One of the hardest things for a Wall Street analyst to do is to “go negative” in the midst of a roaring bull market when everyone is making money hand over fist. An analyst who cries “Sell!” at this moment is not immediately regarded as a saint. On the contrary, he or she is usually widely derided as a fool.
In the fall of 2007, a little-known analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. named Meredith Whitney slapped a sell rating on the then generally well-regarded stock of Citigroup, which was trading above $30 a share. Predictably, most investors — and Citigroup management — denounced her. But 16 months later, after tens of billions of dollars' worth of taxpayer bailouts had failed to stop the bleeding, Citi stock traded below $1 a share. “The Call” made her a legend.
Yet Wall Street is littered with the wreckage of analysts who have ridden a single call to fame, only to self-destruct on the next one. Over the past 18 months, as analyst after analyst has rushed to call “the bottom” for financial stocks, Whitney has stuck by her guns. And now, with the global financial system in ruins, she has parlayed her conviction into a reputation as one of the most respected voices on Wall Street. Earlier this year, after more than 15 years as an analyst, Whitney, 39, left Oppenheimer to launch her own firm, the Meredith Whitney Advisory Group. You haven't heard the last call from her.
Henry Blodget, a former Wall Street analyst, is CEO of The Business Insider
Fast Fact: At age 8, Whitney was once the youngest paper carrier in Washington Post history