Michigan drops Fisher Investments after CEO makes lewd comments during fireside chat.
68-year-old CEO Ken Fisher of Fisher Investments, a long-term financial adviser for the State of Michigan, made some remarks at a summit that caused the state to break ties with the company. Severing ties with Michigan will cost Fisher millions in pension funds it manages. The state Department of Treasury’s Bureau of Investments (BOI) terminated the contract.
The conference, hosted by Tiburon Strategic Advisors, included a fireside chat in which Fisher alluded to his wealth management strategy as being like “picking up women for sex,” making explicit comments related to Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of operating a sex trafficking ring before he took his one life earlier this year. Fisher also spoke of doing drugs and said that charities are immoral. The CEO apologized after his remarks were leaked to the public.
Michigan Chief Investment Officer Jon Braeutigam addressed BOI board members, saying Fisher’s comments were “completely unacceptable.” He said the BOI learned about the situation in the media and felt “prompt termination” was best and that the retirement funds will be managed internally moving forward. Braeutigam wrote, “There is no excuse to not treat everyone with dignity and respect. We have high expectations of our managers (and staff), not just with regards to returns but also in how they exhibit integrity and respect to all individuals.”
Fisher Investments was a domestic equity for the BOI for fifteen years and was responsible for managing more than $600 million of the State of Michigan Retirement Systems funds. Braeutigam wrote the firm’s “performance over the years was satisfactory and that he had never heard of Fisher making lewd comments before.”
Alex Chalekian, founder of Pasadena, California-based Lake Avenue Financial, called Fisher’s fireside chat “a true debacle,’ adding, “Things said by Ken Fisher were absolutely horrifying. Talking to some of the men and women, they were disgusted by this. Many of the women expressed to me this is one of the reasons why they don’t like coming to these conferences. It makes them feel very uncomfortable and this obviously doesn’t help the situation.”
Sonya Dreizler, founder of impact investing company Solutions with Sonya, said, “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.”
Tiburon addressed Fisher’s comments with Managing Partner Charles “Chip” Roame saying, “These comments lacked the dignity and respect that should be expected by any Tiburon CEO Summit speaker or attendee. These were unacceptable words at Tiburon, in the wealth and investments industry, and in society generally.”
Fisher responded, “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. 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.”