It appears Tom Pence has successfully broken free of the golden handcuffs Conseco Capital Management tried to slap on him while he was a top manager there. A lawsuit the Carmel, Ind.-based firm filed against Pence for allegedly breaking conditions of a contract he signed when he left the firm has been settled, Pence confirmed.

Pence left Conseco last October to work for Strong Capital Management of Menomonee Falls, Wis., luring several of Conseco's portfolio managers and analysts with him.

Conseco filed the lawsuit claiming Pence broke an agreement he signed July 31, 2000 in which he agreed to run at least two hedge funds for Conseco.

Specific details of the settlement were not disclosed, but no money was exchanged as part of the settlement, said Jody Lowe, a Strong spokeswoman. As part of the agreement, Pence dropped a countersuit he filed against Conseco, she said.

Conseco acknowledged Pence's hiring of Conseco employees and solicitation of its clients was "legal" and "competitive conduct," according to a statement issued by Strong.

At press time, lawyers for Conseco had not returned calls seeking comment.

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