Fallout from money manager Kenneth Fisher's remarks tops $1 billion in lost assets

BOSTON (Reuters) – Fallout from Kenneth Fisher’s alleged insensitive remarks about women escalated on Friday when a large Iowa pension plan cut ties with the money manager, whose firm has lost more than $1 billion in assets under management in the last week.

The Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System was the latest to notify Fisher Investments that it will terminate its contract with his firm. Fisher Investments manages $386 million of IPERS’ $34 billion trust fund.

Iowa joins pension funds run for Boston, the state of Michigan and Philadelphia in cutting ties with Fisher.

“IPERS staff has taken time to evaluate this situation, and it is our opinion that Mr Fisher’s comments have damaged the credibility of the firm and its leadership,” the Iowa pension plan said in a statement.

“As a result, the risk to IPERS is that the firm could lose investment talent, and/or it may be unable to recruit high caliber talent in the future. Furthermore, the negative publicity will probably continue to be a major distraction to Fisher investment personnel.”

Fisher Investments did not immediately comment.

In a video posted Oct. 9 on Twitter, Alex Chalekian, chief executive of a financial advisory firm, called attention to comments Fisher made at a financial conference last week.

Chalekian said Fisher made derogatory comments about genitalia, picking up girls and financier Jeffrey Epstein, among other topics. Epstein committed suicide in August while in jail awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

In a memo to his firm’s employees sent to Reuters earlier this week by a spokesman, Fisher said: “It pains me to know that my comments have caused you grief, concern, and indignation. I sincerely apologize.”

SEI Investments Co on Friday said it was reviewing its business relationship with Fisher.

SEI serves as a trustee and sponsor on investment portfolios managed by Fisher for dozens of retirement plans that have included Becton Dickinson and Co, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and Nextera Energy Inc, according to U.S. Department of Labor disclosures.

“The comments made do not reflect SEI or our core values,” the company said in a statement. “As the trustee of certain trusts advised by (Fisher), our fiduciary duty requires us to focus on and protect the interests of the investors in those trusts. We are engaged in a due diligence review of (Fisher) and will make decisions that we believe to be in the best interests of investors after that process concludes.”

Several other clients of Fisher, including Fidelity Investments, have said they are reviewing whether to keep his firm as a money manager.

The Kansas City Public School Retirement System, which has $78 million with Fisher Investments, will also review its relationship with the firm, Executive Director Christine Gierer said on Friday.

Gierer said she expects the situation will be discussed at the system’s next board meeting, on Nov. 4.

Fisher’s setbacks come in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which has exposed widespread sexual harassment or abuse of women in multiple spheres of American life and ended the careers of dozens of powerful men in media, politics, entertainment and business.

Reporting by Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Tom Brown and Rosalba O’Brien

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