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Investing: Little Guy Deserves a Break

Updated on December 7, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU 1964. Worked in NYC in public relations 2 years then as reporter/news editor 32 years at The Hour newspapers. Retired in 2000.

'Queen of Mean' Leona Helmsley

Businesswoman Leona Helmsley
Businesswoman Leona Helmsley

The little guy not only pays most of the taxes, as "Queen of Mean" Leona Helmsley once said, but, although Helmsley didn't say it, he nearly always gets the dirty end of the stick as well.

The more I watch the gyrations of the stock market -- I guess you could call it a hobby of mine -- the more agitated I get.

It is clear, I think, that the federal government not only allows the stock exchanges and big brokerage houses an unfair advantage over individual investors, it actually endorses the practice.

Initial Public Offerings: Unfair?

If you, like me, are one of the "little guys," you're probably talking to yourself -- as I do every time I see one of those IPOs go through the roof on the first day or two after it hits the market. That's because IPOs (initial public offerings of previously private companies) are not available to the average investor until days later when the price of the stock already has doubled, tripled or quadrupled. Is that fair?

I also can be seen talking to myself every time I see companies report bigger than expected losses or profits "after the bell." While a few savvy traders can sidestep this one, the big brokerages and wealthy investors can easily dump their shares or buy more, in after-hour trading or in stock exchanges outside the area before trading opens in the regular markets the next day. Is that fair?

Insider Trading?

Big brokerages get to talk with companies about their earnings in private consultations before the information becomes public. There's little question that some insiders take advantage of this information illegally, generally without getting caught. Is that fair?

I could give myriad specific examples of these unfair situations, but I believe anyone who has any interest in the market could tick off a long list of his own. Besides, the moment one brings up a specific company it's greeted by accusations of bias or special interest -- that would be a distraction.

Little Guy Left Holding the Bag

By virtue of their positions as full-time professionals, brokerages already know long before individual investors what the prospects are for companies before they report quarterly results (perhaps even the exact figures.) The little guy, as always, is left holding the bag!

Favoritism toward the big guy is nothing new, of course, but, now that large numbers of individuals are becoming involved in the markets either directly or indirectly through mutual funds or retirement accounts -- a few are getting a closer look at the shenanigans by way of the Internet -- the shouts of some victims are beginning to be heard.

Individuals should be given the same access to market-moving information that now is available only to the privileged few. That would be fair.

Time for Congressional Action

While the unequal access to information has existed for decades, the time is ripe for the Securities & Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board -- and Congress -- to take a close look at the problem and end the shameless unfairness of the situation.

Maybe even the venerable Alan Greenspan could hop off his political fence long enough to point out that these inequities should be eliminated.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaperof Norwalk, Conn., on March 3, 2000.

Do Brokerage Houses Have an Unfair Advantage over the Average Investor?

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Clips Related to the Leona Helmsley Tax EvasionTrial


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    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      There's no question about that, Rent Office Space. The little guy has never had it very well, but these days things are getting even worse for him as the gap between rich and poor widens beyond reason.

    • profile image

      Rent Office Space 

      8 years ago

      The little guy not only pays most of the taxes, as "Queen of Mean" Leona Helmsley once said, but, although Helmsley didn't say it, he nearly always gets the dirty end of the stick as well.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you, Froggy213. The Fat Cats are purring right now.

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 

      9 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      Long time since I have commented on one of your pieces my friend, but I must say you hit the nail on the head with this one. The little guys back is broke from being stood on by the fat cats. Thanks Mr Torpey for another great hub.

      I think I will share this one on Facebook

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      The "little guy," Yvonne, will never have the resources to overcome the power of the "big guys." Just today Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the guy with the most knowledge and information on the American economy, "admitted" he was wrong to trust the big banks to protect their shareholders and their own equity. That's malarky. Everyone familiar with the markets knew the banks were not only overextended but treading in unethical if not illegal territory. In reality, the only thing we can do now is to elect politicians who will stand up to the corporations. Throw the current rascals out and elect new rascals!

    • profile image

      Yvonne Mcdonough 

      11 years ago

      ive never dabbled in stocks and shares william, maybe if i knew someone who could pass inside info that the shares were a dead cert maybe then, as it is a know nothing about them, could the little guys not form a society that fights this,

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Your comments and kind words are always welcome, Zsuzsy. While it's true things never seem to change, I'm nevertheless hoping for some positive changes after the Nov. 4 elections here. Maybe the little guy will get at least a "little" break this time.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      11 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      As usual a great Hub again William. Thing never change. Our politics and money markets up here in Canada are a photocopy of yours. It's always the little guy that takes the brunt of it.

      Kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      You and your mother are not alone, NYLady. Unfortunately, many of us "little guys" seek the advice of the "big guys" to find out what they should do in a crisis like the one we're in now. It's like asking the fox how to keep the hens safe.

    • NYLady profile image


      11 years ago from White Plains, NY

      I'm looking at my 401Ks and pretty much weeping. But my 75-year-old mother? She's driving me crazy, trying to figure out how she can preserve her investments. And yes, we're both little guys. Great hub, Mr. T.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      The first rule the average investor needs to follow, Karen, is never to play the market with money you might need for something more important. That has become very clear recently in financial circles.

    • Karen Ellis profile image

      Karen Ellis 

      11 years ago from Central Oregon

      I guess I don't understand why anyone would be a part of putting their hard earned cash into a gamling situation that changes everytimes some economic star sneezes. You would have more control at a crap table.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      The excesses of the banks, the mortgage lenders and others, combined with the Bush Administration's endorsement of their unchecked "free market" behavior leave only the hope that changes can be made by a new administration in Washington. I find it incredible that anyone would even consider that the failed policies of the past eight years should continue for another four, or even eight, years. Thank you, Marian, for your very welcome comment.

    • Marian Swift profile image

      Marian Swift 

      11 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Remarkably timely Hub, William, especially considering it was written 8 years ago!

      Maybe the best we can hope for from all the upheaval is increased public awareness, plus the commitment to do something about it.  Fantasy?  Hope not.  But a person needs some hope to cling to.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      We're not alone, Ralph, hot dorkage and compu-smart. As of now my poll shows a unanimous belief that the brokerage houses have an unfair advantage over the rest of us. I appreciate all your interesting comments.

    • compu-smart profile image


      11 years ago from London UK

      Its a shame that this is the reality William, and its good that you highlight and educate thers who still do not know or believe this is unfortunately how things are and will be for many more years at least!

      hot dorkage sums things up pretty well too!;)

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 

      11 years ago from Oregon, USA

      So what else is new? All animals are equal except some are more equal than others. (Orwell) Life is fair, it's just more fair if you have money. (hot dorkage) And the Colombian saying I love "los de ruana" it refers to the traditional garb worn by the andinos, and probably scorned by the european overlords. I've worn ruanas or sarapes as they're known in Mexico for years because I guess I am not shaped correctly for a woman and most jackets bind. But I never knew that my ruana caused the law to bite me. Now I do. Let's face it, our beloved USA is just another American corruption fiasco in the western hemisphere, like Bolivia. or Colombia.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Old Colombian saying: "The law is a mad dog that bites only the poor."

      "La ley es un perro rabioso que no muerde sino a los de ruana."

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Your not a little guy in my eyes, Dottie. I'm entirely out the market just now and watching big business sink into the hole created by world's smartest CEO's. I think I'll re-read one of my old hubs titled "Is It Safe to Invest in Stocks?" Thanks for laugh, Dottie, and for the kind remarks -- and the thumbs up!

    • Dottie1 profile image


      11 years ago from MA, USA

      Love the title "Little Guy Deserves  A Break"!  I was wondering who this little guy was you were addressing and had to come see.  I didn't know you were going to be writing about me today!  Thanks William and I do hate getting the dirty end of the stick. LOL

      I peeked at my stock a couple days ago and almost got sick.  It's just NOT fair.  Great hub.  thumbs up high!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I'd settle for that, Chef Jeff. Thanks for commenting.

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 

      11 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Just a fair playing field would be nice.


      Chef Jeff


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