Ken Fisher's crude comments drag Tiburon CEO Summit into the mud

Social media flares up over sexist and inappropriate remarks during fireside chat

Oct 9, 2019 @ 3:22 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

In the age of #MeToo movements and campaigns for diversity and inclusion across the financial services industry, Ken Fisher, founder and chairman of Fisher Investments, has been accused of brazenly violating the limits of good taste and decorum during a presentation at an industry event this week.

According to Alex Chalekian, founder and chief executive of Lake Avenue Financial, in a video he posted on social media late Tuesday evening, Mr. Fisher made "absolutely horrifying" comments during a session at the Tiburon CEO Summit. Those comments included references to "genitalia," "Jeffrey Epstein," and "tripping on acid" and "picking up on a girl" among other inappropriate remarks, said Mr. Chalekian in the video.

The 37th annual Tiburon CEO Summit, hosted by Charles "Chip" Roame, managing partner of Tiburon Strategic Advisors, has long been regarded as an event for high-level executives and industry thought leaders, where comments and presentations are closely guarded from those not attending the event.

Mr. Chalekian, who did not respond to a request for comment for this story, acknowledged in his video post on Twitter, "I know we're not supposed to talk about this stuff, especially the way the conference is set up, it's meant to allow many of these icons in the industry to be comfortable and talk amongst their peers, but I just had to open up and mention how disgusted I am."

The 2-minute, 12-second video, which was posted just after 2 a.m. EST, Wednesday, had been viewed nearly 41,000 times by noon EST.

The video post also attracted more than 100 comments, some of which drew responses from Mr. Chalekian.

When challenged on Twitter about the one-sided nature of his video post, Mr. Chalekian responded with a tweet that included, "But if it wasn't so bad, I doubt that the organizers of the conference would have taken the time to stop dinner with over 200 guests and issue an apology for what occurred on stage," in reference to the fireside chat session featuring Mr. Roame interviewing Mr. Fisher.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Roame said he was busy during the final day of the San Francisco-based conference and likely would not be able to comment for this story.

Mr. Fisher emailed the following response to a request for comment: "Just heard the video. While I said words he cited I don't think he heard me correctly and clearly misconstrued my meaning and certainly my intended meaning. Most of his slant is 'gotcha' wrong in my view. He said nice things about Chip Roame. I suggest you get Chip's interpretations. To the extent he and any others were offended I apologize truly and sincerely."

Mr. Fisher was not in attendance at the dinner because he was traveling to Europe, according to his email.

Rachel Robasciotti, founder and chief executive of Robasciotti & Philipson, attended the fireside chat and said Mr. Fisher referenced the "off-the-record" nature of the event before "being crude and showing his true colors."

"I was shocked," said Ms. Robasciotti, who was attending the summit as a speaker.

"He said if he could abolish all the charities he would," she said. "Speaking about his loyal, dedicated army, he talked about bringing them in and branding them on the ass with Fisher Investments. He was talking about the people who work there in such degrading terms."

Regarding the apology during dinner, Ms. Robasciotti said it was less of an official statement than a passing reference by Mr. Roame during a comment about enjoying the meal.

"It was unbelievable the way [Mr. Fisher] was giving advice on the best way to get into a girl's pants; this man has no filter," she added. "And the fact that he is winning is a testament to our industry and why I'm so intent on changing it. I want to take him down."

With approximately $100 billion under management, Fisher Investments is the nation's second largest registered investment adviser, behind Financial Engines Advisors.

Fisher Investments also stands out for its aggressive advertising campaigns aimed to build a national brand for retail investors.

Sonya Dreizler, an impact investing consultant who was speaking at the summit and attended the fireside chat, emailed the following statement: "I was at the Tiburon CEO Summit, and attended most of the fireside chat session where Ken Fisher spoke; the chat was a plenary session from the main stage.

"I watched Alex Chalekian's video on Twitter and can confirm that what Alex said about the fireside chat is true," said Ms. Dreizler in her email, adding that "The conference content is supposed to be kept private, so that CEOs can be candid about internal business opportunities and challenges. Since this content is not about business issues, I'm choosing to break that code of privacy to confirm that the comments from the stage were indeed outrageous."

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