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Summary and Comments

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1998-05-15 09:41:37


SEC Offers a List of Y2K Questions for Your Broker



I have never seen anything like this.

The Securities & Exchange Commission, which regulates the U.S. securities industry, has posted a list of very specific questions that it recommends that investors send their brokers.

This is called "putting pressure from the bottom." Meanwhile, the SEC is putting pressure from the top.

This is evidence of how seriously the SEC takes Y2K.

The same questions can be sent by shareholders directly to individual companies.

My suggestion: You're fishing for a signed letter saying that the firm will be ready for testing by a certain date. It will probably be December 31, 1988. That's the "lawyer's boilerplate response" date. Save this letter.

The day after that date arives, send another letter. Refer to the first one. Enclose a photocopy of the first one. Ask if the code repair is complete and if testing has begun.

You will get a negative answer ("but we'll be testing Real Soon Now") or no answer. That will be your tip-off that y2k is not going to be fixed.

* * * * * * * *

The "Year 2000 problem" arises because most computer systems and programs were designed to handle only a two-digit year, not a four-digit year. When the year 2000 begins, these computers may interpret "00" as the year 1900 (e.g., 1997 is seen as "97") and either stop processing date-related computations or will process them incorrectly. To prevent this, companies need to examine their computers and programs, fix the problem, test their systems, test interactions with other organizations, and certify their computer systems as year 2000 compliant -- all before the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999.

While the government is monitoring this problem, there are no guarantees. The best advice we can give anyone concerned about the year 2000 problem is to ask questions.

As a Customer of a Brokerage or a Shareholder of an Investment Company, Ask Your Broker or Money Manager ...

What is your firm doing to become year 2000 compliant?

How can I be satisfied that your firm will be ready on time?

If your firm is not ready, how could I be affected?

Assuming that your firm will be ready, what is being done to make sure that the exchanges, clearing agencies, and other market participants are also ready?

Are there provisions to test operations with the exchanges, clearing agencies, and other market participants before 2000? Will your firm be participating in any industry-wide tests?

What will happen if I want to sell some stock in December 1999 or early January 2000 and your firm or some other market participant is having computer problems and my sale is delayed or possibly can't be executed at all on the day I placed the order? What will your firm do for me in that situation?

Is your firm's research department evaluating companies' compliance with year 2000 and the effect their compliance might have on their bottom line before you make buy and sell recommendations?

How can I be assured that my interest and dividend payments will not be affected on January 2000?

As an Investor or Shareholder in a Public Company, Ask the Company or Your Broker or Financial Adviser Recommending the Investment ...

What is the company doing to prepare its computers for the year 2000?

What will be the effect of the year 2000 problem on the company?

Is the year 2000 only an internal operational problem for the company, or will it have an effect on the company's products and/or services?

What is the company's schedule for fixing and testing your systems? Can you send me a copy of the company's schedule?

How do the company's costs in addressing the year 2000 problem affect its bottom line? Do these costs have a material financial effect? Can I see something in the company's recent reports or other public statements in which the company discusses its approach to the year 2000 problem?

Even if you don't believe the costs or potential effects of the year 2000 are material, can you tell me how much the year 2000 problem will cost the company?

Have any of the company's officers or members of the board bought personal liability insurance specifically for year 2000 problems?

As a manufacturer or supplier of [computer equipment, software, medical equipment, computer services, ...], are you concerned about the potential liabilities associated with the company's products or services? What is your best assessment of corporate exposure to legal actions arising from equipment or software failures associated with the company's products or services?


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