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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

Post-Election Reflections

10 November, 2016 by Mark O'Brien in Commentary
What If Trump wins which, we are told, is more likely than the polls would suggest?  The result could be a bit like the aftermath of the Brexit vote:  a sharp selloff, and then a rebound as investors rediscover that the president is part of a much larger system of overlapping and competing majorities, and that he alone is not all that powerful.  Speaking of federalism, the stock market prefers the president and Congress to be from different parties, which is, the polls say, what we will get. The above is what I wrote clients in my most recent appraisal letter.  With these conclusions in mind, I dragged myself out of bed yesterday morning and got to the office thinking I would snap up some bargains at the open, which I expected to be down 1,000 points, maybe more. With computer at the ready, I sat and waited, and waited some more.  You know the rest: The stock market did not collapse.  Instead it went up at the open and continued to go up all day long. The stocks that went up the ... read more...

Why We Sold Wells Fargo

19 October, 2016 by Matthew O'Brien, Ph.D. in Commentary
Below is an excerpt from our sell report for Wells Fargo.  Many commentators have missed the real significance of the bank scandal, we think, which is about managerial negligence and a weak commitment to its fiduciary obligations to the shareholder owners of the bank.  Wells Fargo’s management imposed unreasonable sales targets on employees and then failed to grasp the consequence, which was the widespread opening of fake accounts, even as management pocketed “performance” compensation for (falsely) reaching cross-selling goals.      On September 8 enforcement actions against Wells Fargo was were made public by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Los Angeles City Attorney, which collectively fined the bank $185m.  The government agencies alleged that Wells Fargo engaged in “widespread illegal activity” and said that employees had opened as many as two million checking, savings and credit card accounts ... read more...

Twenty years from now, would you rather be paid in euros or pounds?

17 October, 2016 by Matthew O'Brien, Ph.D. in Commentary
I asked myself this question as I read the commentary about the recent sell-off in the pound sterling.  Here is the pound against the dollar: Many commentators have taken the opportunity of the sell-off to castigate Brexit and Britain’s new prime minister, who seems bent on implementing the results of the referendum and not slowly walking it back.  Thus Martin Wolf, the leading economic mandarin at the Financial Times, pronounced that the sell-off was the market’s verdict on Brexit’s foolishness.  Yet it seems much more foolish to me to divine in short-term currency fluctuations any judgements about sovereignty.  Let’s also remember that the Bank of England’s policy response to Brexit has been to weaken the pound, so it’s hard to argue that a weakening pound is itself somehow clearly attributable to Brexit alone.  In any case, if today you gave me an annuity that started paying twenty years from now — choosing either in pounds or euros ... read more...

Professed Sentiment vs. Deliberate Action: What Investors Say Often Isn’t What They Do

13 October, 2016 by Mark O'Brien in Commentary
In the mid-1980s I noticed that many portfolio managers, like myself, said they were bullish but were not managing their portfolios that way.  That’s because the previous ten years or so had been so bad that one just could not imagine they were really over.  Thus portfolio managers and other investors said one thing while doing another.  You can understand why. When I graduated from college in 1973, the Dow broke 1,000 for the first time.  Ten years later, the Dow was 740, and this did not include an adjustment for inflation, which was horrible in the period. Now I notice that portfolio managers and other investors say they are bearish about stocks. In the often backwards and upside down world of stock investing, such bearish sentiment is often taken as a positive.  How’s that?  If investors are already negative, they cannot turn that way.  So, presto, bad is good. But are portfolio managers really acting out of bearish sentiment right now?  I’m not so sure. It ... read more...

Reflecting on the Culture of Investing

11 October, 2016 by Mark O'Brien in Commentary
The occasion was a luncheon in the mid-1980’s at the Union League Club of Philadelphia, followed with a talk by Sir John Templeton, the great investor and benefactor.  After a short talk, Sir John took questions, the first of which was his best investment idea for making money. I was a member of the audience and can say that I was sorely disappointed in the answer, for I was then a young man in a hurry, newly out on my own as a money manager, and hungry for investment ideas that would make money—preferably a lot of money—for my clients, and thereby help me attract new clients and build a larger investment-advisory business. “My best investment idea for making money?” replied Sir John.  He paused.  He surveyed the room.  He took more time.  The luncheon guests shifted in their chairs, pens at the ready, the air crackling with anticipation.  Sir John looked into the faces of those present, studied them, and after a long time said, “My best investment idea for you, for each of you, ... read more...