Andrew Left made $280,000 in two hours by short-selling stock in a Chinese real estate company, then publishing claims the company was committing accounting fraud. Shortly after the 2016 election, Left issued a series of tweets about a company called Express Scripts, accusing it of inflating drug prices; the company's stock is still down 13%. He's also mused about short-selling stocks of companies before revealing them as a subprime lender or publishing proof their new MS drug doesn't work. Perhaps surprisingly, this is all completely legal (assuming the short-seller isn't committing fraud themselves). It's known as activist short-selling, and Left might be the best there is at it. The New York Times has his story.
Basically, Left bets against the price of a stock, then intentionally hurts the stock by publicly accusing the company of fraud or abuse. He gets his information from confidential sources and calls himself an investigative journalist with one difference: He "can make millions of dollars." An expert on activist short-selling says people look at Left and realize "it's not a lot of work" to do what he does. That's not exactly true. While activist short-selling campaigns increased 1,300% between 2006 and 2015, very few activist short-sellers have a record of success. Left does. If he writes about a company, its value—on average—drops 10% in a year. Sometimes it's as much as 95%. "Some guys know this stuff better than me. But I know how to put it in [expletive] tweets," he tells the Times. Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)