Top pension consultant NEPC questions sustainability of Fisher Investments

BOSTON (Reuters) - Top pension consultant NEPC said it questions the "sustainability" of Fisher Investments, in a memo sent to NEPC clients and seen by Reuters News on Tuesday.

The memo, a major setback to Fisher as major clients move to withdraw assets, is dated Oct. 17. In it NEPC recommended that clients terminate holdings with Fisher over what it called "distasteful remarks" that firm founder Ken Fisher made at an investment conference earlier this month.

NEPC is a key gatekeeper for investment firms looking to manage assets for public and private sector pension and retirement plans. NEPC has more than 350 clients on retainer with total assets of more than $1.1 trillion.

The memo was provided by the New Hampshire Retirement System. The system also said on Tuesday that its independent investment committee voted to terminate Fisher's firm, which manages about $239 million for the organization. The system said the comments at the conference "bring into question Mr. Fisher's judgment."

The action brings to more than $2 billion the amount of money that public and private funds have withdrawn from Fisher's firm this month in the wake of his allegedly sexist remarks.

A spokeswoman for NEPC declined to comment.

Fisher Investments did not immediately comment.

Fisher's comments drew widespread criticism after Alex Chalekian, chief executive of a financial advisory firm, called attention to them on Twitter on Oct. 9. 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 on Oct. 11 Fisher said: "It pains me to know that my comments have caused you grief, concern, and indignation. I sincerely apologize."

In a previous letter to investors, however, Fisher was not as contrite, NEPC said in its memo.

"The combination of Mr. Fisher's behavior, the subsequent investor letter, and high-profile redemptions lead us to question the sustainability of the firm," NEPC said.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston. Additional reporting by Tim McLaughlin. Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky)

10/22/2019 17:58

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