The Market Crashed 25 Years Ago Today. Where Were You?

Onwallstreet Magazine has created a slideshow addressing the numbers of the 1987 crash. It’s pretty interesting. I know a broker who actually signed his FA Training Agreement on that day.

I was working at a mid-size firm in Princeton, New Jersey, when the wheels came off the market. It’s now part of the Pepper Hamilton organization. We wandered around wondering what the world was going to be like post-crash. I left that office a long time ago, but I still have friends there. (Yes, I have friends.)

I later learned that my friends in New York were working around the clock putting their finger in the dike while the flood started. I returned to Prudential Securities in 1988, just under a year after the crash. We were working out a huge backlog of unpaid debts. There was also a huge influx of customer complaints.

The volume that day – over 600 million shares – was unheard of at the time. Now that notion seems quaint. In 1987, a lot of the blame was placed on “program trading.” People were wringing their hands about computers manipulating the market. We still have computers calling the shots, causing market breaks, and people wringing their hands about computers manipulating the market.

The big issue for brokerage firms and their customers became a customer’s ability to understand the risk and desire to have market-based risk. The same issues came up in 1989, which was primarily due to the failure of the United Airlines LBO. The issue then came back in 2000, with the “tech wreck.” and again in the fall of 2008 with the failure of Lehman Brothers and the recession. Every once in a while, the market feels the need to remind us that we are not in control, we can only plan for the worst and hope for the best.

It is often said that a failure to study history will result in repeating the mistakes. In my 25+ years in this business, I have found that there are very few historians.

That’s a 25 year view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin.

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