American Consequences - August 2017

he wagered, he could sour Wall Street’s perception of the company, transforming it from a sure thing into a noisy, chaotic mess. That attention might in turn attract regulators, further driving down the share price. He called his web designer, Mike Leznik, and told him that he wanted to buy a domain name to host his research on Express Scripts. An hour later the road snaked above Studio City, and he arrived at Mulholland Estates, his gated community in Beverly Hills. BUT YOU CAN LOSE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, TOO. The next morning, Left stood in his home office and put CNBC on the television. The anchors were discussing the “Trump bump,” as the recent stock rally was being called. “They sit around all day long without ever knowing anything,” Left said. “It’s so annoying to watch them.” Seated beneath the TV was Leznik, a sweet-natured Angeleno in jeans and blue-suede sneakers. Leznik lacked the macho swagger that made Left, with his money and filthy mouth, the center of a room. Nowhere was this truer than in his office. A giant desk dominated the back half. On the credenza sat cigar boxes from Enron and Madoff Securities – a short-seller’s version of trophy antlers.

“What should I register the domain name as?” Leznik asked. “Your mother is a whore dot com?” Left said. “The real story of – “ Leznik suggested. “The real story of your mother being a whore?” Left said. Leznik settled on, then asked Left for his credit card to buy the URL. “What are you, my wife?” Left said. There were several obvious comebacks to this – “You wish” being the absolute minimum – but none occurred to Leznik, who after fumbling for a moment said, “I could be, if you had enough room.” A whiff. The room was silenced. At 10 a.m., having placed his bet against the stock the night before, Left put out his first tweet, which he misspelled and deleted four times. Such is his mystique in the world of finance, however, that one of his followers assumed that the misspellings and deletions were part of a premeditated scheme to exploit Twitter’s visibility algorithms. Finally the corrected version of the tweet came out from Left’s handle, @CitronResearch, followed moments later by another: “When @ RealDonaldTrump goes after $ESRX,” it read, using the ticker symbol for Express Scripts, “heads will roll.” We sat back and waited, eyes on CNBC. Twenty minutes passed. Suddenly a news flash interrupted the show. “Express Scripts shares are falling sharply on a spike in volume,” the anchor said. “Citron Research, run by Andrew Left, tweeted about the stock. They’re now down by 9% or 10%, about 9.2

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