While Digital World Acquisition Corp (NASDAQ:DWAC) might be on everyone’s mind at the moment, my nominee for most controversial publicly traded company in recent memory would still have to be Palantir Technologies (NYSE:PLTR). Not only is the company involved in some questionable activities, PLTR stock continues to baffle investors by rarely steering into the lanes of the conventional.
Sure, DWAC gets plenty of attention as the latest bad boy on Wall Street. First, it’s a special purpose acquisition company, a financial vehicle that in theory facilitates private-equity-like opportunities for regular retail investors. But their underperformance relative to benchmark indices has drawn additional scrutiny and criticism.
Second, DWAC — if it doesn’t get undone by a Securities and Exchange Commission probe for shady business dealings — will take Trump Media & Technology Group public. Under TMTG, the flagship social media network Truth Social will essentially compete directly with mainstream platforms, likely adding fuel to the fire of American politics.
Still, that’s relatively tame compared to the underlying issues of PLTR stock.
With DWAC, you’re almost exclusively dealing with the dissemination of political opinions. Sure, the opinions themselves may be tasteless (others may use stronger language). But at the end of the day, you can’t really fault TMTG and Truth Social. America represents a collection of ideas, not a one-track mindset.
But PLTR stock is a different animal altogether. Well before its initial public offering, critics scrutinized its ongoing business with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. To be fair, Palantir denies that its big data analytics software facilitates deportations.
Still, the stink continues to haunt PLTR stock. Government bodies are quick to separate itself from Palantir whenever the opportunity avails itself. For instance, the U.K. ended a contract with the company due to public pressure.
PLTR Stock and the SPAC Brigade
Now, I don’t want to throw an opinion one way or the other about the controversies surrounding PLTR stock. However, it’s hard not to think about the adage, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Another reason why that idea comes up is because Palantir consistently seems to not want to help itself.
Recently, InvestorPlace contributor Will Ashworth raised the point that more than a few financial analysts have voiced concerns about Palantir’s latest dealings. Specifically, they are “worried Palantir’s inclination to sell its services to special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) it has invested in could hide the actual health of its core business.”
Following multiple private investment in public equity (PIPE) deals, “Palantir enters into commercial contracts with each company to have them subscribe to and use Palantir’s products and services.” You can see the problem here. Analysts critical of PLTR stock have openly wondered if Palantir is simply buying revenue.
Ashworth is quick to “defend” (for lack of a better word) Palantir regarding this narrow context. If one or two of these SPAC bets “happen to pay off, PLTR shareholders get an extra benefit from the company’s risk-taking. So, I’m not concerned about Palantir’s side bets,” he wrote.
Ashworth also brought up a good point. “If they’re investing in companies that could benefit from Palantir’s Foundry data analytics platform, I fail to see why both parties wouldn’t take advantage of the mutual association.”
From that angle, PLTR stock might appear a solid bet with your speculation-earmarked funds. However, there’s one point that still bothers me: insiders are not buying shares. Instead, they’re dumping them.
You can check out the data yourself. Since PLTR became available, all I see is sell, sell, sell. When it’s high, the insiders sell. And when it’s supposedly cheap, they sell.
Despite my reservations about PLTR stock, one conspicuous positive appears on the charts. At the time of writing, shares closed just a few cents shy of $18. That’s a decent discount relative to the average price for this year.
But are shares cheap or undervalued? That’s where the insider selling starts to bother me. No one wants to buy PLTR, even at this relative discount? Surely, we can agree that this circumstance doesn’t make for the most encouraging marketing pitch.
And to be frank, the insider selling also makes me question the SPAC deals. Some high-profile SPACs earned a poor reputation. Under this context, it doesn’t cast a favorable light as to why those closest to Palantir’s business are so eager to exit.
Don’t look at me as being negative on PLTR stock. From my vantage point, it’s the executives that are doing a better job of that than I can dream of.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.