Taking Stock: Would the real Malcolm Berko please stand up?

Dear Mr. Berko: What stock exchange firm do you work for? Is it true that you accumulate a big holding of a stock for all of your clients and then write good things about that stock in your newspaper column so that millions of investors will read about the stock? And when all these people who read about the stock think it's good, they buy the stock and push it up to a much higher price than what your clients paid, and then you sell it at a profit, don't you?

Is this how you pay for your big, plush office and big staff? Your huge, multi-million-dollar home and your fancy golf club? Your expensive Mercedes and vacations in Europe?

I think this is terrible and illegal and that you should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law by the New York Stock Exchange and the Securities Exchange Commission people.

Do you have the courage to answer this?

--HS: Oklahoma City

Dear HS: Wow, This really takes the cupcake.

I don't know who you've been talking to, but it certainly ain't the Internal Revenue Service, my barber, my accountant or Kenny Hee, who owns the second best Chinese restaurant in Central Florida. But it's always a hoot to hear from a reader like you. Even though your questions derive from an enormous superfluity of ignorance and anger, they are fair questions and rightly deserve to be answered.

My 15-by-20-foot office, where I employ 1.5 people, is scrunched between a beauty salon and a travel bureau. It's located in an older, declining, 31-year-old business center that's also home to a podiatrist, a chiropractor, a physical therapy center and a Fifth Third branch bank. My office is furnished with second- and third-hand furniture, two IBM wheel-writer typewriters, a couple of computers and an air conditioning unit that's as old as the original wallpapering and carpets.

I live in a modest house, in a modest neighborhood, in a modest community, and I drive a diesel and an SUV, both of which are American-made. I'm not employed by a brokerage; I don't play golf, and I've not been to Europe in a decade.

I write three columns for weekly publication, and if you objectively read them, common sense will tell you that the brokerage industry and I agree on only one thing: that stocks will go up and that stocks will go down. This column is anathema to the sales practices and products of the brokerage industry.

It's so anathema, in fact, that on numerous occasions, Merrill Lynch and other brokerages have tried to silence the column through the NYSE, the National Association of Securities Dealers and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

A consultant is a guy with grey hair so he can appear distinguished and hemorrhoids so he can look concerned. And I'm a consultant for several large retirement plans, in which I help the company define and select short-, medium- and long-term investment objectives. Then I help that company to select a money manager or managers who we think may best represent the plan's objectives. And finally, I monitor the money manager or managers to be sure they're meeting the plan's objectives. I do not tell them when to invest or what investments to buy, nor do I tell them where to place their trades.

And if a retiring or retired employee needs to employ a personal money manager, I may be asked to help that person locate a professional he can trust. I do not buy or sell stocks for anybody. I do not have any interest in any brokerage accounts (except family accounts), and I do not participate in any commission arrangements.

I write this column because it gives me enormous satisfaction to know that over the years, it has has helped millions of investors make appropriate decisions and that their lives are much better for it. And I am reminded of this by the emails and letters I receive from folks unlike you.

Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at mjberko@ yahoo.com. To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Copyright 2012 Creators.com

Published: Mon, Mar 5, 2012

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