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2004.04.12 Terrorists with Retirement Plans

posted Nov 7, 2009, 12:25 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Nov 7, 2009, 12:39 PM ]

I got a letter the other day which said, when you boil it down to the essentials, that if I didn't act immediately to prove to them that I wasn't a terrorist, the government was going to arrest me and hold me indefinitely. Oh, and incidentally, I'd lose my retirement plan.

It all started some time before when I attended an information meeting at my Bastard Officer From Hell job, where they talked about the importance of saving for retirement. The main point was that you couldn't count on either your employer or the government to take care of you after you retired. As this information meeting was paid for by my employers, which were a government organization, I wondered what they knew that I didn't. But I did take some of the lessons to heart and started a retirement plan with an independent managing company. A portion of my pre-tax income would be invested in several funds, each fund consisting of stock holdings in several companies. The logic was that even if one company or even one fund went broke, the other companies and funds would make up for it and I'd still come out ahead. I wouldn't even have to pay taxes on the money my stocks earned, if any, until I took the money out of the retirement plan after I, well, retired.

Four times a year, the management company would send me my quarterly statement, showing how much I'd invested, how much I'd earned, etc. Very interesting and informative. I'd glance at them and file them, completely forgetting about them until the next quarterly statement came in. Concerned investor, I was not.

In fact, I was downright peeved when I started getting letters asking me to cast votes on things I had no interest in hearing about. The letters would basically say that as I'd invested a certain amount of money in a certain fund which had bought a certain number of shares of Company A, I owned one-third of one share of stock in Company A and had a vote in the upcoming merger between Company A and Company B. If I didn't exercise my right to vote, a proxy would cast a vote for me approving said merger.

As I didn't care one way or the other, I tossed the letter in the trash.

A few days later, I got a similar letter saying that I owned about one-fifth of one share in Company B and had to vote on the upcoming merger. If I didn't exercise my right to vote, a proxy would cast a vote for me against said merger.

After the merger, Company AB had to vote on whether or not to expand their manufacturing plant. I got upset and wrote to the management company explaining that I was paying them good money to manage my portfolio on my behalf, so could they kindly stop asking me to decide on every little merger and expansion, please?

The voting letters stopped. In fact, the quarterly statements stopped for a while, but started up again after about a year.

At some point in here, my employers offered me the opportunity to explore other career options due to my incompatibility with their current paradigm of operations. In other words, I inconvenienced my superiors, they called me a thief and a liar, they and canned my lily-white ass. I had to go out and find another job where I could get paid to be mean to people. That's a story for another day.

But there are apparently degrees of "fired" and this one allowed me to cash out my accumulated sick and leave time. It also allowed me to keep my retirement plan. I was no longer paying into said plan, but most of the funds did well in any particular quarter, so it was still slowly building in value, so I left it in place. All was good.

Until the letter came.

At first, I thought it was another one of those letters asking me to vote to approve a merger, but it was actually a request from the management company for information. It seems that the US Patriot Act of 2001 required them to keep certain information on file for all their clients. My information was not up to snuff. It took them until 2003 to figure that out and until 2004 to get around to asking me about it. I was informed that the Post Office box I had listed as an address was in violation of federal law. If I did not provide a street address pronto, they would report me to the appropriate federal authorities and I would be candidate for arrest and incarceration.

Oh, and by the way, if my information was not corrected, they'd cancel my account and I'd lose all the money in it.

I wrote them back. First of all, I explained to them that I had not given them a Post Office box. I had instead given them a box number on a rural route. For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept, like the people at the management company, let me explain. Since many country roads don't have official names, let alone house numbers, addresses were assigned by the Post Office based on which carrier drove those particular roads to deliver mail. I.e. his rural route. Box numbers were assigned in the order in which the mail carrier reached those mailboxes during his route.

Secondly, I had to give them this address at the time I signed up because, at the time I signed up, the road I lived on was one of those country roads which didn't have an official name, let alone house numbers. It was the only address I could give them.

Thirdly, I'd already given them a new address about a year before. The local phone company had convinced the local government that they couldn't continue to offer phone service to the 911 Center unless official street names and house numbers were assigned. As far as I know, this was completely separate from the Patriot Act stuff after 9/11, but I've never been entirely sure.

The new address was an adventure in and of itself. The first we county residents heard of it was when junk mail started showing up with weird street names and house numbers on it instead of the addresses we'd been using all of our lives. Confused, I checked with my local postmaster. He told me about the phone company and 911 Center (or 9/11) and the new addresses. I developed a headache.

I asked for my new address, and he told me that he wasn't allowed to tell me what it was until the new system officially went into effect at the end of the year. Even though I was already getting mail with the new address on it? Even so. So, should I start telling people what my new address was? Not until it was official.

What would happen if mail addressed to the old address came in after the new address was official? Oh, I need not worry about that, I was told. They would still deliver mail with the old address until the end of the year.

"The end of next year?" A whole year to inform everyone of the new address seemed like plenty of time.

"No, the end of this year."

Yikes. "At the exact same time that the new address officially goes into effect? Won't that leave me exactly no (zero, zip, zilch, nada) time in which to tell people the new address before the old address is voided?"

"No, sir, you're confused. Let me explain again."

And he did. Several times. It still sounded like he was telling me not to tell anybody the new address until it was official, which would be the exact same day that the old address would stop working. I ignored him, got my new address and ZIP code off the next piece of junk mail that came in, and informed everybody I thought needed to know about it.

Including the management company managing the Bastard Officer From Hell Retirement Fund.

After I had reminded them of all this in my letter, I then reached my fourth and final point. The US Patriot Act of 2001 was designed to catch terrorists, to make it hard for them to hide their assets and their places of residence while they plan on how to best blow themselves up while taking as many of us infidels with them as possible. I can't for the life of me figure out how any of them would live long enough to need a retirement plan.

I asked, fairly innocently, exactly how many terrorist organizations did that management company manage retirement accounts for, anyway.  Surely, of all the ways that a terrorist organization could hid money, a retirement account was the least likely.

I never got a response. My next quarterly statement was, however, mailed to the new address.