How to reclaim your stock certificates when the broker goes bankrupt

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Q: I bought shares in Genesis Energy Group Inc. through a now-defunct brokerage firm. Are these shares worth anything anymore? If so, how could I find out their value and how to sell them?
G.S., via e-mail

A: The failure of the brokerage firm should have no bearing on the value of your investments. But if you don't have possession of stock certificates in the company, which is the case with nearly all investors, you have some work to do.

We found one company that may be the one you mentioned - Genesis Energy LP of Houston. If that's your Genesis, call its investor relations office (713-860-2500) and they'll help you straighten out records.

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If you're talking about some other Genesis, you'll need to research the company to see whether it's still in business, perhaps under some other name. Herb Perone, a spokesman at NASD, recommends the Financial Stock Guide Service (800-367-3441). This guide contains a list of all obsolete and actively traded securities. For a fee, the guide's publisher will research your certificate.

If the company or a successor is actively trading, Mr. Perone suggests contacting the company's transfer agent to see if your certificate is still valid. If it isn't, he says, follow the transfer agent's instructions for obtaining a new certificate. If it is valid, you just need to take the certificate to a brokerage firm to sell it.

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