No reason for worry over Merrill investment

ECONOMIC NAVIGATION AND SIGHTSEEING

August 10, 2008|By Jay Hancock

A reader asks: "I read your recent blog about Merrill Lynch's sale of mortgage securities for a fraction of their face value. I have a sizable (for me) investment portfolio at Merrill. Fortunately, I do not own any Merrill stock. Should I be concerned about a Bear Stearns-type collapse?"

My reply: I know of no reason why investments held/managed by Merrill Lynch would be in jeopardy. The only Bear Stearns clients who lost money in connection with the firm's collapse were the ones who invested in its ill-fated hedge funds, Bear Stearns stock or directly in subprime mortgage bonds.

Bear Stearns investment clients who owned, for example, Google or Procter & Gamble stock are fine, except to the extent that those stocks are affected by the general market.

The Securities and Exchange Commission requires brokers to strictly separate their capital from that of customers. In the event that doesn't happen, there's another safety net - the Securities Investor Protection Corp. The SIPC makes investors whole if client assets are missing.

That said, remember that the SIPC is not the equivalent of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for banks, ensuring that what you put in is what you get out. Brokerage accountsare subject to market swings even if the broker is flourishing.

jay.hancock@baltsun.com

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For Jay Hancock's take on local business news that affects you, read him daily at baltimoresun.com/blogs

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