Since 2016, 125 individuals have filed grievances about Fisher Investments and its aggressive sales methods with the Federal Trade Commission, according to a recent Bloomberg report. The firm’s tactics include marketing phone calls, spam emails and even impersonations of supposed friends, co-workers and government officials.
“I have emailed them as well and asked them to stop. It just seems to get worse,” one would-be client wrote to the FTC, the news report said. “It is way beyond harassment,” said another. Seven complaints were categorized by the FTC as “calls pretending to be government, businesses or family and friend.”
The investment firm — founded and led by Ken Fisher, who recently made crude remarks at an industry conference — is currently in the hot seat, with some $3.9 billion in client redemptions over the past few weeks.
While Vanguard, Fidelity and Charles Schwab had more complaints than Fisher’s firm, Bloomberg says, these three firms manage trillions in client assets versus Fisher’s $115 billion.
In an interview with ThinkAdvisor before he made the lewd comments, Fisher said the firm spends 6% of revenue on marketing and advertising each year. The firm’s 12-month sales were reported to be about about $1 billion as of February 2019 — which means an estimated marketing budget of $60 million.
On Friday, the firm dipped into that budget and ran full-page ads in The New York Times, THe Wall Street Journal and The Dallas Morning News, showcasing women who work for the firm; several PR consultants said the approach is unlikely to help its image or stem the loss of assets.
Could FTC Take Action?
Fisher Investments has not received communications from the FTC regarding do-not-call or other cases, the report adds.
However, given the current media attention on the firm’s chairman and the volume of complaints, the commission could start an investigation, according to Mozelle Thompson, an FTC commissioner from 1997 to 2004: “It seems they would be within the gun sights of the FTC,” he told Bloomberg.
One individual from Washington state cited in the report said in May 2018, “In their sales pitches they routinely ask prospective clients, many of whom are elderly and vulnerable, to hand over hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to their care. This type of sales technique is despicable.”
Fisher Investments denies the accusations.
“Dollar for dollar and client for client, we are proud to put our history of taking care of elderly clients up against anyone in the world,” said spokesperson John Dillard in the report. “To argue we aren’t world class in caring for elderly clients is blatantly false.”
He added: “We respectfully and professionally communicate with people who request information from us … . We do not make ‘cold calls,’ and we immediately add individuals to our contact suppression list if they tell us that they do not want us to contact them in the future.”
— Check out A Timeline of the Fallout From Ken Fisher’s Crude Remarks on ThinkAdvisor.