to justice when they deserve it, but it doesn’t get one the respect that it might if their names had heretofore been reported only in the business pages. Bagging a celebrity, though, especially one not with a lot of public sympathy, would get the victorious investigator in the news, and readily laid for months as well as promoted quickly.

There was an interview with some securities lawyer, not connected to the case, on NPR this morning (hey, I have a long commute and I’d finished all the books on tape I had) that adds to this concern. He talked repeatedly about how Stewart was “the prize” in this investigation, and was almost gleeful about his expectation that she’d get the “perp walk” in a few weeks at most. Sure, he’s just a nobody talking big, but aren’t the people on the inside of the investigation at equal risk of losing perspective? The deterrent value of the “perp walk” probably deserves its own thread, but go ahead if you like.

Oh, yeah, there has to be a debate topic here, doesn’t there? Try this: Is the possible greater deterrent value to others, due to greater publicity, of targeting celebrities worth it, or does it just mean that famous people need to be more careful or they’ll get targeted just for being famous?

I can’t visualize someone being tempted to do some insider trading being dissuaded by the sight of Martha Stewart in shackles (well, okay, not exactly shackles, but still…) If they’re gonna do it, they’re gonna do it.

Other people think Martha’s being made a scapegoat, too.

Well, having read one of her biographies, I’ll have to say I don’t care about the debate question, and I guess I’m just a bad person, because I too am gleeful at the prospect of Martha Stewart getting the “perp walk”.

My understanding of her is that she is a deeply nasty, mean, selfish, rude, grasping, conniving, dishonest, cruel, and otherwise generally horrible human being. I am all for her getting some serious and harsh comeuppance.

I tend to agree with the OP. And I would go even further. It would seem to me that there is an automatic assumption in these types of scandals to get the guy highest up on the totem pole. So that you get the bottom guys in Enron to plea bargain in exchange for testifying against Fastow, than get Fastow to plea bargain in exchange for implicating Skilling and Lay. But this can be wrong. The real or primary villian might turn out to be someone lower on the pole, and I think the desire to get the guy highest up is motivated primarily by the desire to “take down”: the biggest possible target that you can.

Of this could be justified in any given case. But it does seem to me that the desire for a “trophy” is too much of a factor in many cases.

I agree and disagree.

As an individual conducting personal business, she should not be especially prone to indictment simply because she a celebrity.

On the other hand, she is a former series seven licensed representative, and was on the Board of Directors of the NYSE.

As such, I think there’s a higher standard of scrutiny that needs to apply to her business dealings, and when that standard is broken she should be fully prosecuted.

I’ll agree with Scylla, I guess. She should be held to high standards based on her prominence in the business world, but her celebrity should have nothing to do with it. I think over-prosecution of famous faces is just as much, if not more, of a problem than under-prosecution. Witness Wynona Ryder, who would be wandering about free from worry today had she not had the misfortune of being famous.


Stoid’s post tells us all we need know about this case: it’s driven by dislike for a celebrity who rubs many people the wrong way.

Mind you, I’m not saying she’s innocent of any crime. I’m quite content to let investigation continue, and if it turns out she’s done something that calls for jail time, so be it. But Martha Stewart’s main problem isn’t the evidence, it’s people like Stoid who just like the idea of seeing her behind bars.

Stoid (and many others who think the same way) is prepared to send someone to prison based on little more than tabloid innuendo and the superficial impressions we get of Martha from TV. In a saner age, we simply changed the channel when people we didn’t like were on TV. At worst, we hoped their shows would be cancelled. Today, apparently, that’s not enough- we want to see annoying celebrities in prison.

Is it possible that Martha Stewart is a b**ch? Sure, it’s possible, and gossip lovers won’t have any trouble finding cut-and-paste exposes “proving” she’s just that. But what I find interesting is NOT that Martha Stewart has ex-employees eager to bad-mouth her (what big executive doesn’t?), but that there are so many people eager to HEAR such stories.

To me, that proves that people don’t hate Martha Stewart because they’ve heard negative stories about her- rather, they seek out negative stories about her to justify the way they hated her (irrationally) in the first place. It’s not unlike the way many rabid right-wingers sought scandals in Bill Clinton’s life: on one, hand, the scandals were real, and that’s 100% Bill Clinton’s fault… but the far right didn’t hate Clinton because he was an adulterer, they sought out proof of adultery (or ANY other crime) because they already despised him (again, mostly irrationally).

And what has always baffled me is WHY so many people hated her, LONG before they had any good reason for it. I mean, what did she do that was so wrong? She wrote articles and did TV shows teaching people how to do home decor. If that doesn’t interest you, or if you don’t have the time or energy to do things like that, fine! Martha wasn’t FORCING you to read her articles. She wasn’t FORCING you to watch her show. She was VERY easy to avoid. If you chose to scream obscenities at Martha instead of just changing the channel, that says a LOT more about you than it does about her.

Whether Martha Stewart is a nice person is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether she broke the law. If she did, she should pay hefty fines, go to jail, whatever the law calls for. If she didn’t, who CARES if disgruntled ex-employees say she’s a witch?

Heck, in the ATT/Teleport case, the Commission went after 4th-level tipees, secretaries – everyone they could get their hands on. Everybody at least disgorged, and some were fined heftily (some forgiven for lack of assets) even though they didn’t know the original source of the rumor.

I don’t believe the Commission cares one whit whether she’s Martha – they do care whether she is an illegal tippee and whether she took actions to cover up her actions.

The press is another matter, of course.

I myself am pretty curious as to what’s going to happen to her broker. If Martha Stewart’s claim is true and she gave the guy a stop loss order to sell at 60, then he didn’t input it at that time as he is required to do by his compliance department.

There is no record of it in the firm’s system, or any concrete evidence that the order existed. If he did recieve it this would be very odd. Any broker with more than 1 client learns very quickly that he can’t keep all the limit and stop orders in his head. More importantly, they legally have to be inputed at the time they are received or else the broker is guilty of parking an order, and lose his license. He can also be held responsible if the stock goes through the limit, and he forgets to place the order or his away from his desk when it happens. Legally he would be responsible for any price difference.

Apparently this broker was a veteran, and such a disastrous blunder is unlikely.

Please cite others fitting the above description, who benefitted from insider trading and aren’t being prosecuted. If she is the only one then that is the reason she is not being singled out. She should cop a plea and be given community service. Something like decorating the floor of the NYSE.