Disgraced stockpickers picking stocksS

If the government hasn't investigated you, why should anyone listen to your stock tips? That's the lesson of three Wall Street chatterboxes who once faced SEC scrutiny — and are now bigger in the stock-talk business than ever.

The latest stock jock to retake the field is Thom Calandra, the founding editor of MarketWatch, a financial-news site now owned by News Corp. He has launched a new investment newsletter, Ticker Trax, on Stockhouse.com. A gutsy move, considering that's exactly the vehicle which crashed his career at MarketWatch; an SEC investigation found that Calandra was buying shares of stocks he recommended before he wrote them up in a MarketWatch newsletter, and then selling them after publication. He surrendered $416,109.58 in illegal profits, and paid a $125,000 fine. As part of the settlement,

Calandra joins Henry Blodget, who was banned from the securities industry for privately trash-talking stocks, but now runs Silicon Alley Insider, a tech-stocks blog. He's been profiled in Wired and explaining Wall Street's woes in The Atlantic. CNBC shouter Jim Cramer draws higher ratings than ever for his populist on-air rants. As a money manager, he was investigated by the SEC and cleared, but later admitted to manipulating stocks. Nevertheless, he's now nominating himself as the SEC's next chairman.

So why are we taking advice from admitted crooks? I think we all cynically subscribe to the theory that it takes a thief to catch one. The mortgage meltdown revealed abuses at Wall Street firms that encompassed the entire business; it wasn't a matter of bad apples, but a rotten barrel. If the game is rigged, then who better to guide your play than the most expert of riggers?