Can Ordinary Investors Take the Truth?

Jeffrey Goldberg's great article Why I Fired My Broker in The Atlantic delivers a big dose of bitter medicine on a timely topic: How can the ordinary investor recover?

Anyone with more than a few dollars in the stock market might benefit from reading this article.

Link: Why I Fired My Broker – The Atlantic (May 2009).

It turns out that my crucial mistake was believing that the brokers and wealth managers and cable-television oracles who make up the financial-services industrial complex actually had my best interests at heart. Or so say the extremely smart—and wealthy—people I asked to help me figure a way out of my paralysis. One of these people was Robert Soros, the deputy chairman of the fund started by his father, George. I went to see him at his office, where he spent two hours performing an autopsy on my assumptions.

“You think a brokerage should be a place you go to pay commissions for fair and unbiased advice, right?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“It’s not. It never has been.” He then cited another saying of Buffett’s: “‘Wall Street is a place where whatever can be sold will be sold.’ You are the consumer of their dreck. What they can sell to you, they will sell to you.”

“But they told us—”

“They lied.”

He went on: “You should be disheartened and disappointed. But don’t kid yourself. You’re a naive capitalist. They were never your advisers. Do not for a moment think that a brokerage firm is your friend.”

“So who’s my friend?”

“You don’t have one. This is the market.”

“Okay, that’s Merrill Lynch. What about the others?”

“They’re not your friends,” Soros said patiently.

“What about Chuck Schwab?”

“All brokers move products based on volume and commission,” he said.