September 3rd, 2014
by Rob Isbitts, Sungarden Investment Research
As a big Robin Williams fan, this was a tough week. Ironically, before this comedic genius's shocking death on Monday, my team and I planned for this week's blog to be a parody of the work of another comedian taken from us too soon, George Carlin. One of Carlin's best-known bits originated in 1972, a time of extremely tight FCC regulation as to what could be said on TV and radio. His take on "the 7 words you can't say on TV" is now a comedy classic. With that in mind, and as a tribute to both of these special minds, we present the Wall Street edition: 7 Phrases Investment Professionals Should Never Say! As usual, many thanks to my analyst Mark Jakupcik for helping to finalize the list.
What many investors do not understand about Investment Advisors, is that we cannot use the same hyperbole and sensationalism that other forms of "financial advice" such as financial television commentators, gold promoters and many others can use. We can't guarantee anything, and our disclaimer language is exceeded only by the pharmaceutical industry. So keep that in mind when someone is hawking "Critical Warning Number 89″ or some other ear-catcher like that. The restrictions on overzealous statements are great for investors. Unfortunately, they are not evenly applied and enforced across all types of financial service people.
For years, Goldman Sachs has set aside a group of stocks that are better than just the regular "buy-rated" equities they recommend. The best of the best are known as "conviction buys." Yes, we know that this means they have greater conviction and emphasis on these recommendations. However, given the rap-sheet of the big Wall Street investment firms, you would think that they would shift to using a word that does not remind their audience of going to prison.
Remember what I said above about Investment Advisors not having the ability to use the same hard-sell terms as non-registered advisors and promoters of all stripes (prison reference there)? Here is another thing those other guys can say that we can't. We are glad to be in the camp of high regulation if that means high quality standards. Though, not everyone in the financial services biz wants to be confined to that (ooh, another prison reference).
I am not talking about when someone clarifies a point they made earlier. Correction is the term often used to describe a decline in the price of one or a group of securities but it's never quite clear what is being "corrected." It is one of several bits of Wall Street slang that is overused. Just tell us that something fell in price. We'll deal with it.
OK, when it is 98 degrees and 85% humidity in New York City in August, its hot. But the word is often used on financial television to get viewers excited and interested enough to keep watching, for fear they will miss some "breaking news"... which itself could make this list.
At No Cost to You
I am sorry to report that this one has been uttered by more insurance agents than I can count. "You don't pay me, I get paid by the insurance company" and other misleading claims throw the investor off the scent..but it smells to the rest of us. Insurance companies and other financial firms are NOT non-profit entities!
Too complex to explain
This is sad but true, especially with a lot of the so-called "alternative investments" being peddled today (more on that in an upcoming SUNGARDEN research study). When I write articles for Marketwatch.com, there is a neat system we use to deliver the articles to my editor. Its called SkyWord and as part of the process it rates your article based on the sophistication level of the writing. If it takes a graduate degree to comprehend what you are offering, it should not be made available to the broad public.
We welcome any additional suggestions for this list!