Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why is "shareholder" an accusation?

I was listening to a radio ad from AARP this morning and there was a call to help elderly investors who lost money. After all, these people are retirees who put their money into companies and were victimized when they went broke.

I hear it all the time - the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room sympathetically interviewed an Enron line worker who invested everything* in the company and lost. When a company makes bad investments or acts unethically and damages its own value, the victims are the poor, humble investors. Either they bought stock directly, or a fraction of the stock through mutual funds.

But when a company does make money, close down old factories or shut out a selfish union, the "blame" rests on the CEO, the board of directors and the greedy shareholders.

But investors and shareholders are the same thing.

It's exactly like what Todd Zywicki said in an interview on debt. People think debt is bad and credit is good, even though they are the same thing.

When it's time to pity them, they are investors - regular middle class people from all races who just want to save for retirement. When it's time to hate them, they become shareholders - greedy white fat cats who blow cigar smoke rings and frown.

*Free investing tip: Fools puts all their eggs in one basket. Diversity your portfolio.

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