“Bear Stearns is fine,”—Jim Cramer, on CNBC’s Mad Money, March 11.


The Mad Money swamp beckons. The Audit cannot resist its murky waters.

It is warm and familiar, this swamp. I have been here before. I have spent time here, hours and hours of my life. So many hours.

I find it, if not entirely relaxing, very time-consuming, wading through Cramer’s calls—what is a “call,” anyway?— the cow moos, the bear roars, the gags. Ha ha. Bald man funny. But not! Bald man serious. Listen up, Kokomo! But don’t! Wait! No! Ha ha ha. HAHhahahahaha. (Sob. What is happening to me? ) In the Mad Money swamp, the footing is treacherous; its muddy bottom is pocked with slippery holes that will suck down any seeker of enlightenment. What did the man say? What did he mean? Who gives a *%$&? What is the meaning of the word “fine,” after all?

I mean, you’re fine. I’m fine. We’re all flipping “fine,” but are we really fine, in the Bear Stearns sense? What about our relationships? Are they really what they should be? We could be hit by a train or bought by the Fed, then how “fine” are we?

Whatever happened to that guy from Barron’s, by the way? He went deeper in the swamp than anyone should ever go. I hope he’s fine.

In the Mad Money swamp, icky things bob up and break the slimy surface. Eeek! I’m on the same side as Fox Business News! That’s disgusting!

Last week, stupid commentators from Portfolio to Jon Stewart mocked Cramer for the above remark, the “fine” one, which came as part of an answer that some people stupidly understood to be a recommendation to hold Bear Stearns common shares, a few days before they crashed from $35 to $2:

Peter writes: Should I be worried about Bear Stearns in terms of liquidity and get my money out of there? No, no, no. Bear Stearns is fine. Do not take your money…if there’s one take away other than (unintelligible) … Bear Stearns is not in trouble. It’s more likely to be taken over. Don’t move your money from Bear. That’s just being silly. Don’t be silly.”

Cramer rejoined, to the effect: You are wrong, Mr. Sophisticated Media Writer Man, Mr. Big Star Funny Comedy man. He said he was talking about brokerage accounts, or deposits, or some damn thing, just not the stock. Nyah, nyah.

Obviously, he meant “fine” in the sense of “insured by some fine federal brokerage insurance” or “will be saved by some fine miraculous Fed intervention that has never happened before.”

As a CNBC spokesman said: “He was 100 percent right.”

So, understandably, Cramer was in a position to, not gloat, but point out his critics’ errors on Mad Money on March 18, a week after the “no, no, no” call:

I have made many wrong calls in my life, but this is not one of them. The questioner was an e-mail, directly asked whether his money was safe at bear Stearns. He did not ask me about Bear Stearns stock. Given that everyone in the world was worried about their deposits at Bear, it was a gutsy call to say he could keep his money there. Turns out, the Federal Reserve made good, and you didn’t get hurt or frozen if you kept your money there, which by the way has always been the case in these deals.

Ha ha, you ignorant non-Cramers. He was totally right.

What’s more, he was right not once but twice. The Jon Smart-Alecs of the world hadn’t noticed that on Friday the14th, on another CNBC show, while Bear was still in the $30s, he had said Bear was “worthless.” Or that’s what he said he had said.

Meanwhile, on Friday, on our network, I said the common stock of Bear Stearns, then trading at $35, was worthless. Even as it would be safe to keep your money there. Jon Stewart didn’t get the memo [Audit translates: Ha ha, funny man. You suck]. Give him the worthless tape. People in the know in our business, this one’s flabbergasting me.

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.