Those of you at Wachovia may have had hard time lately accessing the blog. (You are probably reading this via RSS). Numerous readers from the firm have written in to say they could access The Big Picture but not post comments. Several readers said they can no longer access the site.

Apparently, [some offices at] Wachovia have determined that because this site (and others like it) allow comments, it should be banned from access for all Wachovia reps lest they post a message. The theory of the compliance department is that an anonymous or named post would constitute a mass Broker/Dealer communication. Therefore, the communication must go through their compliance department.

This means that blog readers who work at Wachovia can no longer access the site from their Wachovia workstation.  [UPDATE: Some readers at Wells Fargo/Wachovia can access the site, some cannot. It seems to be on an office by office basis]

By that same logic, however, the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, both of which allow comments on stories, should also no longer be accessible.

That is, in a word, bizarre. Not only is Wachovia an exception on this issue on Wall Street –our blog traffic logs regularly show readers from Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, UBS, etc. come here — but it is a heavy handed way to police behavior. (I personally think it misstates what a mass communication from a brokerage firm or employee is, but that’s my opinion. )

An email from the compliance department to reps telling them not to post blog comments from the office seems less draconian;

Perhaps FINRA can issue a clarification this . . . ?

Category: Legal, Regulation, Weblogs

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

50 Responses to “Wachovia Compliance Stuck in 20th Century ?”

  1. leftback says:

    Schadenfreude Asset Management has recently sent an investment analyst to examine the bank’s Tier 3 assets:

  2. Mannwich says:

    @leftback: Buying the financial stocks right now is akin to “dumpster diving”.

  3. hue says:

    this isn’t all that uncommon in my personal experience. i haven’t worked in financial services in several years. back in 2001, schwab blocked access to hotmail and yahoo mail, so that employees couldn’t use personal emails. then a smaller bank i originated mortgage for in 2005, blocked commenting ability at various blogs.

  4. ben22 says:


    I had my annual compliance interview three weeks ago. I was told that if I ever used a link from your site, or any other site, any chart, etc that differed in view from my companies then I was in violation of compliance rules. The reason it came up is I had linked a chart from here to a client in an e-mail that was “red flagged” it was a chart on housing data.

    Now my company “saw opportunities” in CRE, CMBS, and had a weight of 25-30% emerging markets at the end of Q1 2008, and I am not allowed to disagree with them in writing.

  5. jacobsk says:

    Can’t they access using their iphone or blackberry?

  6. ben22 says:


    My company blackberry is also monitored. Probably not an option for Wachovia peeps.

  7. ben22 says:


    let me give you an example of how I recently was non-compliant on my bb.

    I wrote a PS to a client. In the footer above my name there are arrows like this


    I wrote the PS, which was a simple “thank you for the referral” below the arrows. That is non-compliant.

    And there are Bernie Madoff’s. Hope that helps you understand “regulation”

  8. leftback says:

    A sign that additional bad news might potentially leak from the Wachovia mortgage cesspool? The joys of Alt-A, Pay Option ARM and prime jumbos have still to be fully realized, I guess.

    Barry, even for a cynic like me, the AIG story continues to be an absolute outrage. Where’s that pitchfork?

    Rep Elijah Cummings may be one of the last few honest souls we have in Congress (“So, is Kashkari a chump?” ).
    I often think Elijah should take a few of the AIG boys down to the street in Baltimore for some education.

  9. wally says:

    It’s you; they just hate you.

  10. plantseeds says:

    Since we’re naming names, I worked for BAC in the Compliance/Regulatory Oversight area until the January employee meltdown (45,000 lay offs) and this does not surprise me at all. Many sites are blocked there including personal email, social networking , those sites that let you see your kids at daycare on the web cams, anything related to fantasy sports, gambling ( for ex.). Different departments/employees have different levels of “blockage” . At some levels (lower) on the command chain, web access beyond the company intranet is forbidden or even unavailable in some cases. FINRA licensed associates must give up passwords to sites like Facebook and Linkedin if they disclose who their employer is on the respective sites. This of course requires actual disclosure of the fact that they have page but if they do it’s reviewed…..the irony is that while this was going on, BAC ended up having to borrow 1 billion from the gubment for each associate they “let go”. And Ken Lewis refuses to admit that maybe, just maybe the Merrill “deal” et al wasn’t such a good idea after all. What a country, god bless america, and god bless Bank of America!

  11. CNBC Sucks says:

    “That is, in a word, bizarre.”

    Ritholtz, your jig is up. This morning, you have admitted to me that you are “invariably smirking or rolling my eyes” when talking about the stock market on TV. Then, you characterize Wachovia’s minor affront to personal liberties and your blog as “bizarre”, when it is so utterly petty as to be thoroughly predictable and mundane by American corporate standards. With your screw-ups today, I have pieced together The Dark Secret of The Big Picture.

    You, sir, are a sadistic tease of a muckraker, offering vague hints of a heroic champion of truth, justice, and intellectual honesty to an audience that starves for such things, but in reality, all you do is whip lonely men of intelligence into a frenzy for your personal amusement. You are fully aware of the total, systematic, unfair, and irreparable corruption of our capital markets, our economy, our very lives, and yet you continually manipulate us with these highly crafted peeps and squeaks of injustice, only to laugh silently (or loudly) at our pitiful comments that accomplish nothing but to betray a perpetual inability to leave emotions and sentimentalities behind and focus on getting ahead in the rigged system. You are like the prison guard (with its 99:1 male-to-female ratio, The Big Picture is not too dissimilar to a male prison) who pretends to be empathetic, but we better not drop that bar of soap when you monitor us in the shower.

    Republican Ritholtz: You really are a Republican!

  12. just a Q, for my own Sense, Do y’all think I’m joking about ‘persistant surveillance’?

    you’d do well to listen to John Chambers (CSCO), and hear how he’s laying the future of that Co..

    and, how he’s playing that Trend..

  13. aperian says:

    why should employees be online reading your blog at work…they need to concentrate on their jobs. i wouldnt allow any internet access for employees unless their jobs demanded it.

    barry…how about hiring me and letting me goof off all day surfing the internet……………..get real

  14. hue says:

    plantseeds: what do you and the folks at BAC think about the Countrywide purchase, especially the heloc portfolio that must be underwater now. remember that helocs are seconds, and originated above 80% loan to value during the boom.

  15. ben22 says:


    In my case I’m considered a franchise rep at my company so I’m my own boss and can read any damn blog I want during the day. Further, anyone in this industry reading this blog is really doing work anyway at th eend of th eday.

  16. aperian,

    you’re kidding right? most ‘putes, their OS, really, keep track, down to 00:00:00:00, at the minimum, of what it’s doing..

    a simple usage log query is all anyone needs to do to understand which emp. has been “surfing off”..

    it is put in the emp.s face, as the post was describing, to reinforce the Command ‘n Control structure of the Bureauacracy..

    and, yes, it has Nothing to do w/ “Security”..

  17. constantnormal says:

    I suspect that most companies monitor their employees web traffic, and that if/when an employee is dismissed for any reason, their web activity becomes a nail in their coffin. Wachovia is just a bit more clumsy in how they wield the big hammer.

    This is not to say that things should not be this way — it is the company’s bandwidth and their employee time that is being used/misused.

    Most companies do recognize the benefit of having employees who are knowledgeable in their field and are willing to put up with some harmless browsing of sites that might be antithetical to the company’s modus operandi. But when they divulge company information, or (even truthfully) malign their employer using their employer’s network connection, they should expect some reaction.

    Crumbs of information that you can get your career snuffed over are best delivered via a non-company network node (different connection, different computer — you don’t want your notebook’s web history/cache to be examined the next time you connect to the company network using their notebook and have the nails to your coffin discovered), using a web name that is different from anything one uses at work.

    Caveat emptor. Freedom of speech comes with a price, and does not exist within corporations.

  18. John says:


    Compliance is indeed ridiculous. Companies fear getting sued (almost any reason will suffice for a lawyer) and regulators are pretending to be tough as they focus on minutiae. But the results are that clients can not know what their personal advisors really think and believe. Thus clients are the ones ultimately getting shortchanged.

    Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff happens (as ben22 pointed out) and a severe lack of regulatory oversight was a major reason the entire financial system nearly collapsed. The bottom line is we have unnecessary regulations that hurt instead of necessary regulations that help.

  19. ben22 says:


    I agree on the surveillance comment. I read a really interesting article in Rolling Stone about a year ago on how China was doing it. After all, they got a lot more peeps to watch.

    It’s a growing biz.

  20. plantseeds says:

    hue: I’ve been a regular reader of TBP for several years now and this community, although we don’t always agree, showed me the light long ago on the condition of the real estate market in relation to CDOs, SIVs, CDSs, and what the potential impact would be. I was very much against the CFC merger mostly based on the opinions here and the follow up research I did as a result and outspoken as such. My opinions were not shared by most as Bank of America did a very good job of getting everyone on board with all of the talking points about how much of a market share BAC would have etc. ect. Shortly after I recommended that many of my colleagues take advantage of the high stock price and get out of the company stock just in case (opinion also formulated by reading this blog). Most thought I was FOS. If you can believe it, most still shared the same opinion about the Merrill deal right up until the stock dropped through $20 which I think got everyone’s attention. You should have seen the looks on the faces when entire departments were cleared out in Jan. I was not at all surprised. Even in a ‘good’ economy, whatever that is, a merger of that size will put your job in jeopardy but the internal spin was too good I guess, or people don’t want to admit they could be screwed.
    Honestly unless your dealing with Bank of America Securities (investment banking subsidiary), most just go along with all of the BS. The heloc portfolio must be a nightmare by now but I also think the gubment is way up in their business at this point so I wouldn’t count anything out. I wouldn’t buy the stock or short it either, somthin fishy goin on there.

  21. John from Concord says:

    Barry, do you ever see any hits from Fidelity blocks an incredible number of sites, and has really gone overboard with surveillance since 9/11. I know several people who left Fido in 2004-2006 because they got sick of the whole Big Brother atmosphere, having to leave the building to make a personal phone call, etc. This move by Wachovia doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  22. plantseeds says:

    what MEH says and what constantnormal says is also very true IMO.

  23. Transor Z says:

    Come on, guys — how many corporations pay people for their independent judgment? If they want independent judgment they’ll hire a consultant.

    Everybody else has abdicated a part of themselves to what Dead Hobo called the other day the reality of the Big Dog in the room. That’s the deal.

  24. Mannwich says:

    @Transor Z: Good point. I exercised “independent judgement” and thought a few too many times and now I “work” from home in my gym shorts. Of course, it was my choice to do that. I actually TRIED to be obnoxious enough to get laid off a few times to get a severance package on the way out the door with two really terrible firms and it didn’t work either time. I finally pulled the plug msyelf. Couldn’t take it anymore. It was rotting my soul.

  25. Transor Z says:

    Not everbody is cut out to be a “team player,” Manny. :)

    Speaking of Manny’s, hee hee hehehehee heee…

  26. Mannwich says:

    @Transor: Re: Manny – somewhere Theo Epstein is having a nice chuckle over his tuna sandwich today.

  27. ben22 says:

    Transor Z,

    That is a good point but in my case I don’t get paid by the company I’m associated with, only by my clients, so I do in fact have a really hard time when compliance tells me if I use materials from somewhere else I’m non-compliant. I was so pissed when this happened but I just sit there and take it.

    Unlike others they aren’t stopping me from coming here so I don’t have as much to complain about. I suppose my ultimate point is that when I hear lots of people calling for more regulation I worry it’s going to be more crap like my non-compliant e-mail PS than it will actually regulating things that hurt people.

  28. constantnormal says:

    Transor Z — “If they want independent judgment they’ll hire a consultant.

    In my experience, it is the utmost rarity when a consultant is hired to express “independent judgement”.

    IMHO, a consultant is almost always hired to reinforce an existing partisan position within a company.

    I say this from spending a number of years in the consultant role. It is the task of the consultant to frame their “independent judgement” in a manner pleasing to the eye of the client, as if the client is displeased, the consultant’s employer is unlikely to get repeat business, leading to the consultant becoming a lot more independent than he/she planned.

  29. constantnormal says:

    Mannwich @2:02pm

    In my own career, the soul-rotting became noticeable when I was driving to work, guts churning, and I asked myself, “why the %$#^%$# am I doing this?”. Whenever I had reached this nadir, it was only a matter of time before I left.

    The internal decision had been made at that point. The departure was inevitable from that point forward, as such situations did not occur from the normal vicissitudes of the job, but from the basic structure of the place, something that was not going to change by changing roles or managers.

    Life is too short to suffer under such nonsense.

  30. Transor Z says:

    @ constantnormal:
    LOL — Can’t argue with that.

    My comment was pretty flip. I’ll stand by the part about knuckling under to the boss’s reality/party line in exchange for a paycheck but I like your take on consultants much better.

  31. hue says:

    plantseeds: i was a mortgage broker from 2003 to 2007, realistically to 2005, the biz was really tough after 2004. i understand about how BAC insiders prolly feel about Merrill until Q4. if you are a sales person/mortgage broker, you can’t be negative about the housing market. i knew housing was done back in 2005 because the math no longer worked as far as the refi boom. yet few believed that housing prices would ever drop. and if you express that to other sales people, then you have a bad attitude. i worked for a trading firm then schwab in 1999 to 2001, so i went from one bubble to another. anyway, my bro is a techie on Wall Street (he can’t find work now) and some of his friends says Merrill has some of those toxic assets in offshore structures, so the other Merrill shoe may not dropped yet. (As a mortgage broker, i knew that First Franklin was just terrible assets, they accepted the worse kinds of subprime loans.)

    One more shoe that I forgot to ask you previously was the MBNA purchase. How is that acquisition viewed at the bank? (Hugh McCall defends Lewis in the press, but I wonder if he is steamed to see the empire that he built crumbling). MBNA used to send these fat cash advance checks in the mail, free money for people to rotate their revolving debt at low teaser rates, until they can’t any longer. so we still have credit cards and commercial real estate on the horizon.

    you are right about “good” mergers, Schwab couldn’t digest USTrust that it bought at the height of the Nasdaq bubble, and incidently BofA now owns UST through the State Street acquisition.

    But hey, the crisis is over now that the banks pass the stress tests. reminds me of college, don’t drop acid, just take it pass fail. or in our present state, pass pass.

  32. [...] longer writes on this blog.  I have become more neutral and objective about Barack Obama, even disillusioned and cynical, but America still needs Democratic leadership over the next thirty years.  VOTE DEMOCRATIC!  [...]

  33. plantseeds says:

    hue : MBNA viewed as strictly gravy. not a whole lotta people aware that credit card holders can actually default too….stay tuned right?

  34. ben22,

    remember when you were asking: whether the 10-yr?

    looks like we hit first stop @~120

    should be interesting to see if ~116 comes for a visit..

    plantseeds: any chatter about the MBNA acq. being driven, more, by the Database asset, then the ‘financial’ assets?

    also, you know the Stumbling Herd has the ‘Caymans’ jammed full of ‘toxics’, if/when those meta-assets evet transmute it’ll look like T+1 Neutron Bomb detonation

  35. hue says:

    as Todd Harrison at Minyanville says, most companies are financials in drag, like GM. Macy’s will give anyone with a pulse a card at high interest to buy their stuff. It’s great earnings until they stop making payments. Hope Barry doesn’t mind, Minyanville is another site you such checkout. Todd and Minyanville saw the crash coming years earlier. Todd was writing about Fannie issues back in 2003, and he never made a dime shorting that sucker, it kept going up. (sometimes, you can see something coming and still not profit from it. ) Mville also wrote about tech/finance and various jobs going oversees because of connectivity, much earlier than anyone saw it coming. Todd was the head trader for Cramer, from whom I learned so much about Wall Street and finances reading and RealMoney. It’s ironic/sad that most people only know Cramer as a buffoon now on CNBC. Cramer is a complicated character.

    Hoffer: Database as in the list of borrowers. but that sounds nuts, because MBNA card holder prolly has debt up the wazoo, how could BofA cross sell bank services to those peeps who have no $$$$?
    Cayman jammed full of toxics, haha, if Merrill was doing it, then I bet they all are doing it.

  36. ben22 says:


    Yeah, that action was pretty wild today. Most interesting thing all day imo.

  37. plantseeds says:

    MEH: re: database. Funny how you seem to know something about everything, but chatter by the very small minority, “conspiracy theorist”, “know-nothing” types who, by some strange coincidence, were the same people who saw the tipping point. You might be onto something. I would guess that as an enterpise they now have a file on more than 3 /4 of the households in the US, good, bad or no credit.

  38. plantseeds says:

    “also, you know the Stumbling Herd has the ‘Caymans’ jammed full of ‘toxics’, if/when those meta-assets evet transmute it’ll look like T+1 Neutron Bomb detonation”

    I never really thought of that, we the people have their back though, what’s a few hundered billion between FRIENDS.

  39. plantseeds,

    and their spending habits~MBNA was the Capstone of affinity marketing–the psychographic detail MBNA acquired on those cohort groups is invaluable to anyone trying to sell anything..

    hue: it’s more than, just, “lending money”

    see, as a mini-version, of what’s going on: “SnapShot™ greatly simplifies the process of applying statistical rigor to database marketing by automatically culling through a company’s house files, gathering customer information and matching it against AccuData’s comprehensive database of U.S. businesses and consumers. After creating a customized market penetration analysis, SnapShot then provides up to 16 key demographic overlays to reveal high-value customers with common characteristics. Within minutes, marketers can then generate a highly-targeted list of prospects and purchase these leads – all directly from their desktops.

    “No longer are marketing analytics a time-consuming, technical process that can only be done manually done by statisticians,” said Joshua Goff, Executive Vice President of Business Development and Marketing. “With SnapShot, companies can literally automate much of their statistical modeling and campaign planning, with a Web-based tool that can drive improvements to their response rates.”
    geared toward the retail end of marketers:

    seeds: that dB is serious Grist..

  40. hue says:

    Hoffer: You may right, but I don’t think MBNA has that kind of data on its customer. Credit card companies don’t check your income or employment when they extend credit. Just your credit score. They do have your address and how much you own to them, can another company use that info?
    It is still a database to sell financial stuff. And likely a database with people with little money. Now the Stumbing Herd’s customers are ones worth buying. BofA should just have bought the financial advisors and not the rest of Merrill.

  41. hue:

    and their spending habits~MBNA was the Capstone of affinity marketing–the psychographic detail MBNA acquired on those cohort groups is invaluable to anyone trying to sell anything..

    hue: it’s more than, just, “lending money”

    see: “their spending habits” “the psychographic detail MBNA acquired on those cohort groups is invaluable to anyone trying to sell anything..”

    and, most Stumbling Herd FAs took their Clients right off the Cliff..

    the CMA data, from ML, is more valuable than the FAs

  42. hue says:

    meh: well you get the clients by getting the FAs. you want the FAs’ book of business. Merrill’s FAs don’t deal with anyone with less than $1M in assets. just because people have money, that doesn’t mean they are smart about the financial markets. i’m sure many, many people went off the cliff last fall with or without their FAs.

  43. hue,

    I hear you, ‘buying the book’ is well known/tried ‘n true way of acquiring ‘business’.

    the point is that most FAs have shattered/deeply impaired their Client relationships.

    those Clients are not contracted to the FAs, and a lot of them are looking for ‘alternatives’..

    you know, there’s a reason we’re seeing record reduction in ‘broker’ #’s –most of them are nothing more than ‘asset gatherers’/Salesmen, and they’ve been kneecapping their own book of business..

    LSS: with the CMA data, you could, probably, capture more of those Clients than the FAs could retain..especially after you explained to them how much all that lousy advice has really cost them, on top of the ‘portfolio losses’..

  44. hue says:

    well, i didn’t want to impugn Merrill’s FAs or FAs in general. But FAs are sales people. while they have fudiciary responsibility, they are not in the advice business. They make money by selling clients stuff, advice doesn’t pay. i was a FA with American Express for a short time, struggling just before the refi boom. at Amex, you make money by selling insurance. whatever their financial situation, they need insurance. most of the people that we called didn’t 2 nickles to rub together, but if they did we would have sold them insurance. we would have drooled for Merrill’s crumbs. @Merrill, the clients with $100K goes to a call center, at Amex, those were whales.

  45. hue,

    I hear you, though, if they have a fiduciary duty, then they can’t not be in the ‘advice’ business..

    if you want to see a real kettle of Sociopaths, though, check out Citi’s Primerica Financial Services–the old A.L. Williams..

    MLM meets Cult meeting FinServ. fun for the whole family..

    the original “buy Term, invest the difference”-folks..all MutFunds Long-biased, real Sweethearts..

  46. aperian says:

    @ Mark E Hoffer

    this isnt a security issue or a pc issue…it is a ‘do your job’ issue. employees think they have the right to goof off half the day. if someone is paying you to work then work….! you are right in that it is a control issue but if someone is paying your salary then you do what control your time.


    what a stupid comment………if you ‘work for yourself’ than you can do whatever you like…if you work for me you do what i tell you to do…..everyone that reads this blog at work is ‘working’…please

    no wonder this country is BNK………..

  47. hue says:

    yup, i’ve lived in Atlanta since 2001. do you know about World Financial Group and Hubert Humphrey? Humphrey was an original member of A.L. Williams. There is a huge statue of Humphrey in front of their office building in Duluth, just north of hotlanta. when i first moved here, just after 9/11, it was tough to find a job. i had an interview with WFG for a pr job. (i ended up as an Amex insurance dog). i thought it hit it off with WFG manager who interviewed me. she knew i worked at Schwab and she asked me if i knew what WFG really was. she told me about their annual convention in Las Vegas that she were preparing for. now that would have been something, a kettle of sociopaths in Vegas!!!!!

    Primerica, that is partly why Citi is in the shape its in. Citi sold its soul to the devil for a few bucks.

  48. ben22 says:


    perhaps you’d do well to actually read my “stupid” comment before you go and make a stupid one of your own. I don’t work for you so I will in fact continue to do what I like. Seems to me the majority of people posting here as I do either have a biz/they day trade/or they are retired. I don’t disagree that plenty of employees would rather surf the net than work, and it’s a major problem, however none of that applies to me and that was never what the thread was about. The post is about compliance stopping people from coming to this site or commenting on it. Are you aware Wachovia has an independ. platform?, why shouldn’t those reps be allowed to come here during the day? Not everyone gets a salary from a boss chump.

    Further, as BR notes above, they get a lot of hits from people at GS and MS, they are coming here for information/research, not to look at pictures of the Camaro on the Weekend link, which again, if you are in the industry like I said above, that’s work. I didn’t say EVERYONE that reads this blog is working did I?

    Keep making your own stupid comments about bankruptcy and applying them to me. I have a personal savings rate of near 38% and something tells me I’d clean your clock in a discussion about personal finance.

    Now get back to work tool.

  49. [...] The Big Picture has been blocked by Wachovia’s compliance department…here’s what Barry thinks about [...]

  50. bill750 says:

    I have no problem accessing The Big Picture from my office workstation – at least I could yesterday. I sent in a request to have the site unblocked several months ago, when the URL still had blogspot (or something similar) in it. The IT department routinely blocks blogs and message forums, but if you send in a simple request form with a brief comment that a site is a legitimate investment-related site, it will usually be unblocked in 48 hours or more. I don’t think they unblocked this site just for me. If they let us access Clusterstock ( for pete’s sake)- which they do, there would be no point in denying access to The Big Picture.

    The firm does have a rule regarding postings on message boards, etc., for obvious reasons. We can access Yahoo Finance message boards but not post there, although I can’t imagine why a financial advisor with any self-respect would want to anyway.

    BTW, Barry – you really should introduce a Blackberry-friendly version of this site or a simple app to allow ease of access – put it in the new Blackberry App Store (for free, of course!).