Tyco International Chairman L. Dennis Kozlowski went on the offensive today, seeking to turn around a two-day dive in the stock price of the electronics conglomerate--long a darling of the bull market.
But his efforts appeared to have little impact as the price of the stock fell $10 to close at $87 a share. Since the beginning of the week, the stock has collapsed from $106, a drop of 18 percent.
In an already jumpy market, Tyco's stock plunge was fueled by statements earlier this week from Texas fund manager David W. Tice, who questioned Tyco's way of accounting for the cost of companies it buys.
In a morning conference call with investment analysts, Kozlowski didn't deign to speak Tice's name. "I am particularly outraged that one individual who has never had any contact with the company could write false and misleading statements," which were then disseminated over the Internet, he said.
He called on the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York Stock Exchange to investigate who started the "false, unfounded and malicious rumors."
Later in the day in a CNBC interview, Kozlowski spoke the name so distasteful to him.
"We don't know this David Tice," he said. "He has never spoken to anyone at Tyco, and we don't know who he is or what he does. . . . There are no irregularities, no investigations, no reasons for investigations" of the company, he said.
Tice publishes the newsletter Behind the Numbers, which recommends stocks to sell. The newsletter is sold to about 200 money managers for $10,000 a year. But the relatively small number of subscribers can instantly communicate its recommendations on various Internet message boards.
"This is not malicious," Tice said today, "and calling it a rumor is ridiculous." He said that he stands by the Tyco report and that the analysts who work for him get their information from the various public reports and SEC filings of a company before making pronouncements. He added that they do not generally talk to the companies.
Tice also runs the Prudent Bear Fund, a mutual fund that bets on which stocks will fall. He said today that his fund is kept separate from his newsletter and did not "short" the stock of Tyco--essentially, bet that it will decline.
Tyco's best-known divisions are its electronics unit, which makes underwater fiber-optic telecommunications cables and electrical connectors, and its security unit, whose ADT Security Services Inc. is the largest provider of security monitors and alarms in the country.
Bermuda-based Tyco has grown rapidly in the past decade by acquiring companies worth tens of billions of dollars. It is the way it accounts for these purchases on its balance sheet that Tice has questioned. When Tyco buys a company for $10 billion worth of Tyco stock--rather than cash--for accounting purposes it may make the purchase seem less costly by placing a lower actual value of the company on the books.
"We have a long history of not liking those [accounting] charges," Tice said. "Arthur Levitt also doesn't like them," he said, referring to the chairman of the SEC.
But Wall Street analysts stood by the company and said that the huge drop is, in part, a sign of the current nervousness of the market.
"It's a very strong, very sound company run by impeccable management," said John Inch, a Tyco analyst for Bear, Stearns & Co. "People shouldn't rush to hit the panic button just because somebody writes a report with unfounded allegations."
Cummins Catherwood, a Philadelphia money manager, said Tyco is an example of investors' "foolish" intolerance for any bad signal. "The first sign of trouble, they just blast it to death," he said. "There's no mercy."
CAPTION: Double-Digit Drop (This chart was not available)