One Hundred Monkeys in Texas

July 14, 2008

The adventure of the stockbrokers’ clerks

Filed under: Business — alancochrum @ 3:57 pm
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I started reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories while I was in junior high school. This quite possibly contributed to my already awesome NQ (nerd quotient), given that I was hauling around one volume or the other of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a huge two-book set edited by William S. Baring-Gould.

I now own a copy of that same set, and I recently decided to fill in the gaps in my reading by working through the handful of stories that I either had skipped or did not remember reading. Today’s lunchtime story was “The Stockbroker’s Clerk,” whose plot has some similarities to another story with which I am much more familiar, “The Red-Headed League.”

The irony of this is that I received in the mail today a package from the financial services company that administers the 401(k) I had with my ex-employer. So — what am I going to do with my account? That same question is being asked and answered by the approximately 1,400 people who also were laid off along with me.

Among the choices, I understand, are (1) leave the money where it is or (2) roll it into an IRA with the same company. But you can also roll it into another employer’s retirement plan, or into an IRA with another company — in which case the money exits the current firm’s coffers.

That rushing sound I think I hear? It is the sound of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars cascading out of that company into whatever financial stream, pond or lake the owners pick. My company decided to lay off several hundred people, and now, weeks afterward, the aftershocks are jolting the reservoir of another corporation further downstream.

It makes me wonder whether those 1,400 may soon be joined by some stockbrokers’ clerks, or maybe some of the stockbrokers themselves.

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