Month: May 2010

Why do you keep calling me?

We’ve all been there. The phone rings and the dreaded “unknown caller,” obscure area code, or “1-800-some annoying telemarketer” pops up on the caller ID. Frustrating? Yes. Borderline harassing? Sometimes.

Most folks don’t realize that many telemarketing companies may be breaking the law by calling you repeatedly once you have requested that they do not call.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has created a National Do Not Call Registry which allows consumers to limit the number of telemarketing phone calls they receive. Telemarketing agencies are required to remove your phone number from their call lists within 31 days or they are in violation of federal law.

Registering your number requires nothing more than a valid email address and a few minutes of your time. Simply go to the Do Not Call Registry website and follow the steps to place your phone number on the Do Not Call list. If you do not have an active email address, you may also call 1-888-382-1222.

In addition to the remedies available through the Do Not Call Registry, consumers have additional rights under federal law. Even if you choose not to register your number on the national Do Not Call list, you may still prevent individual telemarketing agencies from contacting you by requesting that they place you on their own Do Not Call lists. This request does not have to be made in writing. A simple “please place me on your do not call list” is all it takes to have your phone number removed! If an agency continues to contact you after this request has been made, you may have some form of legal recourse available to you.

For additional information about consumer rights involving telemarketing phone calls, visit the FTC website.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Circuit Breakers for Stocks are Stupid

In the next few weeks, the SEC and the heads of various stock exchanges will be telling you how to invest your money. “ The biggest U.S. equity markets will urge regulators to begin a program next month for temporarily halting individual stocks that swing more than 10 percent…” So who does he, she, or they want to protect?

Well, according to former NYSE CEO Dick Grasso, they want to protect “the least sophisticated person in the market.”  Because “ [w]hen we protect that person, the market flourishes.

If you’re shorting your stock, circuit breakers don’t help you. If you’re long, circuit breakers don’t help you. It only impedes the market movement.

So why do we want to do this? Simple:  “they” want the amateurs to be safe. There is no professional trader that wants a circuit breaker to stop the market movement.  Well, unless he or she is on the wrong side of the trade. Then, of course, they want to be saved from their wrong decision.

If I’m long, I want the market to go up, unimpeded by the regulator’s circuit breaker. If I’m short, I want the market to go down unimpeded by the regulator’s circuit breaker.  And circuit breakers on individual stocks are a particularly bad idea for the dedicated trader. If Company X goes is verging on bankruptcy, that trader needs to dump his stock, but individual stock circuit breakers could prevent that transaction.

So what are they thinking about? They want to save you and your retirement dollar. WHAT? If they knew what they were talking about they would not talk. If I invested in any index fund 30 years ago, would I care about a circuit breaker? Of course not, I do not trade my retirement funds. I invest it and leave it there until I need to retire, 30 years later.

Ask anyone over 40, that has any experience in Las Vegas. Yes, Las Vegas. You only bet on sure things, and there are none in Las Vegas or on Wall Street. Bet against the house, any Wall Street firm or the Casino, and you lose. Invest in a no load indexed mutual fund, invest every week, day, month, year, the same amount all of the time, and you will end up with more money.

No one wins all of the time, every time.  Except the house, because they take a commission. That is why the banks, failed, why the traders failed, why if you gamble you fail. But if you are an investor you do not care. You invest money consistently every day, or month, or week, or year, all the time and you keep doing it, through the life of the your earning lifetime. You win.

If you gamble you may win, you may lose. If you trade, you do provide liquidity to the rest of the market. And you give the real investor the opportunity to leave the market 30 years after he or she started. Real investors do not panic. If the market is down when they invest it, always goes up. If the market is up when they invest, it always goes down.

Real investors never worry, because the market trend is always up. Yes, always. Go ahead, look at the market in 1776, and look at it today, ok, 1930 and today, 1950 and today, I do not care any day and today or any day plus 30 years. On a thirty year moving average, since 1776, the market has gone up. REALLY. Yes, there are flat parts. But it goes up.

So, no, I do not want somebody in Washington to decide when I should invest, or not invest, or turn the lights on, or turn the lights off. Let me decide, and let the gamblers take their chances.  Give me liquidity!

The Dow, down a 1000 points, was back up in two days, and down again. Did you correctly guess the direction, every hour, every day, of course not. No one did. No one can. Did you loose $1 trillion?

No.  No one did. The market goes up, and it goes down. Investors win, gamblers win some, lose some. And regulators keep trying to normalize a system built around (relatively) free-market forces.

Feeling wound up about this issue?  Go sit in on the SEC’s upcoming meeting.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.


And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Fair Debt Collection

Odds are you’ve been contacted by a debt collector at some point. Even if it wasn’t your debt, maybe they called you about your ne’er-do-well brother, cousin, or ex-boyfriend. You know that debt collector is just doing his or her job, but it’s really frustrating!

Well, sometimes it’s not just frustrating it’s illegal. There are a host of consumer protection laws, on both the state and federal levels, which protect consumers from unfair debt collection practices. The Federal Trade Commission has some great information about federal laws. Specifically you can find a user friendly guide to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as well as the entire text of the Act.

A few of the highlights include:

  • Debt Collectors should not call you before 8 am or after 9 pm without your permission
  • Debt Collectors cannot use any violence of threats of violence
  • Debt Collectors cannot use profanity
  • Debt Collectors cannot continuously phone you in a manner intended to harass, abuse, or annoy
  • Debt Collectors must disclose their identity in a meaningful way

This list barely scrapes the surface of the protections of the Act, and if you feel you’re being harassed, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the full text, including your remedies. You should also investigate the protections your state offers.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Controlling Your Online Image

When we were in the military we were often told not to do anything that we wouldn’t want the whole world to read about on the cover of the Washington Post. Or the Dallas Morning News, or whatever local paper was handy. Sound advice for a new recruit, struggling with his or her role in the framework of the larger military. But sound advice for everyone, not just military personnel.

But these days merely controlling one’s public behavior is not enough. The recruiter ought to also tell his recruits to be very careful about controlling their online persona, as well.

What’s this got to do with lawyering, you ask? Well, jurors, judges, opposing counsel, future employers, current employers, disgruntled romantic interests and everybody else all have one thing in common: access to the internet! And while it’s true that jurors and judges—in particular jurors— shouldn’t be indiscriminately Googling, blogging, tweeting, or texting about ongoing trials, the reality is that they do. A lot. Even if they are told not to. By the judge.

So we can ignore the reality—that folks are going to use the internet when they shouldn’t—and try to fix these problems on appeal, or we can face the problem and act proactively. If you’re like me, and prefer the proactive route, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Change your privacy settings for any social media. Often sites will have their own tutorials on this subject or you can find information posted by helpful users. Read the guides, check your settings, and update them frequently.
  2. Monitor your online presence. This is like fixing your credit score. You can’t make it better, if you don’t know it’s bad. So Google yourself. Put your name in quotes and out, run an images only search. What comes up? Anything bad? If so, can you change it? Maybe it’s an embarrassing picture posted by a “friend.” In that case, ask that it be removed, the label taken off, etc. These are not instant fixes, as the history will remain available indefinitely, but it’s a start.
  3. Remember that everyone is not your friend. It is okay not to be friends with everyone. For example, that guy you sat next to in math class a decade ago, you know, the one who likes to post embarrassing drunk pictures? Jurors on your DWI case will not be impressed that he’s your friend. It’s also okay to de-friend someone. On Facebook, at least, there is no notification if you de-friend someone. Go through and purge those folks that you only met once at a party three years ago.
  4. Be prepared to address negative or questionable content. You should know what’s out there, and particularly in a job interview, be prepared to respond to questions or concerns.

It’s unfair and sometimes illegal that the internet can be used against us so easily. But it doesn’t do your or your attorney any good to ignore the incredible source of information, good and bad, that jurors and everybody else will be using to learn about you.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!