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Trust Wall Street?

http://finance.yahoo.com/loans/article/108787/will-we-ever-again-trust-wall-street?sec=topStories&pos=2&asset=&ccode=

Will We Ever Again Trust Wall Street?

by Jason Zweig
Monday, February 8, 2010

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EXCERPTS:

For many investors, the market’s turbulence hasn’t just destroyed wealth. It has shattered their faith in the financial system itself.

Consider Philip Eberlin, 56 years old, who runs a woodwork-restoration business in Chicago Heights, Ill. Trading hot stocks a decade ago, Mr. Eberlin got burned on picks like Krispy Kreme and Tyco. In 2007 he got back into stocks, only to take another hit.

“Having been burned twice in 10 years,” says Mr. Eberlin, he now has about 80% of his family’s assets “protected from the market” in certificates of deposit and fixed annuities. “I don’t have trust in Wall Street to help the small investor in any way, shape or form.”

Mr. Eberlin isn’t alone. Late last year, Decision Research of Eugene, Ore., asked Americans how much they trusted bankers and other Wall Street leaders “to reduce the risk of the financial challenges the country is facing now.” On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning no trust at all, the rating averaged a paltry 1.7….

This time around, however, many investors who followed the best advice were punished the worst. Someone who held a total-stock-market index fund lost more than 58% from October 2007 through March 2009 and remains 31% behind even after last year’s recovery.

These people can’t blame themselves; they did as they had been told. Meanwhile, they watched Wall Street firms parcel out billions in bonuses….

How can faith be restored?

Wall Street firms need to be forthright in admitting their shortcomings. The more they protest their innocence, the more they make the typical investor feel that the financial world is unjust.

The Pecora hearings, held in the U.S. Senate in the 1930s, served partly as a form of public expiation, in which Wall Street’s leaders apologized for their firms’ conduct. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, formed by Congress in 2009 and now holding its own hearings, may help investors feel that Wall Street can own up to its mistakes.

Finally, financial advisers need to be much less dogmatic and confident in their predictions. By admitting the extent of their own ignorance today, they would help prevent investors from feeling railroaded tomorrow.

http://www.jasonzweig.com/bio.html

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