Buckle Your Seatbelts, Here Comes the Fiscal Cliff!

Very few investors saw the 2000 Tech Bubble crash or the 2008 Financial Crisis coming. While anyone and everyone is closely watching the looming “fiscal cliff”, that doesn’t mean Average Joe investors will be able to avoid that perilous fall.

Indeed, the potential avalanche of bad investment advice stock brokers and financial advisers are peddling right now could prove just as devastating as the cliff.

As many reports have noted, the package of tax increases and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff” takes effect in January unless Congress passes a budget deal by then. The economy would be hit so hard that it would likely sink into recession in the first half of 2013, economists say.

Commission-hungry stockbrokers are telling their clients to sell now to beat next year’s likely tax increases and then buy the stocks you held after the New Year.

Public companies and their lawyers are ruminating about whether to disclose to investors the risk of the fiscal cliff to their businesses and the likely effect on stock prices.

Pundits are equally split over whether the President and Congress can cut a deal to avoid another economic catastrophe and US downgrade by the rating agencies.

What’s the Average Joe to do here?

Caution and diversification should be the name of the game, until Congress and President Obama get this mess straightened out.

Avoid financial advisors who preach that they know where this is heading and the stock sectors that will benefit the most.

The following report is typical of an adviser making such a call, and quite worrying.

“Billionaire investor Ken Fisher is so convinced a deal will be done he says any market trepidation – or short-term selloffs later in the year – should be used as a buying opportunity,” according to a Reuters report. “Fisher was in Washington in June and has talked to three legislative aides since then. He believes the fiscal cliff will be punted far into the future, perhaps after the next midterm elections in 2014. In his read, it is a non-issue.”

“I don’t think the fiscal cliff is anymore of a reality than the concern once was about swine flu and Y2K,” said Fisher, according to Reuters. “My view is that this issue is a cause for bullishness, because fear of a false factor is always a bullish factor,” he said.

Investors, before following such bullish advice, let’s slow down and remember the history that we know only too well. Wall Street has a long history of getting it right for themselves and leaving the little guy investor holding the bag. Why should it be any different with the fiscal cliff?

About Jacob H. Zamansky 57 Articles

Jacob (”Jake”) H. Zamansky is one of the country’s foremost authorities on securities arbitration law, the legal recourse for investors claiming broker wrongdoing, or for brokers claiming wrongful termination or other misconduct by their employer. Zamansky & Associates, the New York-based law firm he founded, represents both individuals and institutions in complex securities, hedge fund, and employment arbitrations.

Mr. Zamansky was at the forefront of recent efforts to “clean up” Wall Street. In 2001, he successfully sued former Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget on behalf of a New York pediatrician misled by Blodget’s stock research. The case’s successful resolution was the catalyst for New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer to investigate the conflicts of interest on Wall Street and resulted in the well-reported $1.4 billion Global Settlement, which included many of the biggest names on Wall Street.

More recently, Mr. Zamansky is one of the leading litigators and opinion leaders of the subprime mortgage crisis and the related hedge fund collapses, representing both investors and mortgage borrowers who were defrauded by Wall Street firms and mortgage lenders. Among Mr. Zamansky’s early actions is filing the first arbitration case on behalf of institutional and high net worth investors against Bear Stearns Asset Management with regard to the two hedge funds which collapsed as a result of exposure to subprime mortgage backed securities. He also has filed claims on behalf of individual investors victimized by brokers that steered their portfolios into unsuitable subprime stocks and mortgage borrowers who were fraudulently coerced into inappropriate mortgage and investment transactions.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Zamansky worked for more than 30 years as a litigator, including positions at Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP. His tenure also included serving as a federal prosecutor with the Federal Trade Commission.

A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Zamansky has been a frequent expert commentator on CNBC, CNN, and FOX News and has published opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and USA Today. He is regularly quoted and his cases have been chronicled in major financial and news publications including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes. He is a frequent lecturer for industry and legal groups around the country. He also writes a blog that can be viewed here.

Visit: Zamansky & Associates

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