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INVESTMENT RIP-OFFS! 

INVESTMENT RIP-OFFS! It had to happen.

You may have noticed that the frequency of the Outrage has greatly diminished.
 Hopefully this notice has been accompanied by great yelps indicative of stomach-churning anguish, blood- curdling screams and deep moans about the injustice of life - y'know, the way you acted when your first lover said that he/she just wanted be...friends.

For those of you who haven't noticed that we've gone from the Daily Outrage to the usually-monthly Outrage, all we can say is that we sincerely wish you well as you blindly stumble through life, you insensitive clod.

Yes, because none of our many readers decided to commit suicide and donate their estate to The Outrage, we have been forced to do the unthinkable - get real jobs. (Do you see how really thoughtless it was of you to force us to do this?)

We held out as long as possible, but winter is coming, and our writing suffers when we shiver. Plus, we were getting kinda tired of the man coming around:

"You boys planning on paying the rent anytime soon?"

"Ahhh...yes, sir, you bet...we're expecting that letter of intent from Time-Warner any day now."

We had managed to hide from the world of bosses and corporations for quite some time, so adjusting to the world of focus groups and corporate speak has been something of, well, an adjustment. We have, naturally enough, been Outraged by the entire process.

The first member of the Outrage gang headed to a small town in Virginia where a company sells annuities over the Internet. (Annuities are great for those of us that prefer not to pay taxes. Basically, annuities are a way of investing in mutual funds without paying taxes until you retire, when your tax rate will probably be lower.)

Annuities have typically been rip-offs; an agent throws her arms around an innocent and unsophisticated investor (read dupe) and sells them an annuity - and then walks away with a huge commission; as much as six percent or even more. (And since annuities are big ticket items - often five or six figures - we really are talking huge commissions.) Of course the target - we mean client - typically has no idea how much money the salesperson is making.

This very scenario happened to poor Mother Outrage after her divorce from Father Outrage (25 years of marriage, but that's another story.) Mother Outrage ended up in the clutches of well- known investment advisor Alexandra Armstrong. Like many women, Mother Outrage made the mistake of thinking a woman, with gender sympathy, would look out for her interests better than one of those brutish male investment advisors.

With what amounted to a days work, perhaps less, Armstrong ended up with five figures worth of commissions from heavily loaded mutual funds, including an annuity. As we recall, the annuity may have had a commission as high as 8 percent - Outrageous!

Perhaps even more outrageous is the fact that, commissions aside, the investments had pathetic performance. The package, Mother Outrage's sole means of support, also included some real estate limited partnerships that lost lots of money - but not for Armstrong, who, once again, pocketed huge commissions.

Armstrong, based in Washington, has an excellent reputation and is often quoted in consumer financial rags like Money Magazine, which just shows how far you can go by shearing sheep. (Incidentally Ms. Armstrong, if you happen to read this, feel free to sue us for libel - we'll file suit for fraud, you
thieving bitch.)

Here's how the Armstrong style scam works. First of all, the "advisor" postures him or herself as an independent source of reliable planning advice, and charges fees for that advice. These fees are usually quite substantial; a couple thousand dollars per year might be typical.

The real trick is that the "independent advisor" then counsels the client into making investments that, unknown to the client, the advisor is being paid to sell. This is done by creating two separate companies - an advisory company and a legally separate trading company that actually executes the trades. In this way the "advisor" can, legally, have no conflict of interest.

Alexandra Armstrong, like many other investment "advisors" charges about $2,000 per year to recommend heavy load investments to clients. She then has her own trading firm buy the investments, paying herself sales commissions of as much as 8%, in addition to the advisory fees.

But back to our story. Outrage gang member number one ended up working for a tiny company - backed by a humongous insurance company - that produces a pretty good product, if we do say so ourselves. No sales commissions and very low fees. And with a minimum investment of only $1,000, even cheap - we mean careful - investors like our readers might ante up.

More importantly, the writing is brilliant - we know, because we wrote the stuff. And, as in The Outrage, we tell it like it is. In fact, the guy who runs the company is an Outrage reader - couldn't be too bad. 

In future editions of the Outrage we'll supplement our usual rants and raves with ammunition we're gaining in our new environment - expect some good satires on corporate speak. We'll also follow the careers of the other Outraged team members, who don't have such happy stories to tell.

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