Just yesterday we reported that at a financial services conference in San Francisco this week, billionaire Ken Fisher - whose firm manages more than $100 billion - shocked attendees when he compared gaining a client's trust to "trying to get into a girl's pants." Fisher also said at the same conference that executives who were "not comfortable talking about genitalia should not be in the financial industry."
Now, clients of Fisher Investments, including some large institutions, are said to be reevaluating their relationship with the firm after Fisher's comments were disseminated widely through the mainstream media, according to Bloomberg.
Shawna Lode, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System, said: "Fisher’s remarks are obviously concerning. Although our investment management contracts do not include a conduct policy, we hold our partners to the highest standards and reserve the right to amend or sever any contract at our discretion.”
Fisher manages $386 million of the Iowa pension’s $34 billion.
Maxwell Rule, chief financial officer of Hames, a company who has their 401(k) managed by Fisher, said: “It certainly taints their reputation. I wouldn’t comment at this point whether this would lead us to take our business elsewhere, but I will certainly have a conversation with the ownership regarding that. As a fiduciary I have an obligation to have that conversation.”
Meanwhile, performing damage control at Fisher Investments was Chief Executive Damian Ornani, who said the firm now plans to start a diversity and inclusion task force. Ornani said in a letter to employees on Friday: “Let me be clear: Ken’s comments were wrong. He has admitted that and apologized for them.”
Ornani also offered a reminder that 30% of the firm's managers are women and 23% of those at the VP level or higher are women.
The company participated in a job fair at University of Washington this week, but said it didn't see an impact in recruiting.
Nams Nayak, a senior political science major at U of Washington commented: “That’s just insane that someone who is so influential feels the entitlement in order to say things like that, especially in the kind of society we’re in today where people are trying to push for women being respected in the workplace.”
Tinsley Hembree, who represented Fisher at the company’s booth, said: “Ken’s comments were taken out of context. He is a colorful person and can say some outlandish things, but I personally have never been impacted by any type of harassment or ever felt degraded as a woman working in a finance firm, especially Fisher.”
On Thursday, Fisher cleaned up his apology a bit, stating: “Some of the words and phrases I used during a recent conference to make certain points were clearly wrong and I shouldn’t have made them. I realize this kind of language has no place in our company or industry. I sincerely apologize.”
Previously, on Wednesday, he had said: “I have given a lot of talks, a lot of times, in a lot of places and said stuff like this and never gotten that type of response. Mostly the audience understands what I am saying.”
“I regret I accepted that speech invitation because it was kind of a pain in the neck,” he continued. "I wonder if anybody will be candid at one of these Tiburon events again.”
As we pointed out on Thursday, Fisher has a track record of making similar comments in the past. He was quoted at an investing conference in California last year as saying: "The most stupid thing you can do is what every mutual fund firm in the world always did, and that’s brag about performance in a direct mail piece. That’s a little bit like walking into a bar and you are a single guy and want to get laid and walking up to some girl and saying: ‘Hey you want to have sex?’ You just turn yourself into a jerk."
At the same conference, when asked what he would have done differently in his life, he said he would “have more sex.”
Regardless, while Fisher may have turned off conference attendees this week, he still has an estimated worth of $3.6 billion to help keep him company.