The Investment Scientist

Posts Tagged ‘conflicts of interest

Avoid conflicts of interest.” – David Swensen, Yale Endowment CIO.

Jose is the head of a ultra high-net-worth family. He has a number of accounts with Merrill Lynch (ML), the storied brokerage firm that paid their senior executives $4 billion in bonuses last year. Three of his accounts lost a great deal of money, not due to the market crash but to conflicts of interest.

Double dealing in Treasury

Jose has a Treasury account where his ML wealth manager[picture of double dealing, enable image to view] purchases Treasury bills, notes and bonds for him. Last year was a great year for Treasury securities – the market turmoil caused investors to flock to them, driving prices up more than 10%. Jose’s account, however, lost 3%. How could this happen? Conflicts of interest. ML is a primary dealer in the Treasury market. They buy Treasury securities and resell them to their customers at a markup. It looks like the markup is so high it takes away all the customer profit.

Churning stocks

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Author

Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.

Twitter: @mzhuang

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