FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2008 AT 01:07AM
I’ve been playing close attention to the economic crisis that plagues our country. These are difficult times for millions of Americans. As I watched the early morning news today, I saw that the latest employment report revealed that employers shed more than 240,000 jobs in October. Since the beginning of 2008, over 1.8 million jobs have vanished.
Watching the news from inside a federal prison is troubling. On the one hand, as a prisoner I know that administrators will provide me with food, clothing and shelter. Prisons are somewhat communistic in this twisted way. Nevertheless, I struggle with the news that tens of millions of families are about to begin the holiday season without any resources.
Further, I’ve had to watch the deteriorating value of my own assets. Since my imprisonment the stock market has taken a horrible tumble. Prior to self-surrendering, I made necessary arrangements with my financial advisor, which included giving him total discretion over my portfolio. We strategically purchased many stocks, including General Electric, Goldman Sachs and the now bankrupt Lehman Bros. Our strategy was to sell these stocks into any rally. Therefore, upon arriving at Taft, I wasn’t worried when I saw these positions fluctuating anywhere between 20, 30 and 50%. I presumed we’d already sold them, along with a host of my other positions. Unfortunately, I found out many months into my confinement that Merrill Lynch had frozen my assets due to my felony conviction. They did not send me a letter explaining their position. I only found out when my good friend and advisor took the day off to come and visit me. I was shocked, disappointed and disturbed. We now know the damage to the equity market had already begun. Lehman Bros. went bankrupt and Goldman Sachs and General Electric were nearly cut in half. My portfolio remains frozen to this day as I attempt to work within stringent prison rules to try and facilitate a transfer to another brokerage firm.
My real estate holdings have also taken a hit. I entered prison with confidence and felt I was well positioned to weather the storm. Instead, I received demands for cash calls in order to keep current with debt-to-equity ratios on my investments. I’ve watched my vacancy rates rise and equity drop to lower levels.
These set backs obviously complicate the prison experience. I wish that I had known more about the impotence that prison brings. I have not been able to monitor the status of any affairs in real time, much less act as necessary to lessen the bleeding. Had I known about the limitations that come with confinement, I would have taken more precautions to hedge against the down slide.
Ironically, as I watch the financial meltdown, I think more about others than my own problems because I know that this crisis will result in legal problems for tens of thousands who do not think of themselves as criminals. Many will commit crimes such as bankruptcy fraud, mortgage fraud and securities fraud without even understanding the implications.
I hope to help others avoid the struggles that have become part of my life because I am convinced that many more will feel the pain.