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What's Behind the Numbers?: A Guide to Exposing Financial Chicanery and Avoiding Huge Losses in Your Portfolio Hardcover – September 19, 2012


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Frequently Bought Together

What's Behind the Numbers?: A Guide to Exposing Financial Chicanery and Avoiding Huge Losses in Your Portfolio + Quality of Earnings + Financial Shenanigans: How to Detect Accounting Gimmicks & Fraud in Financial Reports, 3rd Edition
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Mcgraw-Hill; 1 edition (September 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071791973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071791977
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“[An] informative book . . . . Written in lively prose.”

(Barron’s)

About the Author

John Del Vecchio is the cofounder and co-manager of The Active Bear ETF, a fund dedicated to shorting individual stocks with fundamental red flags. Previously, he managed a hedge fund for Ranger Alternative Management, L.P. In addition, he worked for well-known short seller David Tice and famed forensic accountant Dr. Howard Schilit. Del Vecchio coadvises the Motley Fool Alpha long-short newsletter.

Tom Jacobs, Portfolio Manager of Motley Fool Special Ops, applies this book’s earnings quality tests to his value and special situations long side to form a long-short portfolio. He is managing partner of holding company Complete Growth Investor, LLC, principal of The Marfa Group, Inc., and a real estate investor.


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Customer Reviews

This book offers an excellent guide to understanding the nuances of investing.
Bruce C Wilfahrt
He uses an engaging style that holds the readers interest through the depths of the details where the accounting devils reside.
D. Mohn
The first thing I want to tell readers is that I really enjoyed the material in this book.
Richard M. Rockwood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA on February 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In the opening lines of What's Behind the Numbers?, co-authors John Del Vecchio and Tom Jacobs offer to "help you find where the investing bodies are buried so you don't join them." These are appropriate words to begin a book on the detective work of finding financial chicanery.

Numbers covers the art of short selling--a lonely endeavor that requires thick skin. By definition, you aim to win when others lose. This means that when you're right, you're hated; and when you're wrong, you are shown no sympathy. In Del Veccio and Jacobs' words, short selling is considered "un-American at best and criminally manipulative at worst."

Moreover, shorting stocks requires taking an unsentimental approach to investing and--perhaps most importantly--keeping the ego in check. Very few investors have the disposition to be successful short sellers; John Del Vecchio is one of them.

Del Vecchio is the co-manager of the Active Bear ETF and the creator of the Del Vecchio Earnings Quality Index that drives the Forensic Accounting ETF. Tom Jacobs is the portfolio manager of Motley Fool Special Ops and a specialist in small-cap value opportunities. In Numbers, Del Vecchio and Jacobs reveal some of the tricks of their trade and expose some of the myths that tend to get novice short sellers in trouble.

To start, overvaluation is not a sufficient reason to initiate a short position. A stock that is irrationally expensive can always get more expensive. Likewise, while it is tempting to short a fad stock--think of Crocs, the maker of colorful rubber clog shoes--fad stocks can stay trendy for longer than you think. The same is true of questionable business models--think Netflix.

And what about the stocks of companies engaging in fraud? Well, maybe.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Straddle1985 on February 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after reading the 5* reviews here on Amazon and after reading the first (introduction) chapter of the book. There are not that many books out there on using fundamental anaylysis to base your trades on. There are the classical works from Benjamin Graham and some more popular works like Phil Town's book. This book doesn't reach the quality of those two books. The parts on fundamental analysis are not that elaborated, and these authors go look in places I wouldn't use immediatly to base my trading decisions on.

Some parts are kind of good, like using the DSO and DSI numbers and monitoring their change. What I didn't like though on these chapters are the links to a stock graph. Several times the autors point out a fundamental change in the inventories or the cashflow and two pages later you'll see a stock immediatly rising or declining as if it was a direct consequence of the change these autors write about. They can't possibly know if the stock movement was due to the fundamentals or just random noise or some macro economic event.

For the chapters on fundamentals I could still give a 3*, but the later chapters on technical analysis and stock charts are way to basic. It they'd just let these chapters out the book would have been better. It's just a series of stock charts (from investors.com and CANSLIM related websites) with basic TA stuff (determine the trend by looking at the chart, 50 day moving averages, ...).

Two stars is my total score for this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Richard M. Rockwood on November 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The first thing I want to tell readers is that I really enjoyed the material in this book. It's well written and it's a book that both "professional" investors and those who do their own investment work will find insightful.

I'm always interested in learning more about forensic accounting techniques and when I saw this book on Amazon I was immediately interested. I recognized one of authors of the book right away as I had followed Mr. Jacobs career for many years dating back to his Motley Fool days. I was also intrigued when I read that Mr. Vecchio had worked for David Tice AND Dr. Howard Schilit, both legends in the forensic accounting field.

For those that haven't read the book yet it certainly covers forensic accounting, and does so using real examples in an easy to understand format, but it also contains much more. So just what is the thesis of the book? They explain it on page 19:

"With the tools in this book, investors will increase their chances of achieving high real returns by weeding out or avoiding the stocks that perform so poorly that they will ruin overall returns and possibly destroy capital permanently."

To reach this goal they advocate using an investment approach that combines a small-cap value strategy (while also participating in select special situations) with a short component.
I found their short thinking quite interesting as they state not to short companies "...based on overvaluation, fads, frauds, or poor business models" which is what I would have considered to be perfect short candidates. They instead advocate waiting until the aggressive accounting methods discussed in the book are used by companies, i.e.
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