A Case of Mistaken Identity - The "Other" Gary Halbert
FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
IN THIS ISSUE:
1. An Alter-Ego on the Internet
2. The Late Gary C. Halbert
3. My Background and Qualifications
4. Halbert Wealth Management, Inc.
5. The Forecasts & Trends E-Letter
6. Conclusions – Don’t Forget the “D”
Since hundreds of thousands of new subscribers come onboard my Forecasts & Trends E-Letter each year, it is important to advise readers from time to time that there is another Gary Halbert that is prominent on the Internet. His name is Gary C. Halbert. I am Gary D. Halbert. We are not related, and I have never even met Gary C. Halbert.
In fact, Gary C. Halbert is now deceased, but he continues to have a huge presence on the Internet even after his death. If you do a Google search for “Gary Halbert” without my middle initial, you do not find a direct link to me until somewhere around the second page of links. The entire first page of links, including the sponsored links, refer to the deceased Gary C. Halbert, not me – even though he passed away in April of 2007.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if it were just a case of mistaken identity. However, the checkered past of Gary C. Halbert makes many of the subject lines of the search results appear to be very negative, especially to someone like me in the Investment Advisory business. Here’s an example of what you might see when you Google “Gary Halbert” without my middle initial:
Today, it has become second nature to go on the Internet and Google someone’s name after hearing about them or seeing an advertisement. Thus, there’s no telling how many people have received my E-Letter and then unsubscribed after doing a quick Internet search for my name and reading one of the horrible links above (or others) about the other Gary Halbert. While I do not want to speak ill of the dead, I do hope you can understand my desire to distance myself from Gary C. Halbert, even though he is no longer with us.
This week, I’m going to help clear up any confusion that my readers may have regarding the two Gary Halberts on the Internet. I’ll spend a little time relating what I know of Gary C. Halbert, but most of the time discussing my background so that you will be more comfortable that I’m neither shut down nor dead, nor have I ever been imprisoned for fraud.
Gary C. Halbert
As I noted above, I have never met Gary C. Halbert and have never talked to him on the phone. The closest we came to communicating happened when he wrote me a terse e-mail as a result of a previous e-letter discussing how he and I were not the same person.
I do not know for sure exactly what Gary C. Halbert did, other than what is available on the Internet. While he wrote a newsletter and had a website (which is still operating – why, I don’t know), his main claim to fame seemed to be as a marketing/direct-mail consultant. In fact, some of the links generated by Internet search engines are offering his old copywriting materials. Sometimes, you can even find his marketing materials on E-bay.
If that were the entire story, it might not be so bad since being confused with a formerly well-known direct-mail copywriter is not the worst thing in the world. However, Gary C. Halbert evidently had a few skeletons in his closet. According to information on www.gary-halbert.net, Gary C. Halbert spent “…several years in the Boron Federal Prison Camp for fraud in the 1980s.” That’s certainly not something I’d want my readers to think happened to me.
Then, back in 2003, the Securities & Exchange Commission initiated litigation against Gary C. Halbert and his son, Bond Halbert, for “possible violations of the federal securities laws” related to a stock trading system they had been promoting. According to the SEC press release, Halbert was being investigated for “…possible material false statements concerning a stock trading system made by or on behalf of Gary C. Halbert…”
I’m not sure how this SEC investigation came out in the end, but the important thing to know is that I was not the target of it. I have always tried to keep my 30-year regulatory record clean, which is no small feat when you consider that my various companies are regulated by the SEC, Financial Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Commodities Futures Trading Association (CFTC), National Futures Association (NFA) and even the Texas Department of Insurance.
Thus, you can see how someone doing an Internet search on my first and last name might give up before learning that there are actually two Gary Halberts on the Internet. Given the recent Madoff, Stanford and other investment frauds uncovered by the recent bear market, even a whiff of impropriety is enough to send investors elsewhere. Thus, having someone with the same name apparently being imprisoned for fraud and formerly under SEC investigation has likely sent more than a few of my readers to the unsubscribe link.
Again, I hold no animosity for Gary C. Halbert, and I find it sad that he passed away at the relatively young age of 68. The above discussion is simply a presentation of the facts and they are what they are. The important thing is, when you read any of these Internet postings about Gary C. Halbert, that you realize it’s not me, Gary D. Halbert.
And Now for My Story
Friends, family and co-workers will tell you that self-promotion is not one of my strong suits. In that way, I guess I’m the polar opposite of the other Gary Halbert whose self-promotion has taken on a life of its own on the Internet. Thus, discussing my background in the financial services business does not come natural to me, but at times I feel it’s important so that you can feel that you know the person who writes to you each week. So here goes…
After obtaining my MBA in International Management, I began my career with a nationwide commodities brokerage firm in 1976. I specialized as a “hedging” broker and worked with agri-businesses and large farmers who wanted to use the futures markets to hedge the price of physical commodities that they dealt in or produced. In 1982, I moved to another nationwide brokerage firm that catered more to investors who wanted to trade commodities futures on a speculative basis.
It was during this time that I noticed how many brokers and brokerage firms were more interested in generating fees and commissions for themselves than providing good advice to their clients. After hearing an industry big-wig claim that over 90% of individual commodities account holders lost money, I realized that investors needed someone on their side of the table to help them evaluate the many investment opportunities available.
In 1984, I decided to leave the ranks of the big brokerage firms and, along with my wife Debi, founded ProFutures, Inc. While I knew that many investors needed professional help, I also found that the large minimum investments required by many successful money managers were a barrier to entry for most people. So, in 1987, we organized the ProFutures Diversified Fund, a managed futures fund featuring multiple Advisors, deeply discounted fees and commissions and a minimum investment of only $10,000.
In the years that followed, ProFutures expanded its services within its original mission of matching client needs with suitable professional money managers. In addition to other futures funds, ProFutures organized a series of private equity hedge funds and an offshore currency fund.
Halbert Wealth Management, Inc.
In 1994, my clients began asking for help with their more traditional investments, including mutual funds. Realizing that the principles that apply to selecting traditional money managers are similar to those required when selecting a commodities trader, we formed ProFutures Capital Management, Inc., later to become Halbert Wealth Management, Inc. (HWM). HWM’s flagship service is ADVISORLINK®, an innovative program offering HWM’s clients access to active management strategies from third-party money managers with the goal of participating in market gains with an eye on limiting investment losses.
Over the years, we have developed other programs to meet investors’ needs, but they all have the common denominator of using professionals to manage money in an effort to produce better results than you can get on your own. While the initial selection of programs to be recommended to our clients is important, I think one of the greatest values we provide is the ongoing monitoring of our money managers.
As I have noted many times, I invest in every program we recommend alongside my clients. Not only does this mean that my money is at risk along with yours, but also that my accounts are available to us for monitoring purposes. Each day, my staff reviews the performance and trading of each investment program we recommend and sends a summary around to everyone in our office. This way, we not only know where each program is in terms of performance, but we are also able to spot any deviations from expected trading patterns.
If we see something unusual, we can determine if a mistake was made or if a money manager has significantly modified their trading model. Either way, we’re on the phone or sending an e-mail immediately to determine what’s going on. Several of our money managers have commented over the years about how quickly my staff can spot a small trading deviation and be on the phone asking for an explanation.
While it’s something we don’t like to think about, there are also times that it becomes necessary to fire a money manager. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes a money manager ceases to perform according to expectations and has to be replaced. However, in all of my experience, I have never had a money manager tell me that I needed to fire him or her, and I’ll bet you’ve never had it happen to you, either. Money managers always have a new “fix” to try or other excuse, but the sad truth is that sometimes they need to be fired.
Since my company sits on your side of the table, we are concerned about doing what’s in your best interest, not ours or the best interests of a money manager. Thus, we become your advocate when it comes time to let a money manager go and search for new strategies for your investment dollars. Equally important, we constantly search the universe of US money managers to find new talent to recommend to our clients. We attend conferences where money managers gather, and we have several databases that track professional money managers.
The Forecasts & Trends Weekly E-Letter
Since most of you know me through my Forecasts & Trends weekly e-letter, it might be a good idea to revisit how this Internet publication came to be. I have been writing my paper F&Ts for over 30 years. In the weeks just after the September 11, 2001 terrorist disaster, I started writing more frequent updates in the form of expanded e-mails. Eventually, the Forecasts & Trends E-Letter became a weekly publication.
In 2002, I was approached by the owner and president of InvestorsInsights.com, an Internet- based investment publishing company with over 1 million potential readers all across the nation. They asked permission to re-publish my weekly Forecasts & Trends E-Letters, and as you might expect, I immediately accepted.
Generally speaking, I write about the economy, the markets, investments, financial matters, what’s happening in the world, geopolitics, etc. But I also write about political issues from time to time because they can and do often affect the economy, the markets and even our investments. If you have read me for long, you know that I am a political conservative on most issues, and my views often don’t sit well with our more liberal readers; nonetheless, I tell it like I see it.
Fixing the “Gary Halbert” Problem
Call me naïve, but I thought that the untimely death of Gary C. Halbert might actually result in lower Internet visibility on his part, but such has not been the case. Aside from the many links to notices about the other Gary Halbert’s death, there are now a flood of websites offering his direct-marketing and copywriting materials for sale. As I noted above, you can sometimes even find them on the E-bay online auction website.
The result is that Gary C. Halbert is at least as visible on the Internet after his death as he was before, and possibly more so. Perhaps this is a testament to the quality of his marketing and copywriting materials. Otherwise, he would have evaporated into oblivion following his death. However, because many of the links have very negative subject lines, I am now going on the offense to try to even the odds of my name appearing at the top of the search engine lists.
We are in the process of spending a considerable amount of time and money in an effort to place sponsored ads that will at least tell the story of there being two Gary Halberts on the Internet. Hopefully, this will help to avoid any confusion on the part of investors and potential E-Letter subscribers.
Writing To Strangers, Sort Of
Some of you may be wondering why having a namesake on the Internet is such a big deal, especially since he is deceased. The reason is that, especially in today’s post-Madoff investment environment, reputation is everything. It’s very frustrating to spend over 30 years building a business known for honesty and integrity, only to be confused with another Gary Halbert whose reputation on the Internet is questionable, to say the least.
I have over a thousand investment clients who live all across America. I have never met most of them. Most have come to me by way of third-party referrals, as noted above. I also don’t know very many of you who are among InvestorsInsight’s 1+ million E-Letter recipients. It’s an interesting challenge to write to over a million people you don’t know, but it’s vitally important that I be able to earn my readers’ trust.
I have a lot of questions I wish I knew the answers to. Like, most of all, I wish I could know exactly what most of you are looking for in terms of information and advice. We assume that we have readers from all financial strata - from the very wealthy to middle class folks, from those who are very sophisticated investors to those who are just starting out, from those who are retired to those who are just starting to save for their retirement, etc., etc.
My goal is to provide a variety of topics, most of which are at least somewhat investment related, that will hopefully be helpful to a majority of this broad cross-section of readers, but also knowing that not everything I write will be useful to all of you week in and week out.
We Are Avid Readers
My editorial staff and I are avid readers. We have to be. We subscribe to dozens of financial periodicals (including some very expensive ones) and investment-related magazines and newsletters. In addition, we are voracious surfers of the Internet.
Each morning, for example, one person on my editorial staff spends over an hour cruising our list of Internet sites, looking for interesting news and information that may not have been covered (or was mis-reported) by the mainstream media. By mid-morning each day, he sends me an e-mail with a list of links to the stories he thinks I will want to read. Some of those stories end-up in my SPECIAL ARTICLES section below.
On Monday of each week, or even earlier, we sit down and think about all the topics and reports we’ve read and decide what will be the focus of the weekly E-Letter. Some weeks, there’s just so much to write about, I don’t know where to start. On other weeks, the topic seems obvious. And then on some weeks, I’m still scratching my head on Monday.
The Common Thread – Spotting Mis-Information
There is a ton of mis-information out there. If you have been reading me very long, you know that I believe the mainstream media is very slanted. For years now, I have directed you to a great website for tracking the bias in the mainstream media - the Media Research Center CyberAlert at www.mediaresearch.org. If you haven’t done so, check it out.
I also believe that many in the financial media are also very slanted, in one way or the other. Some analysts and publications spin the news and reports so as to only reflect their views on the markets and investing. This includes the “perma bulls” on Wall Street.
And then there is the “gloom-and-doom” crowd for which the sky is always falling. I call them “perma-bears” since they always expect the worst. They missed the greatest bull market in stocks in history during the 1980s and ‘90s. For them, the next depression is always right around the corner.
The common thread in my writing is that I try to bring you the real story, whatever that may be, whether it’s about the economy, the investment markets, world events or politics. This is not to suggest that I am right all the time. I’m not. What I do is read a variety of respected publications and writers, in addition to the mainstream media, and I try to maintain a flexible attitude. I try to give you my very best thinking every week. And I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong.
Along this same line, I very much appreciate your comments and suggestions for topics that I can write about. Remember, this E-Letter is for you, and I will try to address your comments and suggestions – if you send them to me.
Conclusions – Don’t Forget the “D”
To recap, if you do an Internet search for “Gary Halbert,” you will see a LOT of links about the “other” Gary C. Halbert, and nothing about me, Gary D. Halbert until you get a couple of pages deep in most search engines. Just keep that in mind.
However, if you search for “Gary D. Halbert” on Google, you will find me at the top followed by pages and pages of links to things I have written in the past. Thus, it is always important that you add the “D” to your search, if you are looking for a past article that I have written.
As should be obvious, I do not endorse or recommend any of the products or services offered by those who continue to promote the late Gary C. Halbert. I could not in any event because I don’t know what those products or services are.
I could not even begin to speculate how many prospective clients we have lost over the last 10 to 15 years of the Internet explosion because of the confusion that Gary C. Halbert has generated with me. Obviously, there is no way to know, and unfortunately that is water under the bridge.
We have known about this problem for over a decade. But as noted above, we plan to take some bold new steps to get my name above his on most Internet search engines. Time (and money) will determine how successful our upcoming efforts will be. I will keep you posted.
Finally, I would like to ask a favor of you. For many years, the majority of new clients that come to us do so because one of our existing clients referred them to us. I am extremely grateful for that! So, if you should tell someone that they might want to check out our services, please emphasize that they use “Gary D. Halbert” should they do a search on the Internet.
Next week, we return to economic, financial, market and investment topics as the summer is winding down, kids are off to school, and we return our focus to how to make some money in this very challenging market environment.
And be sure to send me your comments and suggestions for making this weekly E-Letter better for you. What you like; what you don’t like; and ideas for making it better. Thanks in advance!
I hope you had a great 2009 summer - I sure did, despite the Texas drought.
Very best regards,
Gary D. Halbert
P.S. – Last week, I mentioned that we had come across an important resource for end-of-life planning entitled “All They’ll Need to Know.” This booklet helps you think through a multitude of issues that arise after an untimely death, but are often overlooked by other estate planning materials.
In my E-letter, I offered readers a discount on the price of the electronic version of this booklet, or a free paper copy of the booklet as long as our existing supply held out. After receiving an overwhelming response, our existing supply of booklets is now depleted and we are unable to honor any more requests for a free booklet.
You can, however, still obtain a copy of the “All They’ll Need to Know” booklet directly from Emerson Publications. To help defray the cost, I have negotiated a discounted price on both the printed and electronic versions of the booklet which you can access by clicking on the Emerson Publications website link below. This discount is available for a limited time only, so I suggest that you take advantage of this offer as soon as possible. Just click on the following link to access the Emerson Publications website:
This booklet is an important resource for loved ones in case of an untimely death, so I urge you to order either a printed or electronic version while the special discounted price is still available.
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Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by ProFutures, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of ProFutures, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.