I had to do a double-take when I saw CNBC’s Rick Santelli on a Web site hawking a $1,300 “how to get rich trading” seminar.

Here’s the lede of the marketing copy for “LIVN Live Trading Seminar”:

Dear Trader: I have achieved total financial independence. In fact, I have generated $1,900,336.82 in just the past 4 years trading S&P futures, relying on (what I believe to be) simple methods that you can use for your own electronic trading (almost immediately).

And best of all…mastering the game of trading has given me the ability to generate money almost at will…

And if you asked me what’s the ONE THING that has made this possible I’d say it’s my discovering the unique mindset and methods of true trading millionaires…

I believe this mindset is so easy to “get” it will shock and delight you.



I mean, pardon me if I’m reminded of nothing so much as those late-night infomercials for get-rich-in-real-estate seminars. A video on the site, which looks like it was designed by someone who’s never touched an HTML editor, shows a brief clip of Santelli talking about how news affects trading.

The seminar is given by Larry Levin, a trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which is where Santelli broadcasts from the trading floor. Levin has occasionally appeared on CNBC. Not only does the site wave the Santelli flag in a bid to increase its own credibility, it also makes numerous mentions of CNBC.

Now this is hardly the biggest deal, but Santelli’s appearance at the seminar and in its marketing raises some obvious questions, which I put to CNBC spokesman Brian Steel. If Santelli got paid for his appearance, for instance, that would be problematic, to say the least, since journalists shouldn’t take money from organizations involved in their areas of coverage.

Steel told me CNBC policy prohibits its journalists from “accept(ing) appearance or speaking fees to participate in for profit seminars or conferences nor are they allowed to accept speaking or appearance fees to attend events sponsored by for profit companies or companies that engage in lobbying activities.” He says Santelli wasn’t paid for his appearance.

When asked if Santelli’s appearance was vetted by CNBC and if it approves of its reporters appearing at events like this, Steel said he doesn’t comment on internal discussions.

I also pointed out that CNBC’s brand name was being used to hawk Levin’s product and asked if that was okay with CNBC and was the product something it wanted to be associated with. Steel said “Larry Levin is in the process of removing any mention of Rick’s appearance or his likeness from his website nor will he be selling DVD’s that contains footage of Rick.”

As of right now, Levin’s entire website, sotseminar.com, has been taken down. I had already taken a couple of screen shots, so you can get a feel for the site:



And, for now anyway, you can see Google’s cached version of the site here.

Again, I’ve had my beefs with Santelli before, but this one isn’t a federal case. It’s just a reminder that journalists need to be careful about their speaking appearances. Speaking to a charity or school is one thing. Talking to a seminar that’ll be hawked for $1,300 is another.

Santelli is supposed to cover these guys, not help them make money.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.