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The Martha Stewart Scandal: A Tempest in a Cuisinart...
Martha Stewart on trialWHY:The purpose of Save Martha

If you are serious about saving Martha from the very real possibility of going to prison, please read this, because now is the time to take action. I was reading Newsweek recently and came across an article called "Prison Life: Advice for Martha." An aerial photo of the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut shows the place where Martha would likely be sent if she does not prevail in court. The article tells of what prison life is like there, with 80 people in a room, no privacy, a facility that looks like a military barracks, where prisoners only get to make 15 minute phone calls which are recorded. Long days are filled with boring physical labor. It is not very pleasant. After all, it is a prison.

But that is not where Martha Stewart belongs. And yet that's where prosecutors want to send her. Why? In a true democracy, justice must be evenhanded. We should not prosecute people just because they are rich, famous, or because we happen to not like them. That is exactly what is happening to Martha Stewart.

In spite of the fact that many similar cases have been settled civilly, with fines and sanctions, this case is being handled as a criminal matter. And Martha has been tried and convicted by the media. We have all seen the cruel Martha parodies of decorated jail cells , and even the depiction of Martha dreaming she was behind bars in the NBC TV movie. But the picture and description of the prison in Danbury really hit me. If prosecutors get their way, Martha Stewart could be living there for years, her company ruined, and thousands of jobs will be lost.

The Issue

If the latest news headlines prove anything, they reveal that the idea of the female executive in America is under attack. From Martha Stewart to Jill Barad at Mattel and Carly Fiorina at HP, there is a growing hostility among some towards powerful women in business.

The current media assault on Martha Stewart is potentially harmful to all women in the business world. Martha Stewart is a successful female entrepreneur, who has turned the things that most women are ashamed to say they do into a billion dollar empire. She literally built her empire from scratch.

Now she is being attacked by some in the media with a level of attention and viciousness that is better reserved for the truly venal, the pedophiles, the Enron execs, the corporate titans who scam their companies for millions, leaving investors and employees in the dust.

The same commentators that lectured the Taliban for not making women an equal partner in Afghan society have not even hesitated to get out the pointy-toed boots when one of their own is down...


Lets assume for a moment that Martha somehow knew the information was privileged and this was an insider trade. She sells. The next day, the FDA announcement is made and the stock falls $5.

Martha has now saved $60,000 on an investment of less than $300,000. $60,000. That's it. For a woman who was only one of three female self-made billionaires in our nation's history. This momentus event happened in a market where executives at Enron, Global Crossing, Tyco, Adelphia, Andersen have pocketed millions for themselves and lost billions of shareholder dollars. Had Martha Stewart really wanted to be an inside trader, don't you think she would have had a better plan? Don't you think she would have made a lot more money?

So why is this front page news day after day? The obvious reason is because nobody knows or cares about Ken Lay, Dennis Koslowski, Gary Winnick, David Duncan, or any of the other execs in the other scandals. After all, they don't have sheets and croc pots with their names on them at K-Mart. Their names don't sell newspapers.

So Martha's fame is a great source of the attention.

But so is the fact that she's a woman. Most men don't like it when women make more money than they do. This is their chance to get a bit of vicarious revenge.

The Facts:

We don't yet know all of the details of what happened, and yet several journalists have already tried and convicted Martha in the press.

Martha basher #1 Christopher Byron has made a career out of attacking Stewart, then going on talk shows and soft pedaling his book Martha Inc. as an "honest" and objective look at Martha, despite pages of rumors and some very nasty stories used as a PR tool to boost his book sales.

The NY POST has also taken the lead in this attack, with front page headlines, unflattering pictures, photographers hounding Martha and staking out her home...haven't they learned anything from the tragedy of Princess Diana? Martha was on the front page of the NY Post and NY Daily News 14 times last August. The real corporate crooks barely made it into the business section. The front page was reserved not for bin Laden or Ken Lay, not for the economy or education, but for Martha.

Here's what we do know

Based on what we know today, nobody lost any money, their job, their life savings, or their home as a result of this single sale of stock. Contrast that with Worldcom, Enron, Xerox or Global Crossing. Billions lost, tens of thousands of jobs gone.

If Martha had sold her stock the day after the announcement, she would have made just $60,000 less than she made by selling the day before. Enron cost investors a total of $65 billion dollars --that's over 6 million times more than Martha's transaction, not to mention the tens of thousands of jobs lost in that scandal. A year later, nobody from Enron is in jail, and Ken Lay doesn't receive a tenth the coverage or scutiny that Martha Stewart does.

Insider Tip of the day: When you're stuck in a hole, stop digging!

Prosecutors are reportedly "stung" by Martha Stewart's recent court victory, allowing her legal team to question witnesses before the January trial. They may even try to fight Judge Sprizzo's ruling against them. We hope that they do, they will only help us to illustrate the whole point that Save Martha has been making all along. They will expose the legal excesses which have been heaped upon Martha Stewart from Day One, and the lack of any real effort to get to the root causes of chronic corporate crime. Many of you have asked, why Save Martha and not Save the Whales, or Save the Children? I'll tell you why: Because I'm mad.

    Because I'm mad at all the men who are just jealous of any woman who makes a billion dollars more than they do.

    Because I'm sick of watching John Ashcroft chasing Martha Stewart while Ken Lay plays golf.

    Because I don't want to see another thousand people lose their jobs just so some prosecutor can say he "Nailed Martha," and then turn around and defend corporate crooks for $500 an hour.

    Because I am convinced this investigation is not helping investors; in fact, it has cost MSO investors hundreds of millions of dollars, and it has not scared off a single Wall Street scammer. Just keep watching the tag-team mutual fund and hedge fund scandals if you don't believe this.

The Real Issue

The real issue that they want you to ignore has nothing to do with Martha Stewart--and if you're really trying to make an example out of someone for insider trading, you should at least charge them with insider trading!

The real issue is a broken system of self regulating organizations that are still not being fixed, from the accounting industry (remember Harvey Pitt?) to the NYSE (Dick Grasso's $190 million lunch) to Enron (aka Who Moved my 401k?). The proof?

1) The accounting scandals could not have happened if the accountants were not running the agencies and funding the politicians that make the same rules that govern them.

2) Enron could not have happened if the electricity markets had not been deregulated.

3) The Dick Grasso NYSE scandal could not have happened if the regulators and the regulated had not all sat on each others corporate boards and compensation committees

Sources are Anonymous For A Reason

A related issue is the justice system and the media are becoming a little too co-dependent. This case has leaked more than a puppy full of warm water. Too many "anonymous sources" have spread plenty of bad information about Martha Stewart. Why? To win a conviction and sell newspapers, at any cost. The latest leak involves W gossip columnist Robert Haskell, who will allegedly "back up" the testimony of the government's star witness, stockbroker assistant Douglas Faneuil. But isn't it ironic that the star witness in the case evidently regularly shared the same kind of insider information that this case is supposedly all about?

Judge Sprizzo agrees with us--this case has already been tried in the media, and most people are still very misinformed. A survey shows that 90% of Rice University students think Martha Stewart is guilty of insider trading--they don't even realize that she wasn't charged with insider trading!

So SaveMartha is about fairness, proportionality, justice, three things that have so far been missing in this case. These are three things that as Americans we should all care about.

John Small