In September, one Benjamin Wey, calling himself “Chinese American Financial Expert Foremost Expert On Chinese Business in U.S.,” put out a press release announcing that he’d engaged a PR company. And it wasn’t just any old PR company: it was 5WPR. Go on, look them up.
Amazingly, the gambit worked. Before you knew it, Wey was on Fox Business! He was on TheStreetTV! He was a speaker at the Bloomberg Hedge Funds Asia conference! His In the Media page, with absolutely nothing in the three-year gap between August 2007 and August 2010, suddenly came to life, with 13 different media appearances between September 8 and November 15 of this year. I daresay more are on the way.
The point here is, basically, that you really shouldn’t listen to people quoted in the media just because they’re quoted in the media. After all, Benjamin Wey got all this attention just by hiring an incompetent superflack—and despite having been comprehensively exposed back in 2006 by Herb Greenberg:
Before getting his MBA in 1999 from the University of Central Oklahoma, Benjamin Tianbing Wei became an investment advisor and started an investment advisory firm in Oklahoma…
In 2002, he ran into trouble with securities regulators, including a brief suspension and fine by the NASD…
Last year, after several years of legal wrangling, he was censured by the Oklahoma Department of Securities. While not admitting or denying the charges, he agreed he wouldn’t ever again seek to do any brokerage or investment advisory business in the state…
Wey had been founder, majority shareholder and CEO of Benchmark Global Capital in Oklahoma, which like New York Global, specialized in Chinese stocks. When I first asked, through his spokesman, whether he had ever been associated with “Benchmark Capital” — not Benchmark Global Capital — and whether he changed his name from Wei to Wey, his email response was, “No.”
He moved the company to New York in June 2002 through the purchase of his Oklahoma operations by a New York-based entity of the same name. Within six months he was fired as CEO and as a director by his board.
In an era when television stations and other media outlets are desperate for “experts” they can wheel out on any subject at all, but especially stocks, and especially China, and extra especially Chinese stocks, it seems that anybody with any kind of PR firm can get themselves booked and quoted all over the place, by people who probably never even bothered Googling the guy, and who almost certainly never got around to reading his bonkers rant against Greenberg over at 10Q Detective. The media, it seems, can be much more gullible than, say, the public at large: Wey’s Twitter profile has exactly zero followers. (Not even 5WPR, which links to it.)
So the next time you see someone quoted from a firm you’ve never heard of and you have no idea who they are, feel free to ignore everything they’re saying. There’s a good chance they’ve simply been planted by a PR firm rather than chosen for their expertise by a conscientious journalist.
(Full disclosure: the last place that Wey was quoted, before he went dark for three years but after the Greenberg exposé, was Reuters. And it was Greenberg who tipped me to Wey’s reappearance on the media circuit.)Felix Salmon is an Audit contributor. He's also the finance blogger for Reuters; this post can also be found at Reuters.com. Tags: Public relations