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Straightforward Investing Since 1969

The investment advisory firm of O’Brien Greene & Co. provides independent investment management to a diverse clientele. Individuals, families, and corporate retirement plans make up the majority of clients, although longtime clients also include trusts, insurance companies, and charitable endowments. We seek the preservation and growth of capital through good and bad markets, and our investment strategy emphasizes several themes: simple, transparent, separate accounts; direct ownership of high-quality stocks and investment-grade bonds; diversification across the market; customized portfolios with a high degree of personal attention. The firm has more than $270 million under management and its offices are located in suburban Philadelphia in the borough of Media, Pennsylvania.

Review & Outlook

Our take on the investing, financial, & economic themes of the day

‘Liquid Alternative’ ETFs: Making a Bad Idea Worse

21 October, 2014 by Matthew O'Brien, Ph.D. in Commentary
We’ve written a number of skeptical posts on the recent broker-led push for “liquid alternatives,” which are hedge funds investment strategies offered through mutual funds.  Now comes this report from Bloomberg News that Goldman Sachs is considering buying IndexIQ, a firm that provides hedge funds wrapped not in mutual funds, but in exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Mutual funds, which have their net asset values determined once daily, are required to provide liquidity to their shareholders each day.  ETFs, by contrast, are traded on market exchanges throughout each day, so they must provide momentary liquidity as long as markets are open.  ETFs are made possible by complicated market-making activities and in-kind exchanges.  Liquid alternative mutual funds are a bad idea because most alternative assets are of their nature illiquid, and holding illiquid assets through a liquid wrapper doesn’t make the underlying illiquidity disappear.  Rather, the liquidity ... read more...

What We’re Reading: October 16

16 October, 2014 by Matthew O'Brien, Ph.D. in Commentary
Thursday’s Links Bad Money Is Undermining Growth (Forbes) Risk of Deflation Feeds Global Fears (WSJ) AbbVie Board Recommends Shareholders Vote Against Shire Acquisition (WSJ) Apple Hopes to Revive iPad Growth With New Tablets (WSJ) Greece Forces Bond Investors to Confront Risk Realities (WSJ) Governments Need Inflation, Economies Don’t (RealClearMarkets) Citigroup Sees $1.1 Trillion Stimulus From Oil Plunge (Bloomberg) Chart of the Day Via FT Alphaville and BofA’s “Thundering Word,” we have the “Alibaba peak”: the S&P 500’s high before the recent sell-off came 8 minutes after Alibaba’s IPO. read more...

Is This the Long-Awaited Correction?

15 October, 2014 by Mark O'Brien in Commentary
As I write this Wednesday afternoon the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 423 points and most other market indices are also down sharply.  Remember that with the DJIA’s growth over recent years, a 423-point drop is “only” 2.6%.  Still, following three other “down” market days bracketing the holiday weekend, this may be the long-awaited 10% correction. A correction might well be expected after the DJIA’s run-up of roughly 200% from March 2009 to its high in September of this year.  If a correction is underway it may reflect the winding-down of the Federal Reserve’s “Quantitative Easing” (QE) stimulus program, or the declining price of oil.  It is not, however, a sign of a broken economy so much as it is a natural and healthy wringing out of speculation and other forms of excess, a process that our system seems to require from time to time.  Putting up with uncertainty and anxiety appears to be the price of admission to the wealth-creating process that is the market. While every ... read more...

What We’re Reading: October 15

15 October, 2014 by Matthew O'Brien, Ph.D. in Commentary
Wednesday’s Links No Smoke, No Mirrors: The Dutch Pension Plan (New York Times) Global Oil Glut Sends Prices Plunging (WSJ) A High-Speed Trader Looks to Slow Down Critics (WSJ) MLPs Have Been Getting Crushed. Blame the Newbies? (WSJ) Fears About Eurozone Economy Chill European Markets (WSJ) Qualcomm Pounces On U.K. Chip Maker in $2.48 Billion Deal (WSJ) Catalonia: Spain’s Separatist Tinderbox (Bloomberg) Chart of the Day   read more...

Yet Another 401(k) Fee/Fiduciary Lawsuit Moves Forward

14 October, 2014 by Matthew O'Brien, Ph.D. in Commentary
Writing in Pensions & Investments, Robert Steyer reports that New York Federal District Court Judge Sidney Stein has ruled against Citigroup and allowed plaintiffs to proceed with a lawsuit against Citi for alleged “self-dealing” in packing its own 401(k) plan with overpriced affiliated funds. The case is now 7 years old. The original complaint made allegations of fiduciary breach relating to the merger in July 2001 of Travelers Group and Citicorp to form Citigroup, Mr. Stein’s opinion said. The corporate merger resulted in the merger of respective 401(k) plans into a single Citigroup plan.  The issue before Mr. Stein was based on the merged 401(k) plan offering some mutual funds affiliated with Citigroup as well as funds not affiliated with Citigroup. The two lead plaintiffs say they each invested in one of the affiliated funds, “which they allege all charged excessive fees,” thus causing a breach of fiduciary duty, Mr. Stein’s ruling said. Citigroup benefited by ... read more...