the audit

Bill O’Reilly’s Stock Tips

Probably not a good idea
August 20, 2010

Kathy Kristof nails Bill O’Reilly for lending his mug and voice to a cockamamie investment newsletter touted by right-wing news outlet Newsmax.

Alas, in America a sucker is born every minute, apparently foolish enough to buy investment advice from a guy with a website that looks like this and reads like this:

In the past year I, Bill Spetrino, have consulted through multiple means to provide professional guidance on individual stocks and overall stock market strategies. My Dividend Machine Newsletter currently has 19 out of 19 winning positions which led to feature articles in the October Financial Intelligence Report by best selling journalist and Newsmax CEO, Christopher Ruddy, as well as the November issue of Newsmax Magazine with Sarah Palin on the cover.

My bio and blog posts on with Larry Kudlow and Chris Ruddy, among others, have expanded my worldwide base of contacts by an amount I would not have thought possible 6 months ago. Unfortunately, this has caused a huge demand on my time and I have found it nearly impossible to notify all my associates individually about various investment opportunities.

Sure, pal!

Not that Fox News is all concerned about its credibility or whatever, but if your awful news product won’t suffice to turn off your viewers, losing them their money just might. Future Bellevue patient Glenn Beck is also hawking dubious gold products to the old-timers he’s helping make even more paranoid.

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What’s next? Steve Doocy getting Fox & Friends to sign up for his great new multilevel marketing company?

Kristof finds that the Newsmax pitch snares customers:

What the show is really peddling is Spetrino’s $99 investment newsletter, which you will subscribe to automatically, if you’re gullible enough to ask for his “free” reports. How? You must pay $1 on a major credit card to get the free reports. (Spetrino justifies the $1 fee in the video by saying that people don’t pay attention to free advice, so he’s charging a token just to get you to listen.)

But if you stop to read the lengthy “terms and conditions” of the offer, you’ll find (and I quote):

“All subscription fees must be fully paid before you will granted access to the service…..If you cancel your subscription within the first 60 days of being granted access to the service, Newsmax will provide you a full refund….”

So they say it costs $1 but it really costs $99 and you have to ask for your money back if you don’t like it.

It’s reminiscent of the Ben Stein involvement with Vertrue, whose business model is to sign people up for free credit scores and hope they forget to cancel before the trial’s up. The New York Times (justly) canned Stein for that.


The faux news show (linked here) starts with an anchorman sitting at a desk in front of a glowing “Economic Crisis Summit” video screen. The anchor welcomes O’Reilly and gets him talking about Obama and taxes — O’Reilly’s normal bailiwick. Then he asks: “How can you invest in this treacherous environment?” O’Reilly suggests buying depressed stocks that pay dividends, which plays right into the anchor’s hand.

As soon as O’Reilly leaves, the next “guest” is a smarmy-looking “accountant” named Bill Spetrino, who purports to agree with O’Reilly and offers a newsletter called “The Dividend Machine.” But he adds that he has “something even better.” Spetrino maintains that he’s written a report about a “forgotten, seven-state Constitutional Clause” that guarantees generous tax-free “IRS payouts” of $1,196 or more.

O’Reilly says he didn’t know his appearance was going to be used to promote this product. But a newsman or even a news commentary man shouldn’t be going on an infomercial set up to look like a fake news show. And you ought to have a sneaking suspicion that something’s up when you get paid to come on some cheesy set and give Bill O’Reilly’s investment tips.

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 Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.