Friday, January 24, 2014

Oh, IBM/Computershare :-(

Somewhere in my youth, or childhood ....  my parents bought me one bright shiny share of IBM stock. It came as a nifty actual piece of paper that they put into a frame and propped up on a shelf in my bedroom.  As I was a child or even a baby (who knows when they bought this share? Maybe it celebrated my birth) I was listed as a minor and my dad as the custodian on the account.

For all these years, I have continued to own this stock. It's split, I've been doing dividend reinvestment all this time so eventually I have bought a share or two, and the value has increased of course. All this means I now have 3-and-a-fraction "book" shares in addition to the one bright shiny paper share. Somewhere along the line, a company called Computershare started managing the stock.

For various reasons, now is the time for me to deal with this stock. And wow what an ordeal it is!!

The first step in doing anything at all is to transfer the shares into my name alone. I asked if it would be simpler if my dad just sold the shares, but because I am now in fact no longer a minor it doesn't matter that he is written as the custodian. So for the purposes of getting rid of these shares it doesn't matter that his name is on it, but to get his name off it will cost be a bunch of money and time. Sounds about right?!?

First I learned I would need to fill out a form and acquire a "medallion guarantee" certifying that my signature is the actual signature of me, the person who will become the account holder. A notary stamp is NOT sufficient, which is written in all caps and bold and made very very clear. Unfortunately, these things are available only through financial institutions. Of course, I use credit unions and primarily online institutions. No local brick and mortar. And because banks are agreeing to pay up if I'm not really me, of course they only provide these things to their own customers. In comes the Fedex charge to send the form to my financial institution (but hey, at least they do it! Not every place does.)

Then, and much more frustratingly, I discovered I need that paper stock certificate that was last seen in the childhood home my mother sold ten years ago. There is absolutely, 100% no way to do anything with this stock until I hold in my hand the paper share. I can pay about 10% of the value of the stock I have to acquire a new one from IBM (to then turn around and send it back to them with the magical "medallion guarantee" and another form or two). I asked the oh-so-helpful customer service lady whether, if I bought stock today, I would receive paper shares. She said no. She agreed that if I bought and then sold a share in the last however many years, this requirement of a paper share would of course not be necessary. I asked why I am being penalized just because we bought the share several decades ago. She wasn't amused.

Yes, the value of the stock is greater than what I will be shelling out in order to be able to have the option of selling it. However, it has cost me plenty of time and annoyance (and soon also cash) to deal with this. Trust me, not I nor anyone whose investment choices I have any control over will ever buy IBM stock, or any stock through Computershare as I cannot tell what requirements are coming directly from IBM and which are made up by Computershare.

* Note: I've edited the name of the not-IBM company. It's Computershare, not Compushare.


Suzanne said...

I had to go thru the same thing when I sold my shares of our local electric company. Same issue - my parents were custodians, shares were in my maiden name, etc - and getting the medallion was a PITA. Thankfully my parents still had the stock certificates, so that was easier, but the whole process is enough to make you tear your hair out. I hope you're able to get it all sorted!

Ann said...

You are not naming the correct company, it is Computershare, not Compushare.

Lynne said...

Just to complete the circle - on my third conversation about this topic I learned these shares aren't mine in any way at all. I am not the one to sign any of the forms because I am not the registered account holder, I am nothing to them. Happy 4-and-a-fraction IBM shares, dad!

Le-Thu said...

After Lynne's comment I start to wonder why my donation to various organizations were not so readily welcome! :) And I now fear that my niece who doesn't know English well will have a field day with this when she decides to do something with the gift shares...

However,dealing with Computershare can be a pleasure if you are lucky enough to get a knowledgeable rep. after waiting for 10 minutes or so, but if you are not then you will pay for the wrong info/action given by the rep. I know - I paid because my trust was not processed correctly and it took forever to make it right...

The moral of the story is try not to give or donate shares!
Review very CAREFULLY all the paperwork that Computershare sends you!

Thank you, Lynne! Hope you are able to square things away!!!