Do Not Ask For What You Own

"Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!"
-- Gomer Pyle

Gomer couldn't have said it any better. And, I could not help but quote him after a phone conversation with my Fidelity Brokerage representative. Over the past several weeks, I had called their 1-800-544-8666 number. The conversations were based on the security of my securities. What insurance covered my account? What did it cover? Is it insured by the government? Are money market and mutual funds covered?

Since these questions were not answered in a comforting way, I decided to consider more options.

Not thinking much of it, I called to see if I might be able to take possession of some of my stock certificates this year. With 9 business days remaining, I did not anticipate a problem. In fact, I even offered to drive to their nearest location to pick them up. Immediately, I ran into resistance. Before the matter went any further, I asked if there was a company representative that could speak on Fidelity's behalf. Then, they transferred me to Cincinnati, Ohio.

The following quote, sums up their position:

"We can not guarantee the arrival of your certificates prior to the year's end. We can not send you anything else in writing."
-- Eric Watson, Trading Supervisor, Fidelity Investments

And, to compound my bafflement was a new fee. There was to be a charge of $15 per certificate. "What? This is not what I agreed to when I opened the account. In fact, when I originally agreed that the brokerage firm could hold my securities, the representative assured me, 'there will be no fees if you change your mind. And, your certificates will be much safer. What if someone steals them from your home? Do you want to have to pay for a safety deposit box?'"

So, I asked, "Can I see a signed copy of my agreement? And, can I get all these policies in writing? Can I have them faxed to me? I do not understand."

"Your account is subject to (unauthorized) changes in the terms and conditions. If you want the certificates, there is a $15 fee per certificate and normal processing time is at least 3 weeks"

Hmmm... then I said, "Maybe I'm missing something here. But, I'm a concerned investor. Though I was not that concerned about Fidelity and Y2K at the beginning of all this, now I am getting quite worried. I would like to have my certificates prior to December, 31 1999."

"A concerned investor should have phoned earlier. There is nothing to give you in writing. I can start processing your order."

"Surely, there must be something in writing?"

"The new terms and conditions state, 'There is a $15 fee to transfer your certificates.' Would you like me to mail it to you?"

"Sure. But, what about all the rest? What about the part where you starting charging the $15 fee without my approval? And, the part that says the certificates will be transferred at your convenience? If you don't have anything in writing, is there a governing body that I can call?"

"There is nothing else in writing. The governing body is the SEC. I do not have a phone number."

Low or high Fidelity?

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