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What's Behind the Numbers?: A Guide to Exposing Financial Chicanery and Avoiding Huge Losses in Your Portfolio Hardcover – October 10, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"[An] informative book ... Written in lively prose." Barron's 20130105

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, is an investment advisor and portfolio manager with Echelon Investment Management in Dallas. He applies this book's earnings quality tests to value investing for clients.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education; 1 edition (October 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071791973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071791977
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
This is an ambitious book. It tries to draw together financial statement analysis, value investing, short-selling, technical analysis, market timing, and portfolio management into one slim book of 254 pages.

It spends the most time on financial statement analysis, going over revenue recognition, inventories, and all of the squishier areas of accounting that most industrial companies face. It will not help you much with financial companies, they are far more complex, and deserve a book all their own.

I was surprised that the book did not suggest common summary measures of accounting quality, such as Normalized Operating Accruals. It did feature Cash Flow from Operations less Net Income, which is almost as good.

The book focuses on the short side -- how do you make money from failure? The long side suggests maxing out on small cap value stocks, and idea which I like, but can get overfished at times.

Think of it this way: do you want to run a portfolio that is systematically short company size, long value, short liquidity, long quality, etc? I helped do that for 4.5 years at a hedge fund, and boy that ride was bumpy. The market can remain insane longer than you can remain solvent.

But, to the book's credit, it understands position sizing for short positions, which is momentum following. Short more of things that fall. Do not add to shorts when the prices rise. This is a key insight of the book, and it is a reason why value managers often don't do well in a long-short context.

My last complaint is that the book does not explain even in broad terms how they balance the various portfolio management ideas. If you buy this book, you are on your own. You do not have a full roadmap to guide you.
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