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Ken Fisher's crass remarks at exclusive Tiburon conference spark online criticism

An exclusive conference. A big name speaker. And comments that one attendee found “horrifying.”

In a video posted to Twitter, Alex Chalekian, CEO of Lake Avenue Financial, claims that investment icon Ken Fisher made inappropriate comments during a fireside chat at Tiburon’s CEO Summit this week. Chalekian claims Fisher’s comments included talk about genitalia and picking up a girl.

“When I was listening to this stuff, I did not know if this was a joke or what was going on. I was a deer in headlights. My jaw dropped,” Chalekian says in the video. “We need to change this and we need to change it now. And I was truly disappointed with what occurred.”

Through a spokesman, Fisher said his meaning had been misunderstood. “While I said words he cited I don’t think he heard me correctly and clearly misconstrued my meaning and certainly my intended meaning. Most of his slant is ‘gotcha’ wrong in my view. To the extent he and any others were offended I apologize truly and sincerely."

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
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 Sept. 28, 2010.

A spokesman for Chalekian said he would not be commenting further. “Alex Chalekian and Integrated Partners fiercely support diversity and inclusion in our industry. We are mindful of the traditionally closed nature of the Tiburon CEO Summit and have tremendous respect for its organizer, Chip Roame. For that reason we will not be commenting further at this time.”

Tiburon's Managing Principal Chip Roame did not respond to requests for comment.

Fisher has written four bestselling books, pens a column for USA Today and has been a commentator on Fox Business. His firm, Fisher Investments, is a fee-only RIA with more than $112 billion under management.

That anyone would comment on Tiburon’s summit is unusual given its exclusive, closed door nature. Participants typically don’t discuss what transpires publicly, a fact Chalekian noted in his video. He thanked Roame and Tiburon’s hospitality, but acknowledged he was breaking protocol.

“I know we are not supposed to talk about the way the summit is set up. It’s meant to allow these icons in the industry to feel comfortable to talk amongst their peers but I had just to open up with how disgusted I am,” Chalekian says in the video.

The summit, which started Monday, is being held in a Ritz Carlton in San Francisco.

Tiburon, a consulting firm founded in 1998, has posted videos of its summit to its Facebook page, but none showing Fisher’s fireside chat. The conference is in its 37th edition and features many leaders in wealth management.

“Tiburon's CEO Summits likely provide one of the only true forums where financial services industry CEOs from across traditional industry silos gather to discuss business opportunities. The list of business relationships resulting from prior Tiburon CEO Summits is impressive,” the website says.

The summit’s agenda includes discussions of trends in wealth management, from financial advisor technology to alternative investments, according to the Tiburon website. There was also a tribute to Jud Bergman, the recently deceased CEO of Envestnet.

The website states that for the $35,000 sponsors pay for the summit each year, they receive invitations for C-level executives and access to Tiburon research, among other benefits.

This year’s sponsors include Schwab, Fidelity, Envestnet, and Allianz among a slew of other companies, according to Tiburon’s website.

Chalekian’s tweet elicited numerous responses. Some advisors thanked the Pasadena, California-based advisor, with several women planners saying they avoid financial conferences because of inappropriate comments and conduct. A few said they had heard him make similarly inappropriate comments at another conference. Sonya Dreizler, an impact investing consultant, tweeted that she was present during Fisher's fireside chat at Tiburon.

"I watched Alex Chaledkian's video on Twitter and can confirm that what Alex said about the fireside chat is true. The conference content is supposed to be kept private, so that CEOs can be candid about internal business opportunities and challenges. Since this content is not about business issues, I'm choosing to break that code of privacy to confirm that the comments from the stage were indeed outrageous," Dreizler wrote.

Others, however, derided and taunted Chalekian.

“Lol, so you can’t be a grown mature man and not take this kind of behaviour to heart? You’re such a delicate little snowflake,” @JasonDotten tweeted.

Chalekian’s social media post comes amid widespread efforts in wealth management to encourage greater diversity and welcome more women and minorities into a profession long dominated by white men. Those efforts take place in an industry that has historically been plagued by high profile sexual harassment cases, such as the 1990s “Boom-Boom Room” lawsuit against Smith Barney.

A 2018 study of multiple white collar professions by SourceMedia found that sexual misconduct was most prevalent in wealth management. One-third of women in the profession reported a high prevalence of sexual misconduct in the workplace, according to the survey.

Responding to Chalekian’s video, a woman CFP thanked him for speaking up about allegedly inappropriate behavior. “This is exactly why women don't like attending financial conferences,” she wrote.

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