CHICAGO - Financial advisers flocked to the windy city last month for the 2003 Morningstar Investment Conference, where the mutual fund industry's top stockpickers discussed their investment strategies and what it takes to beat the market. Given the wave of corporate scandals that has swept the financial markets the past few years, several managers are reminding investors that cash is still king.

A panel featuring three top managers focused on looking beyond corporate earnings for companies that churn out a ton of cash, or "cash cows" as they were referred to at the conference. Managers on the star-studded panel outlined several criteria that govern their selection process. "We stay away from serial acquirers," said John Rogers, chairman and chief executive at Ariel Asset Management. "WorldCom and Enron made a slew of acquisitions that masked their true financial state."

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