It now looks as if Ken Fisher and his firm will pay a price beyond public embarrassment for his off-color comments at the recent Tiburon Strategic Advisors CEO Summit.
As of last Wednesday, public pension funds operating on behalf of the state of Michigan, and the cities of Boston and Philadelphia said they were pulling a combined $902 million in assets from Fisher Investments, according to Bloomberg. Other institutions and firms, including Fidelity Investments, are reviewing their relationship with the firm and may do the same.
After the revelation of his off-the-record comments about genitalia, comparing client acquisition to "getting into a girl's pants" and describing his firm's employees as cattle that need to be branded, Mr. Fisher first expressed surprise that people were offended, then later issued a formal apology.
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His comments were roundly condemned, as they should have been. But let's not lose sight of the fact that many of the critics are competitors who could stand to gain from the backlash against Mr. Fisher. Particularly because of his oft-spoken criticism of annuities, for example, there is no doubt a long list of people enjoying Mr. Fisher's public flogging.
As is the case whenever comments from high-profile executives like Mr. Fisher are exposed, there are takeaways that should go beyond the individual. Several of the women in the financial advice industry acknowledged that they had heard similar comments at conferences before, though in after-hours settings, which of course, doesn't make them any less unacceptable.
In the wake of the Ken Fisher debacle, executives in the advice industry should review their own conduct and the culture of their firms to make sure they are not guilty of some of the same misbehavior displayed by Mr. Fisher. Let's use this unfortunate episode as a way to make the industry a better place for all of us.
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