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Direct Investment Plans: Buying Stock Directly from the Company

March 1, 2002

Many companies allow you to buy or sell shares directly through a direct stock plan (DSP). You can also have the cash dividends you receive from the company automatically reinvested into more shares through a dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP).

Here are descriptions of the two different types of plans:

Direct Stock Plans — Some companies allow you to purchase or sell stock directly through them without your having to use or pay commissions to a broker. But you may have to pay a fee for using the plan's services. Some companies require that you already own stock in the company or are employed by the company before you may participate in their direct stock plans. You may be able to buy stock by investing a specific dollar amount rather than having to pay for an entire share. In that case, you could have your checking account debited on a regular basis to make investments in the plan. Some plans require a minimum amount of investment or require you to maintain specific minimums in your account.

DSPs usually will not allow you to buy or sell your securities at a specific market price or at a specific time. Rather, the company will purchase or sell shares for the plan at established times — for example, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis — and at an average market price. You can find when the company will buy and sell shares and how it determines the price by reading the company's disclosure documents. Depending on the plan, you may be able to have your shares transferred to your broker to have them sold, but the plan may charge you a fee to do so.

Dividend Reinvestment Plans — Dividend reinvestment plans let you take advantage of the power of compounding. Instead of receiving cash dividends from the company, you may purchase more of a company's stock by having the dividends reinvested. You must sign an agreement with the company for this to be done. If you have a brokerage account or mutual fund, your firm may also have a dividend reinvestment plan. You should check with your firm or the company to see whether you will be charged for this service.

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The features and services offered in DSPs vary depending on the kind of plan and the company offering the plan. Before setting up a plan, read the company's disclosure information to learn how its particular plan works. The plan will tell you how to enroll, the number of shares needed to open an account, any fees or charges that apply, the minimum or maximum you can buy or sell, the dates when you can invest, and how to withdraw, transfer, or sell your shares. Many large companies have Internet sites that can provide you with information about their plans or tell you who to contact for more information.

We have provided this information as a service to investors.  It is neither a legal interpretation nor a statement of SEC policy.  If you have questions concerning the meaning or application of a particular law or rule, please consult with an attorney who specializes in securities law.

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