A week after advisor Ken Fisher made crude remarks at an industry event, Fidelity Investments is taking him to task and reviewing its relationship with the firm, which manages about $500 million of its assets, according to a report.
The news comes about four days after Michigan’s pension fund said it would pull $600 million in assets from Fisher Investments.
“We are very concerned about the highly inappropriate comments by Kenneth Fisher. The views he expressed do not align in any way with our company’s values,” Fidelity spokesman Vincent Loporchio told Bloomberg. “We do not tolerate these types of comments at our company and Fidelity Strategic Advisers is reviewing this relationship.”
Fidelity Strategic Advisers oversees managed accounts and lists Fisher as a sub-advisor for its $8 billion Small-Mid Cap Fund.
Meanwhile, the state of Florida’s pension fund is also looking at its relationship with Fisher Investments. The pension fund has “about $175 million with Fisher,” according to a Bloomberg report that cited spokesman John Kuczwanski.
The Florida State Board of Administration’s policies “require our employees and service providers to foster positive business and personal practices designed to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity,” Kuczwanski said in a statement Tuesday.
Plus, the Philadelphia Board of Pensions said it decided Thursday to divest $54 million held with Fisher Investments to “protect the assets of the fund from the consequences of Mr. Fisher’s inappropriate comments,” the news report added.
On Friday, Michigan Chief Investment Officer Jon Braeutigam said in a letter obtained by multiple news publications: “All were in unanimous agreement that prompt termination is the correct course of action. There is no excuse to not treat everyone with dignity and respect. We have high expectations of our managers (and staff), not just with regards to returns but also in how they exhibit integrity and respect to all individuals.”
Also in the letter, Braeutigam said that while Fisher Investments’ “performance has been good (beating the S&P 1500). …, this history does not outweigh the inappropriateness of the comments made by the founder.”
Fisher made his lewd comments at the Tiburon CEO Summit on Tuesday. The following day attendee and advisor Alex Chalekian posted a video on Twitter criticizing the remarks; it has nearly 139,000 views.
Afterward, Fisher questioned the negative attention his comments were receiving, before apologizing. He has been barred from future events organized by Tiburon Strategic Advisors.
Early Friday, Cambridge Investment Research President and CEO Amy Webber said she believed there should be a code of conduct at industry events. Others members of the industry explained that the industry should use this situation as an opportunity for change that can bring more women, younger individuals and others to its ranks.
Webber explained that, although she was not at the Tiburon CEO Summit, she believes that “not only should there be a professional code or conduct and a culture of inclusion at all industry events, those policies have to be enforced and honored,” according to a statement.
The executive adds that such policies should include “organizers, moderators and attendees.” Furthermore, “We must get to a point where this industry, male dominated or not, carries a culture of respect,” Webber said.
Asked if this week’s callout of Fisher’s comments and response to it represents a watershed for the industry, Bair Financial Planning President Marci Bair responded: “Yes. It sparked enough interest and conversation that hopefully it’s not just a two-day event.”
What’s changed? “This is the first public acknowledgement of the behavior of someone … in financial services who’s that well known and that high profile,” Bair said.
“Today, with social media, it’s easy to put something out there — which Ken Fisher and others need to be aware of,” the certified financial planner added.
“I hope it is a turning point in financial services, so that advisors and others will think before they speak,” Bair said. “And as we put together conferences and invitations we will vet [speakers] better and have more diversity and inclusion of those we ask to speak.”
Though Fisher has apologized for causing offense, “He also was like, ‘I always talk this way. What’s the big deal?” she noted.
(“I have given a lot of talks, a lot of times, in a lot of places and said stuff like this and never gotten that type of response,” Fisher told Bloomberg. “Mostly the audience understands what I am saying.”)
But the video criticizing his remarks “shows the changing of advisors’ attitudes,” Bair said.
“This time was different, because Alex spoke aout out and others supported him,” she said. “Plus, Chip Roame of Tiburon Strategic Advisors came out swift and visible as well. They should be commended for not ducking and hiding.”
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