Don’t Invest in Companies Whose CEOs Write Like This

Don’t Invest in Companies Whose CEOs  Write Like This

By Jason Zweig with James M. Clash

Wall Street’s fortune-tellers, who go by the more dignified job title of analyst, have a far-from-perfect record. Did they tell us that IBM’s earnings were going to fall apart? Or that Crazy Eddie was a con game?

So forget the balance sheets and the interviews with management. Just analyze the chairman/CEO’s signature in the annual report. Handwriting analysis is, admittedly, a little out of the mainstream. But then the mainstream’s record isn’t all that good. Maybe that’s why some people gravitate to what you might call the Alternative Analysis style of investing.

For example, Robert Prechter has made a small fortune selling something called Elliott Wave analysis. A New York astrologer named Henry Weingarten recently ran a dead-serious Conference on astrological investing. (Alas, he had to relocate the Conference; he had failed to foresee the World Trade Center bomb that would close his chosen hotel.) So why not give handwriting analysis a tumble?

Forbes brought a bunch of annual reports to Felix Klein, president of the National Society for Graphology, to see what he could see in the signatures of a bunch of corporate bigwigs.

Klein, a Viennese native, is the Ish Kabibble of scribble. At 82, he figures he has examined something like 40,000 handwriting samples in six decades of handwriting analysis. In his warren of offices in New York City, he cleared sheaves of handwritten documents off some chairs and set to work analyzing.

Klein cautioned that conclusive analysis requires a more extensive sample of a person’s handwriting than a simple signature can provide. But he was willing to make some tentative character judgments based on signatures alone.

Forbes gave Klein no indication of what our group of signers had in common, but he seems to have summed up some of these characters pretty well.

Victor G. Incendy

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“Notice the backward slant,” says Klein. “He is standoffish and not comfortable with other people. Anybody with a backward slant is not sincere. Also, look at the underline. He needs to feel he has impressed people and won their approval.”

Cascade International’s stock has not done well. The company claimed to have 188 stores but turned out to have only six. Ex-chairman Incendy is a fugitive from justice.

Thomas Spiegel

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“Look at how the letters are narrow and inhibited. At the same time, he has aggressive tendencies; he puts in more energy than needed. He is trying to be macho. I think he is not completely trustworthy.”

After losing $400 million on its junk-bond portfolio in 1989 under Chief Executive Tom Spiegel, Columbia Savings & Loan Association of Beverly Hills was seized by the Office of Thrift Supervision in 1991.

Donald D. Sheelen

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“This man I wouldn’t trust! He has what we call an arcade [a series of arched letters] and he cuts off the ends. That tells me he is extremely private. He does not tell everything he knows.”

Sheelen pleaded guilty to mail and securities fraud after overstating the revenues and assets of Regina Co., a vacuum cleaner maker, in 1988. Regina filed Chapter 11 in 1989.

Gerald W. Fronterhouse

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“When somebody writes through his handwriting, we consider that to be a sign of emotional difficulty. He is invading his own space. . . . He could be inclined toward self-destructive capabilities.”

Fronterhouse, chairman of First Republic Bank Corp., lost his job after the Texas giant was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 1988.

Roy Speer

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“A, ai, ai. Look at his big letters! They are so much involved. All the lines are interfering. He is a hysterical type, a very showy guy. He will emphasize his achievements and take advantage of the people around him. I think you absolutely can’t trust him.”

Home Shopping Network Inc. is being investigated by the Securities & Exchange Commission amid allegations of improper transactions with related parties.

(This article appeared in the June 1993 edition of Forbes magazine.)

Also read: Avoid stock markets if you write like this

Disclaimer: One element of handwriting may be analysed at a time, but always look at the entire handwriting sample before arriving at any conclusion.