The Go Go Years: Forgotten 1960s Hold Lessons For Investors

I’ve seen a lot of commentary comparing the current era to the last tech boom in the late 1990s. Yet perhaps we can learn more from studying a forgotten market era- the Go Go Years of the 1960s. It was a period of intense social strife, yet the market climbed a wall of worry to record highs. Just like today, there was extreme overvaluation of a small subset of stocks fitting a certain theme. There was also the rise of weird alternative investment products, a precursor to “ESG” investing, and whole slew of shady characters. As always retail entered last, and the crash was brutal. Many corporate governance techniques that are commonplace now were pioneered during the 1960s conglomerate craze.

The Go Go Years by John Brooks is “a comedy farce to end them all, the show that had everything, deal-makers, fund managers, gambling stocks purchased respectively , offshore operations.” The author has a pretentious writing style, that almost seems like a parody at places. In spite of this (or maybe because of this), it’s an incredibly entertaining tale full of lessons for modern investors.

My notes/highlights below are organized around themes, all of which seem to have ominous parallels with the modern market environment.

  • Intense social strife
  • Old establishment losing credibility
  • Market rising a wall of worry
  • Extreme valuation of a small subset of stocks fitting a certain theme
  • Rise of weird alternative investments
  • Rise of scammers
  • Fragile plumbing
  • Violent shifts in narrative
  • Retail always last
  • Aftermath

Each crisis is unique, but there are also patterns. 

Before the crash in 1929 the financial sages had insisted repeatedly that there couldn’t be another panic like that of 1907 because of the protective role of the Federal Reserve System;  before the crash of 1969-1970 a later generation observed repeatedly that there couldn’t be another panic like that of 1929 because of the protective role of the Federal Reserve System and the Securities and Exchange Commision. In each case a severe market break had taken place about eight years earlier (1921 and 1962 respectively, followed by a period of progressively more unfettered speculation.  In each case huge, shaky financial pyramids built on minimum of cash base, had been erected by financiers eager to take advantage of the public’s insatiable appetite for common stocks. Before 1929 they had been called investment trusts and holding companies; now they were called conglomerates. In each case there had been a single market operator whom the public assigned the star role of official seer.  In the 1920s the man to whom the public ascribed almost supernatural power to divine the future prices had been Jesse L. Livermore. In the middle 1960s it was Gerald Tsai.

Social Strife

A lot of people feel like modern American society is breaking down due to political divisions. Yet the 1960s were probably worse:

By Wednesday , May 6 1970 a week after Cambodia announcement and two days after the Kent State incident, eighty colleges across the country were closed as a result of student and faculty strikes and students were boycotting classes at 300 more.
… suddenly, simultaneously from all four approaches to the intersection, like a well trained raiding force, the hardhats came. They were construction workers, many employed in the huge nearby World Trade Center project, and their brown overalls and orange and yellow helmets seemed to be a sort of uniform. Many of them carried American flags; others, it soon became clear, carried construction tools and wore heavy boots that were intended as weapons. Later it was said that their movements appeared to be directed by means of hand signals, by two unidentified men in gray hats and gray suits. There were perhaps two hundred of them.

There was even a violent riot started by war protestors at the heart of Wall Street

Most of Wall Street’s elite working population watched the carnage from high, safe windows.
Indeed there was little else they little else they sensibly could have done; no purpose would have been served by their rushing down and joining the fray. Nevertheless, there is an all too symbolic aspect to professional Wall Street’s role that day as a bystander, sympathizing, unmistakably, with the underdogs, the unarmed the peace-lovers but keeping its hans clean– watching with fascination and horror from its windows that looked out over the lovely (at that perspective ) Upper Bay with its still-green islands and its proud passing liners, and down into the canyon from which there now rose, inconveniently the cries of hurt or frightened children.

More striking parallels

There was in the middle sixties an underground current of thought in the country that said the West had failed, that its rational liberalism was only a hypocritical cover for privilege and violence, that salvation if possible at all, lay in the more intuitive approach of the East.

It has become commonplace for social commentators to say that 1968 was the year when the fabric of American life unravelled- when the moral ground shifted and quaked under American feet; when the political far left turned violent and took on ominous landmarks of the far right; when the democratic idealism and optimism of the mass of Americans seemed to become a delusion.

New York was a rough place in the 1960s:

Not by chance, cultural and social revolution hit Wall Street, New York, at the same time that it hit Wall Street, USA. It was in 1968 that New York City first came to seem ungovernable, out of hand , to large numbers of formerly optimistic citizens. Those who loved the city had clung to the belief that for all its passing anarchies- soot, noise, clogged streets, racial tensions, the deadly cycle of drugs and crime, the unconscionable strikes against the public, corruption in office- some deep, underlying civic principle of order and good will ruled it with an invisible hand, so that things would come out all right in the end. But in 1968- perhaps chiefly because of the infamous teachers strike, as shocking for the shrugging public acceptance of closed schools as for the cynical political maneuvering that caused and perpetuated it- the sinking feeling overtook many citizens that the invisible hand had disappeared, if it had ever existed and there was no longer any foundation of order.

Old establishment fading

The 1960s experienced a rapid loss of faith in the old Wall Street establishment. This parallels the rise of fintech entrepreneurs and bitcoin in the modern world.

The loss of power and influence of the Old Establishment was partly its own fault.  Morally and intellectually, it seemed to be in decline. 

Some people still believed in aura of respectability resulted in falling for major scams. 

The Old Establishment of US investing had fallen for its own fading mystique.  Believing, with tribal faith that can only be called touching, that no member of the club could make a serious mistake, the members had followed each other blindly into the crudest of traps and had paid the price for their folly.  

Wall Street provided a climate that permitted a trend to feed on itself; the quite traditional levers of Wall Street success , personal contacts and the possession of privileged information now worked in favor of the young money manager or brokerage deal-maker and against the old one.   

But the revolution in Wall Street faiths and values that the youth binge briefly produced was a necessary corrective to some venerable shibboleths, an antithesis that might later lead to a synthesis.  It taught Wall Street that old men make mistakes too.

Market Rising on a Wall of Worry

The 1960s wall of worry seems more dramatic than the Trump administration

And all through the stormy course of 1967 and 1968, when things had been coming apart and it had seemed that the center really couldn’t hold- the rising national economic crisis culminating in a day when the dollar was unredeemable in Paris, the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy Assassinations, the shame of the Chicago Democratic convention, the rising tempo of student riots– the silly market had gone its merry way, heedlessly soaring upward as if everything were O.K. or would surely come out O.K. as mindlessly, maniacally euphoric as a Japanese beetle in July. Or as a doomed man enjoying his last meal. One could only ask: Did Wall Street, for all its gutter shrewdness, have the slightest idea what was really going on?

After Kennedy Inaugural:

By mid-February the stock averages were up some 15 percent from their October lows, and there began to be talk of a “Kennedy Boom”.  Not even the Cuban Bay of Pigs disaster in mid-April could stem the tide; a kweek after Castro’s men drove out the CIA backed invaders, the market was up almost 25 percent, the fastest recovery since the end of World War II

Its interesting how a wall of worry can lead to a bubble.  Investors turned from blue chips to more speculative issues.

Yet in another perhaps more important perspective, the stock market was not more closely related to American life in 1970 than in 1929; in fac t the contrary was true. In 1929, America -the America of history , the one described in books and newspapers and popular magazines and even in the intellectual journals- had been essentially still a small country consisting of people possessing either land or money.  Everybody else had been simply considered beneath notice. As the stories consisting of slaves is ignored in the idyllic histories of democracy in ancient Greece, so the majority of the poor was ignored in the social histories of America circa 1929.

Conglomerate Craze (thematic investing)

The rise of business schools made business into profession.  Business schools taught that management ability was an absolute quality- not determined by business.  Federal anti trust laws forbade most mergers between companies in same line of business- forced companies to be exogamous if they wanted to merge at all (ie empire building). 

Investors became obsessed with the “conglomerate” theme.  Conglomerates earned high valuations compared to the rest of the stock market. 

On the managers:

Each of them felt  that his company was a mesh of corporate and managerial genius in which diverse lines of endeavor- producing, say, ice cream, cement and flagpoles- were subtly welded together by some abstruse metaphysical principle so refined as to be invisible to the vulgar eye.  Other diversified companies, each such genius acknowledged , were conglomerates; but not his own.

(note this happened before in the 1920s, where it became common for companies to buy others – it happens when companies have spare money, its discussed there is the pyramiding chapter of Securities Analysis.)

New Metrics and Goodharts Law

Never before had a company’s reported earnings per share meant so much in terms of its stock-market price. 

Narratives about metrics matter as much as the metrics themselves. For the first time in US market history Earnings Per Share became a significant factor in the 1960s. During the 1920s, investors obsessed with dividends more than earnings, but after World War II, high taxes on ordinary income, and favored tax treatment of capital gains, shifted attention from dividends to earnings. The average novice investor would only focus on market price and net profit per share- the famous bottom line of the quarterly earnings report’s financial summary. This obsession with earnings per share fueled the conglomerate boom. Under the accounting rules at the time, merging allowed companies to capitalize on stock market value and boost EPS.

Earnings per share of the new, merged company in the first year of its life come out higher than those of the acquiring company in the previous year, even though neither company does any more business than before.  There is an apparent growth in earnings that is entirely an optical illusion. Moreover, under accounting procedures of the late nineteen sixties, a merger could generally be recorded in either of two ways- as a purchase of one company by another, or as a simple pooling of the combined resources.  In many cases , the current earnings of the combined company came out quite differently under the two methods, and it was understandable that the company’s accountants were inclined to choose arbitrarily the method that gave the more cheerful result.

Goodharts law definitely applies.  Once companies focused on boosting EPS, it ceased to be a good metric of actual company performance. 

As the boom continued, companies would find more aggressive ways to make acquisitions.  For example, companies could buy others with debentures, transfering cost to books of taken over company.  Additionally, they could throw in other goodies, like warrants.

Sometimes, debentures alone were not thought to be sufficient inducement to the stockholders of companies being sought for acquisition, and in such cases conglomerates augmented the tender offer with a variety of extras, of which the principal ones were warrants and convertibility What Professor Warren Law of Harvard called “the underwear of corporate securities.”

Acquirers deliberately made acquisition terms complex:

Often it was plainly intended to throw dust in the eyes of the average investor with his tunnel vision trained on the bottom line. 

This era gave rise to modern corporate governance techniques- takeover defense,  poison pills, buying other companies, changing charter, staggered terms of directors.   public proxy campaigns, etc. Additionally the roots of modern rust belt economic problems probably started during the conglomerate era:

Conglomerates’ headquarters were mostly on the two coasts , and often enough their corporate victims resided in the cities in between. The result was the repeated reduction of mid-American cities oldest established industries from independent ventures to subsidiaries of conglomerate spiderwebs based in New York or Los Angeles. Pittsburgh for one, lost about a dozen important corporations through conglomerate mergers. To Andrew Carnegie’s city, cradle of the steel industry, the conglomerate phenomenon was like a tornado that left it battered and shaken; it is unlikely to think of itself in quite the old way ever again.

Alternative Investments

There was also an alternative investments boom in the 1960s.

The funds had queer excrescences, exotic offshoot plants deriving from the same root, and the oddest of these was the hedge fund.

Some of the shadiest funds were those that nominally focused on economic development. These funds were marketed the same way modern ESG funds are marketed. In particular, there was the Mates Fund, run by Fred Mates. They employed various valuation shenanigans with unlisted stock, the same way some of the venture fund space is doing these days.

A tiny conglomerate called Omega Equities privately sold the Mates Fund 300,000 shares of common stock at $3.25 a share. Omega was then selling on the over-the counter-market at around 24, so the price was apparently an almost unbelievable bargain. But only apparently. The Omega shares that Mates bought were not registered with the SEC , and therfore could not legally be resold until they had been through such registration; for practical purposes, they were unmarketable.

This was known as letter value. Mates Fund carried these shares using the marking down the OTC price by ⅓ to $16 per share- a huge profit showed on the Mates Fund books. This was common practice in 1968, only much later in 1969 did SEC crack down…
In December 1968, SEC suspended Omega stock:

The immediate result was as disastrous for Mates as it was predictable. Many Mates Fund shareholders demanded redemption of their shares in cash, and this demand, because of the unmarketability of all Omega shares was one that the fund could not possibly meet. Technically, it had failed. But the SEC was in no mood to force it out of business and thus damage its 3,300 stockholders. Mates hastily applied to the SEC for permission to suspend redemptions for an indefinite period and the SEC hastily and meekly complied.
The fund industry shuttered. This was purest heresy; the fundamental right of share redemption without question at any time was the cornerstone of the whole $50 billion business, analogous to the right of a bank depositor to draw from his checking account; now the cornerstone was cracked, the letter stock deception suddenly exposed, and dozens of other funds came under suspicion of having similar concealed weaknesses.

Omega was later marked down to 50 cents a share by summer of 1969. By 1972, there were still on the Mates funds books- at a nickel a share. Letter stock was a faustian bargain.
A character named Bernie Cornfield also managed shady offshore funds that were marketed for their social justice value.

Its investment record was mediocre, in part because of the lavish overcompensation of its salesmen- at the expense of course , of the customers…. By early 1969, the “offshore” fund arena included about seventy firms, some of them quietly run by outwardly respectable WAll Street houses, with well over $3 billion in the American stock market, all, presumably, for the benefit of underprivileged foreing investors but more palpably for that of a ravenous rat pack of newly overprivileged American entrepreneurs

Fund Liquidity Mismatches

The founder of Gramco had interned at Whitehouse  during Kennedy years. He hired many former Kennedy administration people including ambassadors, etc. this helped with marketing.  It didn’t help with delivering results to investors.

…. A mutual fund that would invest chiefly in American real estate , rather than American stocks. Thus he would bring to his investors the benefits of the apparently endless upward trend in land and property values.  The SEC frowned on such funds because of real estate inherent lack of liquidity, but no matter; Barish planned to “invent” a new thing called “liquid real estate” ; and besides he proposed to escape the disapproving surveillance of the SEC entirely by setting up his fund in the Bahamas and selling its shares only outside the United STates, presumably to non-Americans.   

Running a real-estate fund gave the managers a golden opportunity to do what the managers of a stock fund legally could not, that is to serve as their own brokers in their transactions and collect commissions accordingly.  Moreover the fact that real estate could be bought largely on credit, as stocks could not make it possible for them to take in remarkably high commissions in relation to the amount of money invested.  

Rise of Scammers

Bull markets give rise to fraud. Scammers always make interesting characters. The author’s writing style is hilarious in places. He should have written a screenplay:

Guterma was in the mold of the traditional international cheat of spy stories- an elusive man of uncertain national origin whose speech accent sometimes suggested Old Russia, sometimes the Lower East Side of New York, sometimes the American Deep South. On occasion he presented himself as a Russian from Irkutsk, at other times as an American named McSande. Whoever he was and wherever he came from, he apparently made his first fortune in the Phillipines during World War II, running a gambling casino that catered to occupying Japanese serviceman. After that he married an American woman, survived a charge of having collaborated with the enemy, and in 1950, moved to the United States. During the succeeding decade he controlled, and systematically looted, more than a dozen substantial American companies, including listed on the New York Stock Exchange and a leading radio network, the Mutual Broadcasting Company. After some sour dealis in 1957 and 1958 left him short of cash, he was reduced to taking money from General Rafael Trujillo of the Domincan Republic in return for promises (never fulfilled to boost the Trujillo regime on Mutual. The law caught up with him, in September, 1959, he was indicted for fraud, stock manipulation, violation of federal banking laws and failure to register as the agne of a foreign government; a few months later he went to prison and vanished unmourned from the business scene.

Another (different) character fitting with the classic repeating narrative 

A smooth operator with a streak of the gambler; a company more interested in attracting investors than in making real profits; the resort to tricky accounting; the eager complicity of long-established supposedly conservative investing institutions, the desperation plunge in a gambling casino at the last minute; the need for massive central bank action to localize the disaster; and finally, reform measures instituted too late – we will see all of these elements reproduced with uncanny faithfulness in United States financial scandals and mishaps in the nineteen sixties.

In the sixties, as Wall Street moved rapidly through the revolution that made it the first genuinely public securities market in the world’s history, the crucial new element of stock trading was the financial and accounting naivete of the millions of new investors. Naivete led to a search for simplicity and simplicity as we have seen, was found in focusing attention on the bottom line. And this simplified view of business performance soon led accountants, including some of the best to descend almost unawares from their pedestals of disinterestedness to become at times the willing accomplices of ruthless corporate managements and essentially dishonest promoters.

Fiduciary duty?

Most financial services employees aren’t fraudsters. But all face conflicts of interest. These conflicts of interest are especially acute in the brokerage business. Francis C Huntington was a clergyman working as a curate at Wall Street’s Trinity Church- it was a challenging ministry that gave him inside perspective on conflicts faced in the business.

Put bluntly, Huntintgton found that many brokers felt they were under pressure to dis-serve their customers in order to increase their own and their firms’ profits. No amount of formal management caveats against speculation or investment without investigation could paper over the essential conflict of interest: it seemed to be built into the business as practiced. IF you really want to know what bugs me, “ a broker told Huntington. “Its’ the fact that I take a client out of General Motors and put him in Chrysler- when in my heart I feel that he probably shouldn’t be in any motors at all.

Back office was really screwed up:

Its shocking how fragile the plumbing of the financial system has always been. 

The rule of thumb in Wall Street in 1968 held that an acceptable level of fails on New York Stock Exchange transactions at any given time (“acceptable” the bemused observer must conclude, in relative terms) amounted to one billion dollar’s worth. 

Epic number of fails one year:

As the autumn continued and the public reached maniacally for easy money while Wall Street raked in the commision , the downtown situation took on the quality of a play by Pinter on Beckett.  One Wall Streeter told about stock certificates turning up “stuffed behind pipes in ladies’ rooms , at the bottom of trash baskets, in the backs of filing cabinets with old letters. 

This all sounds horrible,  but consider the modern system of old software cap tables on old spreadsheets,  rehypothecation, etc… are we really not closer to an epic disaster these days?  

Investors who bought one hundred shares of a stock might receive in the mail one shares, or a thousand shares, or a hundred shares of some other stock, or , frequently, an empty envelope. Sixty-dollar-a-week backroom employees, tempted by the presence of negotiable securities piled at random on every level surface round them, stole millions of dollars’ worth.

Eliminating stock certificates proved difficult because people were attached to the old ways of doing things:

Called for something more than planning or expense and something that perhaps no amount of wisdom could have accomplished- finding a way of persuading the cautious and possession-proud American stockholder that a monthly statement from his broker showing his holdings was an adequate substitute for the embossed stock certificates that he kept locked so lovingly in his bank safe-deposit box.

… Rites of passage and symbols of possession are not readily given up, even in times like 1968 when the rites and symbols themselves stand in danger of destroying what they symbolize. Some states made certificates mandatory by law.

Too much drug use probably made things worse in the 1960s:

It is that a moment arrived in Wall Street in 1968 when the necessary minions of industrial life found their work, or their lives, or both so unfulfilling as to drive them to chemical escape, that in its turn, made them incapable of performing the necessary work. The life sustaining cycle of commerce had been broken.

Fragile Financial Engineering

There were Minsky style problems in the commercial paper market, and the collapse of Penn Central Railroad was reminiscent of the problems faced by GE during the 2009 Financial Crisis.

…. the supposedly unshakable Penn Central Railroad Company, suffering from management that in retrospect would appear to have been inept beyond belief, suddenly collapsed into bankruptcy. This time, something more economically palpable was at stake than the general loss of confidence in the nation’s policies. What was at stake was the survival of the “commercial paper market,” a revolving credit system among corporations in which they borrow money short-term and unsecured, usually from each other, and in which in June 1970 there was the vast sum of $40 billion. With the Penn Central’s paper in default , the danger was that the unfortunate companies that had lent tens of millions to the Penn Central might themselves be unable to meet their obligations, and that other commercial papers might suddenly renew their loans, leading to a chain reaction ending in a classic national money panic, and of course, a stock-market collapse.

Violent Shift in Narrative

The 1960s also illustrated how violent shifts in narratives can alter stock valuations within the stock market:

For a while it was standard narrative that war was good for wall street- occaisional “peace scares” when rumors of an end to Vietnam came about, but always passed, blue chips defense contractors continued march upwards.

But sometime in late 1967 Wall Street had come to decide that the Vietnam war was bad business , and had broken the all precedent by turning decisively on war and bullish on peace. The defense contractors were no longer blue chips; one of the biggest Lockheed, would soon be in danger of bankruptcy. The peace initiatives of early 1968 had caused or contributed to a huge bull market on record volume. An unheard of phenomenon ; an old shame of Wall Street ended, to sighs of relief from financiers with consciences.

See Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events

The shift in Wall Street sentiment coincided with the shift in public anti war sentiment.  

Hippies and the efficient market theory:

Wall Street was actually kind of ignored by leftists at the time- it was a political non issues. Most stopped caring or paying attention to in. However there was a a protest where protesters threw a bunch of dollar bills of from the visitors gallery . The stock exchange responded by putting up bullet proof glass to protect it.

Retail Always Last

The mutual fund industry had a meteoric rise:

As recently as the end of World War II, the funds had been a trivial element in securities trading, with just over $1 billion under management; now the figure was $35 billion and rising fast….

Retail investors are always the last to get in before a crash.

If one fact is glaringly clear in stock-market history, it is that a new issues craze is always the last stage of a dangerous boom – a warning of impending disaster almost as infallible as Cheyne-Stokes breathing is a warning of impending death. But not so inexorable; fif heads could be cooler nad memories longer, investors both large and small, professional and amateur , might ward off danger by reading the signs, eschewing the new issues and lightening their commitments generally. But investors like other human beings, tragically repeat their mistakes; when the danger signs are plain, the lure of easy money blanks their memories and dissipates their calm. In 1929 shooters were jerrybuilt investment trusts like Alleghany, Shenandoah, and United Corporation. In 1961 they were tiny scientific companies put together by little clutches of glittery -eyed young PH.D.’s, wheir company names ending in “——-onics”. In 1968-1969, what a promoter needed to launch a new stock, apart from a persuasive tongue and a resourceful accountant was to have a “story”- an easily grasped concept, preferably related to some current national fad or preoccupation, that sounded as if it would lead to profits. Such stories , like most stories are best told quickly and concisely, and best of all within the name of the company itself. Were the new government Medicare and Medicaid programs pouring millions into the care of elderly person? A cunning investor could presumably get a piece of that action by buying stocks called Four Season Nursing Centers or United Convalescent Homes. Were people’s recreational expenditures soaring? Hardly coincidentally, there turned out to be a stock called International Leisure. Was concern about the environment a popular passion of the moment, why look – a stock called Responsive Environments! ……

Most retail investors invested in the last years of the boom. So they experienced the worst drawdowns when the crash occurred.

After the Bust

The inevitable bust was brutal, especially because inflation made it impossible to apply the usual policy prescriptions.

The Federal Reserve, worried about accelerating inflation, kept constricting the money supply , driving interest rates through the roof without apparently accomplishing its purpose , and there came to be a specter- confounding to classical economists- of a recession accompanied by runaway inflation, the worst of two apparently opposing worlds. The failure of the blue-chip Dow to reflect the true situation was becoming more pronounced all the time; the advanced guard of former high flyerses were already crashing not 20 percent like the Dow but 50 to 75 percent, and even more….
The Stock Exchange, which for some years had used the motto- “Own your share in American business, “suddenly dropped it in 1969, without explanation.

Having graduated during the recession, this sounds familiar: 

Most large industrial companies began cutting their campus recruiting visits sharply, some cutting them in half. The advanced-degree job market became a small disaster area, with new Ph.D holders taking jobs , when they could find them, at half the going rates of the years before.

Fragile Brokerage Industry

The way Wall Street financed itself became exposed after trend of bull market. Simultaneous drop in stock prices in stock prices and trading volume 1969-1970 :

History, in its economic aspect, seemed to have become a recurring nightmare from which the United States could not awake. But for Wall Street, the nightmare this time had a new dimension. In the second half of 1970, Wall Street itself, as distinguished from its hapless customers, came within a hair of plunging into irretrievable bankruptcy, and the American securities market into full-fledged socialism.

The brokerage industry was incredibly fragile. Brokerages weren’t allowed to do standard IPOs they were all heavy leveraged with very little net capital. Policy changes ultimately fixed some of the problems, but only after the entire edifice came within inches of collapse.

Yet in the latter nineteen sixties the capital structure of Wall Street itself became unsafe and unsound to a degree that, when hard times struck, it was revealed as nothing less than a scandal. It was more than a case of a physician being unable to heal itself; it was a case of a physician habitually and systematically flouting everything he had learned at medical school, including the simplest rules of personal daily hygiene.

Carnage was serious:

One hundred firms vanished through merger or liquidation in a year. 40,000 customer accounts tied up in firms under liquidation, unable to get cash or securities. Firms forced to pay into rudimentary trust fund.Finally led to legislation to create SIPC.

Much later, the elimination of fixed commissions, leading to competition on price. Elimination of private club atmosphere, and turning it into actual competitive business. This of course led to its own craziness. (see serpent on the rock). Additionally, there was also the breakdown of the gold standard, which gave rise to a great era of macro investing.

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