Paul Pittman, chairman and CEO of Farmland Partners Inc. (NYSE: FPI), participated in a video interview at Nareit’s REITworld: 2018 Annual Conference in San Francisco.
Pittman discussed an incident that Farmland Partners encountered involving an article written by an anonymous blogger and the reputational risk that could pose for any company.
“An anonymous party accumulated a very large short position through the use of put options in our stock and then wrote an article that is absolutely false,” Pittman said.
“It took our stock down 40-some percent in one day. A lot of people got hurt—people lost quite a bit of money,” Pittman said, noting that Farmland Partners has asked federal law enforcement to get involved in the issue. He also warned other CEOs to monitor unusual put option activity in their stock.
Pittman said reckless, anonymous behavior like this “strikes at the very integrity of the public markets.”
“If we’re going to maintain a vibrant, public, capital market, dishonest, market-manipulative behavior must be policed,” he said.
Pittman also said that Farmland Partners’ business is healthy heading into 2019, and that it’s important for investors not to confuse farming with farmland. “Farming is risky on an annual basis ... But farmland is based on a 50-year view … of global food demand and land scarcity,” he said.
Pittman added that the current U.S. trade war is not good for agriculture.
“[The problem will hopefully be solved], not by turning off Chinese imports into the United States, but by requiring the Chinese to take much more of our exports,” Pittman said.