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How to Smell a Rat summary

Ken Fisher and Lara Hoffmans

The Five Signs of Financial Fraud

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    How to Smell a Rat
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    Make sure your investment adviser doesn’t also have custody of your assets.

    From celebrities like Steven Spielberg to charities like the Elie Wiesel Foundation, many people entrusted their money to investment specialist Bernard Madoff. Yet, in 2008 Madoff was revealed as a fraud who had swindled his clients out of a whopping $65 billion.

    How can you avoid a similar fate?

    There is a common thread across investment fraud: a financial adviser has been given control of the assets.

    So whenever you do any type of investing, don’t place your money and assets into just anybody’s hands. Instead, employ a custodian, i.e., a financial institution that safeguards your securities (either physically or electronically), and keeps you informed about your accounts.

    Custodians minimize the risk that your money will be stolen or squandered, as they act as a buffer between your money and the financial adviser, and have neither access to your accounts and investment profits, nor do they win a commission when you buy certain stocks.

    They ensure that none of your money mysteriously disappears, bar third parties from withdrawing your money without your express consent, and verify every investment and transaction.

    With a custodian, you can access your accounts online 24/7, and they also provide their own account statements, which you can cross-check with those your investment adviser provides.

    But if your custodian is also the person who makes your investment decisions, you’re in trouble.

    Usually, your financial manager can trade on your behalf, but can’t remove your money from your account because he is not your custodian.

    But if you give your financial adviser custody of your funds and allow him to invest them directly – if he is unscrupulous – then you’ve unwittingly enabled him to line his own pockets with your money and then cover his tracks with false or misleading account statements.

    With no independent custodian’s statement with which to compare your statements, it’s easy for you to be scammed, and hard for you to do that math.

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    What is How to Smell a Rat about?

    How to Smell a Rat gives you the tools you need to avoid becoming the victim of financial fraud. It catalogs legendary fraudsters’ favorite tricks.

    Best quote from How to Smell a Rat

    If the manager has custody, he can take money out the back door – any time he wants.

    —Ken Fisher and Lara Hoffmans
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    Who should read How to Smell a Rat?

    • Investment novices
    • Anyone who is excited to jump on the bandwagon for the next great investment scheme
    • Anyone who is searching for a reliable financial adviser

    About the Author

    Ken Fisher is the founder, CEO and Chairman of the global money management firm Fisher Investments as well as the author of a number of New York Times bestsellers, including The Only Three Questions That Count and The Ten Roads to Riches. In addition, he has written the famous Forbes Portfolio Strategy column for the last 25 years.

    Lara Hoffmans is a contributing author to Fisher’s bestsellers, and is also a content manager at Fisher Investments and a contributing editor for


    © [Kenneth Fisher and Lara Hoffmans: How to Smell a Rat] copyright [2009], John Wiley & Sons [Inc. or Ltd. as applicable] Used by permission of John Wiley & Sons [Inc. or Ltd. as applicable] and shall not be made available to any unauthorized third parties.

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