Thursday, August 04, 2005

Paper? You Don' Need No Steenkeeng Paper...

Just a short postscript to yesterday's OSTK CC, which has been met with absolutely deafening silence by virtually every media source and market commentator on the planet.

During the call, Dr. Byrne spent a good 20 minutes spelling out in exquisite detail how the numbers work out so that there are likely no more than 300K or so shares that aren't owned by a Byrne, the wife of a Byrne, or someone a Byrne has taken a bath with (a whimsical tribute to the habit of having all the tykes bathe together as toddlers), or an institution that has known him for many years.

I have been vocal that anyone owning OSTK in any weight should immediately move their shares to a cash account, and request paper certificates.

Doing this, I anticipate several things going forward. First, I anticipate that anyone demanding their paper certificates is going to encounter a brick wall of resistance from their broker. The reason is simple - the broker doesn't want to have to call back the shares he is making big money by lending. Simple. Your request will cost him windfall profits, and he won't want to lose all that free money renting your asset out without your knowledge or consent (other than the brokerage agreement you signed, which gives him that right). So you are now his adversary - he views your wanting your property back as an infringement on his ability to use it to make 20% or more interest.

When you make your request, do it in writing. Registered or certified mail is good. Email will also work. Ask for a written response. Expect them to try to talk you out of it, to assure you that a cash account is adequate protection, etc. It is a lie, designed to keep the share in electronic format, where it can go make them some cash. Don't be fooled. They will tell you that you will have problems selling your shares. Another lie - the Cusip number will easily allow you to sell now, and deliver the cert. If they tell you that is wrong, get another broker - there are plenty that will do so.

Follow up even if they say yes, on a weekly or so basis. There have been numerous exchanges on penny stocks where the brokers commit to delivering the certificates, and then ultimately stonewall the shareholders, refusing to fulfill their obligation. There is no excuse for anything like this happening with OSTK - this isn't a penny stock - it is a billion dollar NASDAQ company, and there is no legitimate reason for you to not get your property when you request it.

If you can't get your certificates, and start sensing the runaround, it's time to escalate matters. First, call OSTK's transfer agent and get them involved. The transfer agent's name is Theresa Collins, and her telephone number is (781) 575-2193. Her company is ComputerShare. She should be able to go to bat for you.

If she can't get the job done, then email me, and I'll get the state regulators involved. Every state has a state securities bureau or person responsible for those affairs, and I have contacts with many of them, and can find yours for you pretty quickly. Most brokers won't enjoy having the state come down on them and give them a proctology exam for withholding your property. Unlike the SEC, most states will move, quickly and effectively, to nip this in the bud, and the brokers dread that knock on the door. Most will miraculously find the certificates if they are told what the next step will be.

I would expect that this will become harder as time goes on, and fewer and fewer of the genuine shares are left in the market. You do not want to be one of the folks who can't get their shares in the later stage. Act now, and understand your broker is not going to be your advocate here - you will be costing him a lot of money, much as though your kid was renting out your car to his friends at night while you slept. He won't be overjoyed to see the gravy train end, and will try everything to avoid doing it, including promising to do it and then having an endless series of excuses after the fact for non-performance, avoiding your calls, etc.

Understand how this will likely play, and be prepared for it, and be prepared to act when it happens.

Anyone with over 500 shares would be advised to do this, sooner rather than later.


Blogger Bob'sRightOnUKnow said...

Mr. O'Brien,

Enjoy your posts!

My broker no longer has a leg to stand on in regard to my request for paper stock certificates, as the 3-6 week period "required" for processing has now been exceeded.

Tonight when I called him I took the liberty of using your advice (and terminology!)concerning "getting the state regulators" involved in order to escalate things. We will see what happens now!

Thanks, Mr. O'Brien for sharing your information on what tools we have and how we can use them in dealing with brokers.

By the way, I live in Iowa. If you know who I should contact in regards to slow broker responses, I would be much obliged. Thank you, Sir.



5:56 PM  
Blogger bob obrien said...

Send me an email at

7:11 PM  
Blogger mfairview said...

Curt, who's your broker?

3:14 AM  
Blogger Bob'sRightOnUKnow said...


My brokerage is ETrade.

I currently have been defrauded out of stock certificates representing 20,000,000 shares of stock. No one at Etrade seems to know where they are, so far.

As of two days ago, a "special broker team" is trying to track down the shares, so they say.



7:44 PM  
Blogger Erich said...

Mr. O'Brien,
What happens if you don't or can't get your shares when the crap finally hits ther fan? Are you cheated out of $ even if the stock is still worth $?

7:18 PM  

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