Interest Rate Roundup

Monday, November 12, 2007

E*Trade has 4.74 million retail accounts. Mine are among 'em.

You know how they say "A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours." How about a new twist: "A banking industry problem is when your neighbor's bank fails. A banking industry crisis is when yours does."

I couldn't help a little gallows humor as I sit here watching shares of E*Trade Financial implode. The stock plunged 59% today amid worries about the company's earnings, its mortgage holdings, and large potential writedowns. A Citigroup analyst went so far as to project a 15% change of bankruptcy for E*Trade ... a suggestion that E*Trade rebutted, referring to the comments as "irresponsible."

Frankly, this news is unsettling as a customer. You don't know what to believe. You don't want to go through the hassle of transferring assets, of having your funds locked up for a period of time, and all that. And ultimately, you have SIPC coverage as a nice backstop ... plus the possibility another broker could just swoop in and sweep up the firm at a bargain price, putting an end to the "crisis." But you also can't get that nagging voice out of the back of your head that it might be better to act sooner rather than later. What a mess.


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