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Madison later cleared up her confusion, saying that Haas did indeed work for the company and, yes, his credentials were misstated. But she wasn't too concerned; she asked how instructors' credentials were "relevant to the product."
"I think that it's a mistake and we're tracking it down. The thing is, we have a business to run," she said.
Since the Wizetrade infomercials and Thompson's book proudly claim Thompson built and managed a Dallas trading firm before founding GlobalTec, the Press asked for the name of the enigmatic firm. We may as well have been asking the location of the Ark of the Covenant.
"Let me see if I can hunt down George's big bio, because I don't have one that that's deep," she said. She got back to the Press about week later and said that his firm was called Wave on Wall Street, although she was unsure whether it was an actual firm or a piece of software. (A few weeks later, Madison told us that it was a piece of software.)
In GlobalTec's application with the Dallas Better Business Bureau, Thompson identified himself as the president of All Tech Investment Group. A month after the Press asked for the name of Thompson's previous firm, Madison confirmed that it was indeed All Tech, the Houston branch of a nationwide day-trading firm (see "Gaps in Coverage").
In an e-mail, Madison stated that Thompson "was a founding investor in the firm and was never engaged in the brokerage side of the business." She did not clarify in which "side of the business" he engaged.
She also could not tell us how much money Thompson -- or Blake Morrow -- made using GlobalTec software.
"You cannot possibly expect us to answer this personal question," she wrote. "We respect Mr. Thompson's right to privacy." Apparently, that right to privacy does not preclude infomercials showing Thompson flaunting his Ferrari and speedboat.
Madison quickly tired of questions about GlobalTec's own claims and at one point told us, "I'll answer questions that I can answer today and then you guys go run around and conjure up what you want."
Shortly after contacting Madison, the Press received a baffling warning from Dynetech's in-house counsel, Stephen Rosin, demanding, among other things, to read our story prior to publication.
Since Madison couldn't answer our questions -- or put us in touch with any happy and successful GlobalTec customers -- the Press tried reaching the instructors and happy customers directly. None of the instructors returned our calls, and the closest we got to the people featured in the testimonials was a woman in Carmel, California, named Amber Archangel. In her testimonial, Archangel says, "Without Wizetrade, I wouldn't have a clue how to make a profitable trade."
Archangel did not want to say how much money she made off Wizetrade. In fact, she didn't want to say anything at all, explaining that she wanted to check with GlobalTec before commenting. We never heard back.
These calls prompted another warning from Dynetech/GlobalTec, this time from an outside firm.
The final warning, from Rosin, came in early January. Rosin accused the Press of "spreading information about a nonexistent lawsuit involving Mr. George Thompson." However, both Dynetech and GlobalTec (the company Thompson created) are defendants in a Colorado suit.
"It has become clear to our client that you are intent, not on researching and writing an unbiased and objective story based on the facts, but rather on mischaracterizing, misrepresenting and misattributing the facts for the purpose of writing a biased and unrepresentative story," Rosin wrote.
"These guys remind me of carnival barkers in the midway," financial columnist Malcolm Berko says from his Boca Raton home.
"It's just as easy to sucker someone in a seminar. These guys have no more conscience than a fox in a poultry farm."
Berko has been in the securities business since 1957. Through his syndicated column, "Taking Stock," Berko has fielded questions about GlobalTec products. He says that Wizetrade "has stuff in it that makes sense" but adds this:
"However, in order to profit from it, the person that has the program must be extraordinarily perceptive, must have a laserlike focus, and must have a great understanding of what he or she is doing. Because none of these programs are going to make you money unless you are exceptional at what you do."
He describes GlobalTec's pitchmen as robber-barons preying on people's naïveté.
"There's only one way to make money in the stock market," he says. "[Y]ou just buy good stocks, you hold on to them for a long time, and when they go up, you sell them. It's as simple as that. I know that's an oversimplification, but there are so many good stocks around."
So what's a good stock?
We asked Paul Larson of Morningstar, an investment research and analysis firm. Larson edits the company's StockInvestor site and is the author of a series of stock investment books.
"We look for companies that have sustainable competitive advantages and then we try to buy those when they get cheap or when they trade at discount to their fair value," he says from his office in Chicago. "And there's a lot of work that goes into that. I'm not sure if I have a whole lot of confidence in black-box investing."