“A.G. Edwards does not sell or share personal information with non-A.G. Edwards companies for the purpose of marketing their products or services.”

That bold-lettered statement, contained in A.G. Edward's privacy statement to clients, seems clear enough. But a few paragraphs later comes this statement, not in bold lettering:

“We may disclose some or all [of your information] … with companies outside A.G. Edwards to … inform you about products or services of interest to you.”

Under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB), financial institutions can share client data with a variety of outside firms for “joint marketing” deals — without giving customers the ability to opt out (see “Where Do They Stand?” below). Customers need not be informed of this use either, says attorney Matt Maloney, of Dickstein Shapiro Morin Oshinsky in Washington, D.C.

But it's unclear whether firms will actually share client data this way. Merrill Lynch, First Union Securities and Edward Jones, for example, say they won't. Firms could also share information prior to GLB.

“Our intent is to keep customer information private,” says A.G. Edwards CEO Robert Bagby.

Some firms offer an opt-out to clients. Prudential is one and just completed a series of privacy seminars for brokers. “Basically, no one's getting any [client] information out of me unless it's authorized by the client,” says one Prudential rep.

Where Do They Stand?

What firms' privacy policies say about sharing customer information with third parties for joint marketing deals.

A.G. Edwards: Can share with a third party that has a joint marketing agreement. No opt-out.

Citigroup: May “facilitate relevant offers from reputable companies.” Opt-out available.

Edward Jones: May share with financial institutions that have a joint marketing agreement with Jones. No opt-out.

First Union Securities: Firm may share information if it “join[s] with another financial institution to deliver products and services.” Opt-out available.

Merrill Lynch: Firm may share data for “servicing your financial needs.” No opt-out.

Prudential Financial: Can share data with third parties where there is a “marketing arrangement.” Opt-out available.

UBS PaineWebber: Firm may share information for products “we jointly offer, endorse or sponsor.” No opt out.