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Home » Wise as a Serpent: Comments from a Dove

Mark Levitt
By Mark Levitt

This article appeared originally in the December 2007 Levitt Letter.

Dear Mark,
Your information on stockbrokers is way off base—and promoting one investment company like Vanguard is dangerous. You should contact organizations like Kingdom Advisors www.kingdomadvisors.org to get a better understanding instead of issuing a blanket bashing of stockbrokers.

Dear M.F. —
My information about stock brokerage firms stems from personal experience and years of reading and studying acclaimed financial experts like Christian financial counselor Larry Burkett (1939–2003), Scott Burns (www.dallasnews.com/business/scottburns), and Daniel Solin, author of The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read: The Simple, Stress-Free Way to Reach Your Investment Goals.

Timothy Harper’s book License to Steal: The Secret World of Wall Street and the Systematic Plundering of the American Investor reveals that most brokerage firms are all about making money for themselves, not giving a lick about clients. An elite stockbroker revealed that he viewed his investors’ nest eggs as nothing more than vehicles for making all the loot he could for himself. (A shark does not hate the fish he eats anymore than you hate a hamburger that you devour for lunch. Nor does he care how the fish comes out of the transaction.) Big business is under the gun to maximize profits, and top executives collect major bonuses on net earnings in the shortrun. Human nature and societal pressures dictate that it pays to exploit investors.

Burns and Solin claim that even dovish brokers (from Kingdom Advisors or wherever) cannot outperform the broadly diversified, low-expense propositions at Vanguard. Dear Reader: for helpful specifics, please refer to my previous Levitt Letter articles in June (page 13) and August (page 5). Both are archived at www.levitt.com.)

Dear Mark,
In the 1990s, our family had three brokerage accounts worth a total $14,000,000. Our financial advisor told us we were fine for the rest of our lives. In 2001, he confessed to defrauding us and 60 other investors. He went to jail for seven years. Our accounts were worth only $4,000. We were forced into arbitration, but got no money back. The lawyers involved in this process were nothing short of vipers. Our home is now for sale, and we receive only $1,000 per month from Social Security. I would like to write a book about all the deception and fraud.

Dear C.L. —
Tobacco companies make an art form of persuading children that inhaling smoke will transform them into rugged men and glamorous women. Greed often drives human nature to treachery. Therefore, it is perilous to assume that most brokerage firms have any higher regard for their clients’ portfolios than Philip Morris has for your lungs.

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