Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day Trading...

My Stock Broker
The year was around 1991 and I had just gotten divorced for the second time and had not yet purchased my last home of 18 years. I had spent the last several years working hard and saving a lot of money. A lot for me, anyway. I had started dabbling in the stock market and was pretty successful in choosing some good companies. I bought, Walmart at 32 and sold it a few weeks later for 40. I was like a kid in a candy store. I learned you could make money by using common sense and really didn't have to kill yourself working, as I had been doing for years. The stock market was very strong and you almost had to be an idiot or a gambler, to lose money. We call then, "the good old days".

Everyone knew of a few people that had quit their jobs and became, Day Traders. A mysterious new addition to the economy. Day Traders were people that bought and sold stocks all day and at the end of that day owned very few or none. Their bank accounts were growing and you almost had to be suicidal, not to be successful. Until one day it all ended and they were the first to show the effects of a slowing economy. President Clinton was in the news and it wasn't because of his abuse of the economy, but rather his unorthodox personal habits.

One day, I got a call from a good friend that was an active day trader and at the time, a multi-millionaire. He had retired from his chosen career at 45, very successful and began Day Trading, at that point, a mystery to me. He told me of a company in the toy industry that everyone had heard of and suggested strongly that I use any disposable cash and purchase it, before the sun went down. Trusting him, I did just that. I invested about $10,000, I trusted his tip, but not to the point where I wanted to begin my savings all over again, in case he was wrong. When I awaken the next morning, I immediately checked my account with one of the leading brokerage firms I was dealing with and learned that it had grown by about $9,000 while I slept. That was over $1000 and hour! The following day, I just about floated everywhere I went. To this day, that was the best night's sleep I'd ever had.

Feeling that I was now a "high roller", I developed this false sense of security when making trades and eventually everything sort of evened itself out. I had also acquired a stock broker with one of the leading New York firms, who I will not mention, but they are who you might think of when thinking of brokerage firms. I had an open, active account with them and all I had to do was call my broker and place and order. He would also call me with advice, that I either took or did not. At some point, he started purchasing stocks in my name without even getting permission and would tell me about it after the trade was already made. I never authorized such activity and since he was new, I didn't complain much until things took a turn for the worse. He put me into stocks like, BP, British Petroleum that lost money and I even had to pay his commissions. I figured out that I had paid almost $6000 in losses and commissions for stocks I'd never even asked for. I also learned that I could contact the AZ Corporation Commission and report them and win a settlement. I did nothing. At some point I wanted to rid myself of this stock market giant and wrote a letter to that effect, sending it registered. I told them to close my account and at that point, my account had $15,310 in it, so I wrote a company check in that exact amount to myself and deposited it into my personal account. About 6 weeks later, I ALSO received a check in that same amount of $15,310 made out to me from the brokerage house. Hmm..... I deposited it and told friends about the error and asked for advise. Everyone agreed to do nothing and wait. I did precisely that. About 18 months went by, with me fully aware that at some point, even this mega-giant brokerage firm would miss their 15 grand. The call came one day while I was at the dealer's auction. It was a guy named Guido Something calling from a place called New York. He had the mob, Italian, New York accent and everything, I kid you not. I almost gagged laughing and asked who is this really? He reiterated that it was indeed his name and why he was calling. I listened to him explain the accounting error and then did some talking myself. I told him I was fully aware of the error in my favor and that I'd checked with my attorney (not true) and was advised that the money is now rightfully mine. I also explained the abuse I had endured with his firm and that I thought a settlement was fair. He listened and told me he would talk to his people and get back to me. About 3 days later, Guido called again and told me with his silly accent, and I swear this is an accurate description, "Mel, I fought fou ya toot and nail and this is what the bosses said. If you want to go ahead and deduct the amounts you lost, added to the commissions we charged you and refund the difference to us, that would be acceptable". I came up with a detailed description that came to just under $6000 and supplied it to them, along with an indemnification letter explaining that they cannot try to collect any additional funds from me, ever and sent it along with my/their check for about $9000. I knew that legally I didn't have to refund the money, it was legally mine, but ethically, I knew it was wrong and felt that doing the right thing would always go in my favor................ in heaven???

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