Just as all roads once led to Rome, all roads now lead to Washington. One glance at the D.C. Yellow Pages, with its six pages of national trade association listings, will confirm that this is the town where people want to be if they want to get things done in government.
One of the newest, and most interesting, additions to the associations' list is the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), an organization that represents securities regulators from each of the 50 states.
NASAA, although it is 70 years old, is not well-known outside of the securities industry or outside of Capitol Hill, where NASAA members often testify on complex regulatory matters.
Indeed, the state securities regulators are mainly known for the role that they play in reviewing investments that require state-by-state approval under the so-called "blue sky" laws.
The phrase is derived from the colossal frauds perpetrated by swindlers who sold gullible individuals investments that were worth little more than a piece of "blue sky."
A rash of these frauds early in the century resulted in the enactment of securities laws in many states.
It was in the same era that new federal laws were adopted and the Securities & Exchange Commission was created.
Although the SEC still attracts most of the regulatory limelight, there is evidence that many states have been stepping up their investigation and enforcement of securities laws and their consumer protection activities.
This trend is likely to be enhanced by the fallout from the recent market collapse and the losses suffered by many investors.
Until earlier this year, NASAA's office was in Topeka, Kan.
But as the securities industry boomed and the business of NASAA grew, association officials decided to move their headquarters to Washington, where their views and their activities might attract more interest.
"They were hiding their light under a bushel," said Scott Stapf, who handles public relations for NASAA.
When NASAA got ready to move, they geared up for the Washington scene. They hired Andrew Maguire, a former congressman from New Jersey, to head their office and to expand their operation.
They also hired Stapf, who came from the Tobacco Institute in Washington where he had defended smoking.
With nary an ashtray showing on his desk, Stapf said he has given up smoking and noted that NASAA runs a "nonsmoking" office.
In an unusual example of "market timing," the events of Oct. 19 furnished NASAA with a ready-made opportunity to make its new presence in Washington known. NASAA did just that.
At a Nov. 9 news conference, NASAA officials announced they had opened a national hot line to take calls from unhappy investors. When the hot line drew 8,500 calls in a few weeks, NASAA began preparing a report on investor protection for a hearing by the House telecommunications and finance subcommittee chaired by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).
Then NASAA prepared to bring some of the unhappy investors to the hearing.
Markey's subcommittee is conducting one of several studies of the market collapse.
Coincidentally, the senior counsel for Markey's subcommittee is Royce O. Griffin, who previously served as a state securities commissioner in Colorado and was president of NASAA in 1985.
Griffin said he had urged NASAA to make the move to Washington.
"If we were going to be able to speak out on investor protection issues," Griffin said, "I thought we should do it well, do it right and do it where people are interested."
Griffin said no organization, including the SEC, is currently speaking out on behalf of the individual investor. "There's no National Association of Defrauded Investors," he said. "I think there should be. We need someone to speak up."
By moving to Washington, NASAA has gotten more attention in a shorter time than it probably ever got in Topeka. Moreover, the events of Oct. 19 have created an atmosphere of controversy and self-examination in the securities industry that could keep NASAA in news opportunities for a long time.
In the world of bank stocks in 1987, bad news was simply followed by more bad news, said analyst Anthony R. Davis of Wheat, First Securities in Richmond.
Davis and his colleagues maintain a bank stock index that covers 25 banks in five states and the District of Columbia.
Through the first nine months of the year, the stocks in the bank index were up 7.7 percent. That wasn't too good if you compared it with the Standard & Poor's 400 industrials, which were up 39 percent.
Then came the market selloff. Between Oct. 16 and Nov. 10, the S&P index dropped 16.3 percent but the bank index dropped even more, by 17.6 percent.
Davis said the underperformance of regional bank stocks between January and September was the result of "widespread investor preference for large capitalization, economically sensitive issues."
That preference seems unlikely to change, Davis said. He expects investors to continue to buy companies "whose earnings stand to benefit from a resurgence in industrial production and sustained weakness in the dollar."
So what is the investor to do?
Davis suggests concentrating on higher quality, larger regional banks, which he expects will outperform smaller banks.
"First, because institutional investors are more likely than individuals to reenter the volatile equity market and second, larger banks tend to have more exposure to corporate lending, the segment of the economy popularly believed to be the best positioned to sustain growth in 1988."
Given the circumstances, Davis said, he finds four stocks to be attractive. They are Baltimore Bancorp, CoreStates Financial of Philadelphia, First Union Corp of Charlotte, N.C. and MNC Financial of Baltimore.
Fidelity Investments, which operates one of the nation's largest mutual fund families, will soon open a new office in Tysons Corner. It will be in the American Center, 8300 Boone Blvd. Fidelity has had an office in downtown Washington for several years. Donna Morris, who has been the manager of the D.C. office since last August, will also manage the new Tysons office.
The Value Line universe contains 1,700 stocks, including many that reflect what is happening in the small growth company area. Value Line rates its stocks for "timeliness" on a 1 to 5 system. The No. 1's are expected to turn in the best price performances in the year ahead while the No. 5's are expected to turn in the poorest performances.
The rating system was right on track before the market's collapse, as can be seen by looking at the performance of the five groups from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30. This is the way they stacked up:
Group 1: Up 42 percent.
Group 2: Up 32 percent.
Group 3: Up 23 percent.
Group 4: Up 18 percent.
Group 5: Up 8 percent.
Now look at how these groups stood after the market's descent, in the period from Jan. 1 through Dec. 2.
Group 1: Down 4.6 percent.
Group 2: Down 9.7 percent.
Group 3: Down 16.9 percent.
Group 4: Down 19.0 percent.
Group 5: Down 29.1 percent.
The figures show how broad the decline was. Whether you held the strongest group of stocks or the weakest group of stocks, your losses were substantial. There was literally no place to hide.
The Washington Mutual Investors Fund, with assets of $2.5 billion, has named Margita White and T. Eugene Smith to their board of directors. White, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission, is now the coordinator of the Television Operators' Caucus. Smith is president of an investment company bearing his name and serves as a director of the Growth Fund of Washington. Washington Mutual and the Growth Fund are operated by Johnston, Lemon & Co.