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Fisher client pulls $30M in backlash

(Bloomberg) -- The Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System is yanking the $386 million it has invested with Ken Fisher after the billionaire made vulgar comments at an industry conference.

The move brings the total amount divested from Fisher Investments to more than $1.3 billion. Air Products & Chemical Inc. said earlier Friday that it was pulling $30 million from Fisher.

“It is our opinion that Mr. Fisher’s comments have damaged the credibility of the firm and its leadership,” the Iowa pension 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.”

Fisher Investments is seeing a growing backlash since the firm’s founder made offensive comments about women, spoke of genitalia and then failed to immediately understand the gravity of his words. The Camas, Washington-based firm, which manages $112 billion, is also facing scrutiny from several other pensions which are examining their business with Fisher.

A cameraman films a television monitor showing Kenneth Fisher, chief executive officer of Fisher Investments, speaking in a panel discussion at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. The next 10 years will be as good for investors as the 1990s, said Fisher. Photographer: Gillianne Tedder/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Ken Fisher

The Boston Pension Board on Oct. 16 yanked the $248 million it invested with Fisher after the Michigan Retirement Fund ended its relationship with the firm, which managed $600 million for the state. The Philadelphia Board of Pensions also plans to divest $54 million in assets from Fisher.

Air Products, founded in 1940, provides industrial gases and related equipment to many industries. The company in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, is the world’s leading supplier of liquefied natural gas process technology and equipment.

Fisher Investments was managing about $10.9 billion on behalf of 36 state or municipal government entities, including pension plans, at the end of 2018, according to the firm’s Securities and Exchange Commission registration. That figure is down from $13.2 billion at the end of 2017.

At the Tiburon CEO Summit on Oct. 8, Fisher compared the process of gaining a client’s trust to “trying to get into a girl’s pants” and talked about genitalia. Fisher has apologized for the comments.

Here are the reactions from pensions and firms.

NameInvestment
(in millions)
DivestingReviewingNo Comment
Michigan Retirement Fund$600Yes
Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System386Yes
Boston Pension Board248Yes
Philadelphia Board of Pensions54Yes
Air Products Pension30Yes
Fidelity Investments500Yes
L.A. Fire and Police Pensions500Yes
New Hampshire Retirement System239Yes
Florida Board of Administration175Yes
Haverhill, Mass., Retirement Board13Yes
Kansas City, Mo., Public Schools
Retirement System
78Yes
Segal Marco Advisors$1.35B*Yes
Ohio Public Employees Retirement System839.5Yes
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.675Yes
Employees Retirement System of Texas300Yes

Sources: Bloomberg, filing. *Fisher is 1 of 11 subadvisers

By Janet Lorin
Bloomberg News