Old Scheme, New Tricks

iStock_000027123745LargeInsider trading is not a new concept, but it continues to be a high priority for the SEC’s enforcement program because it undermines investor confidence in the fairness and integrity of the securities markets.

Individuals are getting more creative in looking for ways to cover their tracks. In 2014 the industry has seen everything from someone attempting to hide insider trades by using a relative’s account in a foreign country, to a man writing tips on post-it notes that he then literally ate to eliminate the evidence. Meanwhile the SEC is leveraging more technology tools than ever before to strategically detect illegal trading activity.

Put simply, insider trading is buying or selling securities while in possession of material, nonpublic information about the security. Insider trading in this context is illegal – you can’t profit from information that is not available to the whole market. It is also illegal to communicate (or “tip”) material, nonpublic information to others who may trade in securities on the basis of that information. All information is considered nonpublic unless it has been effectively disclosed to the public. Material information includes anything that an investor might consider important in deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold securities. For example: new product development, earnings reports, mergers & acquisitions, major personnel changes, obtaining or losing important contracts, litigation, or a big scandal.

Just an investigation, even without subsequent litigation, can be very costly both financially and personally. Penalties for insider trading vary depending on the severity of the crime, but generally include disgorgement (forced giving up of illegal profits) plus interest, civil fines of $1 million or three times the profit gained or loss avoided through the trade (whichever value is greater), criminal penalties up to $5 million, bar from serving as an officer or director of a public company, and imprisonment for up to 25 years.

You should never trade while aware of material, nonpublic information. If you receive a tip: don’t place any trades; don’t share the information with anyone; and tell the person who gave you the tip that it is insider information that he/she should not be sharing with anyone.

Sign of the Future – Electronic Signatures

The days of printing and mailing hard copy contracts are quickly moving into the past as more and more companies are using electronic signatures. Having to address and stamp an envelope in order to mail a signed contract will eventually become a distant memory. Merriman is excited to partner with DocuSign to allow our clients to submit paperwork online. DocuSign was founded in Seattle in 2006, and now has nearly 1000 employees spread world-wide. Merriman is using DocuSign for client contracts and our custodians, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade and Fidelity, are using DocuSign for most account applications (excluding forms that need to be notarized).

Signing a document electronically is safe, secure and legally binding. We know account paperwork contains personal information so protecting your data is top priority. DocuSign utilizes encryption standards, retention and storage practices, and data security to ensure documents can only be accessed, read and executed by designated users. This means only you and those you authorize have access to your documents. Your content stays confidential, including from DocuSign—employees never have access to your content.

Here are some more great benefits:

  • Whether you’re in an office, at home, on the go, or even on vacation across the globe – as long as you have internet access, you can sign documents electronically.
  • Joint account holders or trustees can each sign documents without having to be in the same location or mail copies back and forth.
  • Increased accuracy – it’s impossible to miss a required field so you’ll never have a document returned to you to redo.
  • Open accounts and transfer funds faster since there is no time spent waiting for mail delivery.
  • It’s easy to maintain electronic copies of all your signed documents, and you can always print a hard copy if you wish.

Merriman Super Bowling Celebration with Earl Thomas & Marshawn Lynch

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When Joe Allen, CEO of Strikes For Kids, reached out to us and asked if we would like to sponsor their bowling tournament for the second year in a row, we were delighted to say yes. Strikes For Kids organizes bowling tournaments across the country to benefit different nonprofit organizations. This year, the event was hosted by Seattle Seahawks Earl Thomas & Marshawn Lynch, and benefited the Guardian Angel Foundation and Fam 1st Family Foundation. We were happy to support these great nonprofit organizations!

During this exciting evening, a few Merriman clients and employees bowled and hung out with Earl and Marshawn, and Russell Okung even dropped by. ESPN’s sports journalist Kenny Mayne got a lesson from Pro Bowler Norm Duke and knocked down a strike. Seahawks mascot Blitz was also there showing off his bowling skills for the kids. There is no better feeling than you get when you see excited kids meeting their favorite Seahawks players and having fun with their family.

You can watch some video coverage of the event here. Next time you are in our office, be sure to check out our autographed Seahawks bowling ball at the front desk!

The nuances of rebalancing

iStock_000019901243SmallI recently received a question from a client of mine about an article that referenced rebalancing a portfolio at the same time each year. In theory, an annual rebalance is not a bad way to go. However, there’s quite a bit more to how we manage the rebalancing process than that.

For Merriman clients, we:

  • Avoid unnecessary transaction costs by using cash inflows and outflows as a tool to rebalance a portfolio back to its target allocation. Cash inflows are used to buy underweight asset classes and cash outflows are used to sell overweight asset classes.
  • Allow assets that are performing well to continue to perform – a documented trend called momentum – by placing tolerance bands around our allocations. This also helps avoid excessive rebalancing transaction costs.
  • Favor rebalancing tax-deferred accounts in December to coincide with mutual fund distributions and Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), again reducing transaction costs.
  • Help defer taxes by rebalancing taxable accounts in January, when appropriate.

Market performance can also have an impact on the need for rebalancing. If returns are flat for a few years, there is less need for rebalancing. In volatile times, more.

In addition there will be one-off cases such as:

  • Tax loss harvesting. If there is a significant downturn in the markets (think 2008), we can use that as an opportunity to harvest losses to be used against future gains. We did this for our clients in 2008 and it is paying dividends today.
  • Introduction or deletion of an asset class can also provide an opportunity to rebalance your portfolio.

Rebalancing your portfolio is an integral step in maintaining a well-balanced portfolio and reducing its risk. But to do it once a year at the same time every year may not be the best solution for you. Depending on your situation, a more customized rebalancing approach may save you significant money in transaction costs and taxes in the long run. As always, check with your advisor to find out what’s right for you.

Merriman recognized as one of the Top 300 RIAs by Financial Times

iStock_000018550149XSmallWe are excited to announce that Merriman Wealth Management, LLC was recognized as one of the Top 300 Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) in 2014 by Financial Times!

Financial Times uses a number of quantifiable and objective measures of investor-centered criteria to select the top firms, including assets under management (AUM), AUM growth rate, years in existence, compliance record, industry certifications and online accessibility. We are proud to be named in this elite group.

Download a full copy of the Financial Times special report here.

 

Merriman is not affiliated with Financial Times and did not pay to participate in the list. Please see pages 2 and 12 of the FT Special Report for a full description of the selection methodology utilized by Ignites Distribution Research, a sister publication to Financial Times. Rankings are historical in nature and are not indicative of future performance. The FT 300 list is not an endorsement from Financial Times nor a testimonial of client experience with Merriman.

Benchmarks, Diversification & Time Horizons – Part 4 of 4

In this four-part blog series from Merriman Research, we’re offering our thoughts on the following important investment questions:

  • When evaluating your investment returns, what benchmark(s) are relevant?
  • What is the rationale for diversification?
  • How should your investment time horizon be considered?

Investors may overlook the fact that these questions are highly interrelated. To properly consider any one, you must understand the context the other two foster. We’ll just have to jump right in to explain. If you missed Part 1Part 2 or Part 3, start there and come back.

Part 4: Historic returns analysis supports diversification & longer time horizons

In this our fourth and final post of this blog series, we offer an assessment of historic index performance data.  We expect that your better understanding of this history will contribute to your appreciation of the benefits of diversification and longer-term time horizons for your financial planning. read more…

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