broker

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

broker

broker, one who acts as an intermediary in a sale or other business transaction between two parties. Such a person conducts individual transactions only, is given no general authority by the employers, discloses the names of the principals in the transaction to each other, and leaves to them the conclusion of the deal. The broker neither possesses the goods sold nor receives the goods procured; brokers take no market risks and transfer no title to goods or to anything else. A broker earns a commission, or brokerage, when the contract of sale has been made, regardless of whether the contract is satisfactorily executed. The broker is paid by the party that started the negotiation. In practice, merchants and other salespeople act as brokers at times.

Brokers are most useful in establishing trade connections in those large industries where a great many relatively small producers (e.g., farmers) compete for a wide market. They operate in strategic cities and keep in active touch with the trade needs of their localities and with one another. They are important in determining prices, routing goods, and guiding production, and in those functions play a part similar to that of the highly organized exchanges. Brokers also negotiate trades in property not directly affecting production; examples are stockbrokers and real estate brokers.

Types of Brokers

Employment agents are really brokers, as they bring together the buyers and sellers of labor. Merchandise brokers arrange sales between manufacturers and wholesalers or retailers, between producers and users of raw materials, and sometimes between two manufacturers. Small concerns use retail brokers instead of maintaining their own sales forces. Insurance brokers bring together insurance companies and those who want insurance. They are most useful to those needing several types of insurance protection and to those whose large risks must be divided among many companies. Real estate brokers negotiate sales and leases of farms, dwellings, and business property and are often also insurance brokers. Ship brokers keep informed of the movement of vessels, of cargo space available, and of rates for shipment and sell this information to shippers. They serve tramp carriers in the main, inasmuch as the larger ship lines have their own agents. Such brokers also serve as post agents, in which capacity they settle bills for stores and supplies, pay the wages of the crew, and negotiate insurance for the vessel and cargo. They also arrange the sale of ships. In the organized markets, such as grain and stock exchanges, commission merchants and straight selling displace brokerage in large part, but between cities and where there is no active exchange, brokers in grain and other commodities are active. Members of organized exchanges usually act as commission merchants or trade on their own account. However, in the New York Stock Exchange a group of members called "floor brokers" perform the actual trading on the exchange floor for representatives of commission houses, taking no responsibility and receiving a small fee. In the United States, note brokers buy promissory notes from businessmen and sell them to banks. Traders in acceptances and foreign bills of exchange are known in the United States as acceptance dealers. Customs brokers are not actually brokers; they act as agents for importers in estimating duties and clearing goods. The pawnbroker is a private money lender. Technology in the 1990s changed the nature and importance of some brokers, when the Internet allowed people to, for example, trade stocks and purchase insurance directly, without the aid (or with the minimum aid) of brokers.

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