October 20, 2018
A recurring theme in the BrokeAndBroker.com Blog is the manner in which seemingly sensible, reasonable, and intelligent settlements of disputes just don't quite make it across the old finish line. Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm a lawyer and I've had clients prod, press, and push me to get a messy dispute settled. After I hammer out the terms, my client agrees to pay or to accept $X by a specific date. Some would think that such a milestone is the end of the process. A veteran lawyer such as me knows it's often only the beginning -- if even that. At some point, the excuses start.
As expensive whiskey goes, $60 for a good scotch is actually pretty cheap. A client once sent me a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue in an engraved bottle. It was a nice gesture, even if it did amount to using a few hundred dollars' worth of whiskey to pay for several thousand dollars in legal services. Further up the scale of extravagance, another local liquor store has a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon on the shelf at $1,200. I gather it's a bargain even at that price. But who am I to judge? I've certainly seen clients -- and even myself -- blow a grand or so without even the aftertaste of a happy memory. Hell, I've seen clients and adversaries burn hundreds of thousands of dollars battling over legal positions that, seen in the fullness of time, were not worth pursuing or defending. Spending a fraction of that on a good scotch or bourbon seems downright civilized by comparison.
Sometimes the majesty and detail of a scam or fraud is really, really impressive. Most of the time, however, it's all a dumbass variation on a theme that I've seen tried and failed over my decades on Wall Street. Gets to the point where my reaction is likely: "Oh, that again?" In any event, in today's BrokeAndBroker.com Blog, we got some poor shlub selling both insurance and stocks. Apparently, he wants some travel perk but needs to close on one more insurance policy. Frankly, the whole effort comes off as somewhat lame and not thought through. Alas, it don't end well but, perhaps, this career crash will deter others. Look for a deal on Travelocity or Expedia. Use a credit card with extra travel points. Whatever you do, however don't fake a signature on an insurance policy, okay?
For no particular reason, today I offer you a riff. Proust had his bite of a lousy Madeleine and I had the whiff of Christopher M. Tanner pleading guilty to counterfeiting United States currency. No pile of dead bodies. Not so much as a hint of a violent crime. Instead, we got funny money. Bogus bills. Counterfeit currency. We got a pair of shoes. Banality at its best (or worst). On the other hand, we got Highway 90 (maybe near to Highway 61) and we got Mobile, Alabama, which reminded me of Bob Dylan's Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, which took me back to my teenage years in the Sixties. So, as I begin to draw circles up and down the block, and you ask me what the matter was, please be patient as today's BrokeAndBroker.com Blog unwinds. If you're lucky, you'll get answers to all your questions after only one read. If you don't sit so patiently, you may wind up waiting to find out what price you have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice.
You wouldn't think that Wall Street would want to cultivate an in-house compliance protocol of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but a recent FINRA arbitration suggests that such a shift in tone is underway. Wall Street's entire regulatory scheme is predicated upon DISCLOSURE. That's not a stretch. Critics of regulation argue that it's sort of okay to do anything as long as you disclose it. As a libertarian, I find it hard to argue that point -- but to a limit. Any regulatory regime based on disclosure must insist that said disclosure be made in full, in intelligible terms, and subject to reasonable updates when conditions change. A recent FINRA arbitration asks us to consider what happens when a brokerage firm sorta twists a stockbroker's arm and suggests that, hey, maybe if a customer don't ask ya about sumthin' there's no big deal about not volunteerin' nuthin. Know what I'm sayin'? No one likes a big mouth. Ya don't gotta speak if they don't ask ya, right?