Investors Cozy with Company Stock Holdings

March 5, 2002 ( - Despite the continuing Enron controversy, seven out of 10 people who responded to a new poll said they're comfortable with the amount of company stock in their retirement plan. Another 9% even wants to own more.

However, the survey, by New York public relations firm TowersGroup, also found that 43% of investors have less confidence in the stock market in the wake of the debacle over Enron, a one-time giant Houston energy trader now in bankruptcy court.

Further, 88% of investors believe Enron’s executives, board, auditors or attorneys “intentionally” misled the public.

Respondents mostly blamed former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay, former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, and the Enron board.

Because of Enron a scant 23% of investors still believe in the market’s ability to reflect fair share prices for stock.

But, in a moment of optimism, a significant number of respondents say Enron will be a catalyst for improvement and 33% predict the Enron collapse will ultimately make investment information more reliable.

In the wake of Enron, to improve corporate integrity:

  • 30% of those polled said to tighten financial-reporting regulations
  • 22% suggest rewriting laws governing corporate finance so rogue corporate executives, directors and advisors can face criminal charges more easily.

Towers respondents were asked to rate the honesty of investment advisors, auditors, and corporate management.

  • 36% gave the lowest grades to corporate managers
  • 33% gave low grades to directors.

Respondents also gave low marks to insurance salespeople and stockbrokers. Getting the highest graders were bankers, mutual fund companies, and financial planners.

Securities analysts, who have been criticized for their coverage of Enron, also got low marks from many investors.  Twenty-nine percent of respondents gave analysts the lowest ratings and 21% gave them the highest.

The survey was conducted in late February by Opinion Research Corporation, which interviewed 363 investors with 401(k)s or other retirement plans.