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What are you waiting for? (12/17/2003)
by Al Thomas

Do you own any mutual funds? In an IRA or 401K or wherever. Privately or at work.

Have you called your fund manager to find out what is going on with your fund? Are they under investigation for late trading, improper pricing, deviation from length of sales defined in the prospectus or stale trading? Are my questions too hard?

Please don't be confused. It seems that most fund owners haven't done anything. There is a serous bout of complacency going around. Forget the flu; this is going to affect your pocketbook. Oh well, it's your money and if you don't care if some crook in a suit with a manicure is handling it then that is your loss.

Now we find out that even those foreign funds have bandits for managers. The British mutual fund industry called unit investment trusts has been doing almost the same thing as our home-grown thieves. It seems the little investor has his wrists tied to his ankles all over the world. The regulatory agencies such as the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) have NOT been doing their job. If you have questions about your funds you can call them in Washington at 202-942-8088. They must tell you as this is public information.

The late trading scandal hit first and has been misnamed as market timing. Late trading is illegal whereas market timing is legitimate. Late trading allows order entry at today's price as long as 3 hours after the market has closed. During that 3 hours news of financial importance regarding stocks in a particular fund could be affected by legal decisions, profit pronouncements, etc.,etc. That news could make the fund go up 2% to 5% the next day when the late trade is then offset taking a disproportionate amount of profits from the regular fund holders. That does not sound like much, but when you are dealing with big numbers it is plenty. What is nice for the crook is there is almost no risk.

In many funds there are classes such A, B, C and other strange letters. These have to do with how much and when the commission is charged. If you put in $25,000 or more you are supposed to get a better price, but many funds have been charging more.

In the prospectus it may say you are required to hold a fund for X numbers of days or pay an extra amount called a redemption fee. Their friends, the big money folks, have not been so charged.

Stale trading is the new one. It seems the buy or sell orders are not entered on the day they were placed, but done so at a more favorable time to allow for a better profit.

These practices and ones not yet reported and those I have not heard of are stealing money from your account. What are you waiting for? 

 

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