“Another Bank to Fail: Gone Fishin’ Portfolio?” Oxford Club

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, September 17, 2008

Alexander Green at the Oxford Club has been sending out a series of emails touting not an investment newsletter, but his own recently published book: The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio. I’ve heard from a lot of you that this is of interest, though I haven’t read the book, so I thought I’d take a gander at the email.

The interesting thing is perhaps not that he has this book that advocates what I assume is a fairly conservative asset allocation and dividend reinvestment portfolio (that’s what comes to mind if you’re goin’ fishin’ — certainly no active trading and not a lot of individual stock holdings, at least not small or vulnerable stocks). No, what’s interesting is the ad that’s wrapped around this push for you to buy the book.

You see, the subject line of the ad doesn’t promise you yet another investing book that will slowly get you rich — it promises that there is another bank to fail after Lehman Brothers.

And so far, that prediction — or at least, the specific company they must be referring to — has been quite wrong, this is one of the banks that we can be pretty sure now will not fail, even if Green’s “blockbuster” revelations in his book shake them to their foundations (for which I’ll not hold my breath).

This is how the ad teases this point:

“Score Huge on This Wall Street Bank’s ‘Darkest Secret’

“After eight long years, a deep insider from Wall Street’s biggest investment bank is “blowing the
whistle” on their deepest, darkest secret… It’s an event that could put this bank out of business… while making you $105,187 richer… starting five days from now…

“In fact, not only could it bring down this bank… it could affect the bottom line at more than 12 similar institutions when this news hits the mainstream.

And trust me… they deserve what’s coming.

He goes on to provide a few specifics about this bank, though in truth the tease, as I’ve said, is not really about this bank, it’s about Alexander Green’s forthcoming book:

“But here’s the good news…

“After eight years of putting together his case, a former insider from this bank – with $1.7 trillion in client assets and offices in 40 countries around the world – is finally “blowing the whistle.” And once this intelligence hits the streets…

“The age of Wall Street soaking “regular investors” and getting rich will finally come to an end.”

So what is this bank with $1.7 trillino in assets, and offices in 40 countries? A bank that used to count among its employees one Alexander Green?

Merrill Lynch (MER)

Sound familiar? Yes, far from being out of business — though that was a reasonable guess, perhaps, last week — it is now tied to one of the strongest banks still standing, Bank of America. I don’t know if Bank of America will end up being a good investment, but they certainly set themselves up nicely if the economy ever starts to turn — they’ve now got the largest consumer bank, the largest mortgage lender, and the largest brokerage firm under their umbrella. Phew.

And MER is not going out of business anytime soon — the shares were up 20% on Tuesday, though they’re essentially just tracking with Bank of America stock now that the deal has been made with BAC as the currency for the acquisition. So betting against MER won’t do you much good at this point, unless you’re convinced that BAC will fall before the deal closes, or that the deal won’t close.

And as far as this being a “victory” for all the folks who get misled by financial advisers and suckered into buying high-cost mutual funds? Well, the army of brokers at Merrill Lynch now has millions of new customers to sell to, and everyone with a sizeable Bank of America bank account will probably be getting a little ring on the phone from one of the herd.

As for the Gone Fishin’ Portfolio book — maybe I’ll read it when it comes along, but I’m guessing it’s not going to revolutionize the world. If you want simple investing that isn’t swayed too much by what the market’s doing, read Warren Buffett’s annual letters, Joel Greenblatt’s Little Book that Beats the Market, Philip Fisher’s Common Stocks for Uncommon Profits, or one of dozens of other excellent investing books. Better yet, read them all, and reading Alexander Green’s book probably wouldn’t be all that painful, either — information is power, and I have no qualms with someone selling me a $20 book if I learn something. A $2,000 subscription, however, is another matter entirely.