It was just about 2 weeks ago that we pointed out Ken Fisher's efforts to "fight back" against the deluge of withdrawals and redemptions his firm was facing as a result of lewd comments he made at a financial conference several months ago.
The firm's efforts included taking out "women friendly ads". "You Heard Their Story. Now Hear Ours,” the headline to one of his ads read. It featured 7 female employees at Fisher Investments and statistics that put the company in a favorable light. “Over 800 women strong, with women leading 63% of employees,” the ad read.
But now it appears as though all of the women asked to participate in these ads weren't exactly happy about it, according to Bloomberg.
Hundreds of female employees were "surprised" last month when they were asked at a meeting to pose for a group picture showing their support for Fisher. They were told that participation in the ad would be "voluntary". When one woman asked if she could share both positive and negative experiences, she was told that it could be discussed "offline", before the meeting was directed to more logistical questions.
The women were then asked to sign photo waivers at the meeting and were given "little time to make a decision", the report notes.
And the counteroffensive effort has now "dividend women within the company". Some said they were eager to step in and defend their job, while others - well, not so much.
Rachel Winfield, a vice president at Fisher, said: “I would say I understand and agree with some of the stuff that’s in the media that Ken's comments were inappropriate. What Ken says and the experience of the culture are two separate things.”
Other women, however, have complained about feeling pressured to participate and are fearful of losing their jobs or being retaliated against.
Margaret Duffy, executive director of the University of Missouri’s Novak Leadership Institute said:
“A lot of observers would wonder, ‘Did they really have much choice to appear in the ad?’”
John Dillard, a Fisher spokesman, said: "Women from across the company had written or expressed their support of the company internally and on social media sites before the meeting. Those individuals were brought together on that day to share their stories. In an effort to be inclusive, we asked women at all of our locations if they wanted to be part of our message."
Jessica Smith, a vice president in the Camas office, said:
"Many women reached out [to her] before the photo shoot. They felt like what the media has put out there is completely opposite of what they experienced. Many women were very, very eager to have an opportunity to tell our story.”
Some women were uncomfortable when they found out that the ad was being used as a way to generate sales leads. The ad referred people to a website that provides more information on women at the firm. From there, visitors are asked to fill out personal information to “learn what else makes Fisher Investments special.”
Bloomberg notes that "since 2016, 125 people have filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission about repeated Fisher phone calls, emails and mailings."
Meanwhile, Fisher clients continue to hit the exits, with a over $3 billion pulled from the company since Fisher's remarks.
Fisher was managing about $10.9 billion on behalf of 36 state or municipal government entities at the end of 2018, down from $13.2 billion at the end of 2017. That number will likely be sizeably lower at the end of 2019.