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Some years ago, one of the companies I worked for gave me a certificate for a number of common stocks that has a red 'RESTRICTED' symbol on it. what it means? where can I consult its exact meaning?

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Restricted shares are a usually employed as a way to deal with the tax implications associated with granting options to employees.

Often you are granted restricted shares, but the company has the ability to buy the shares back at certain points in time. Conceptually this is similar to option vesting periods.

Call the company and find out if you actually own any shares!

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