City withdraws $ 248 million in company pension funds after CEO’s inappropriate comments on women

Prior to the vote, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who appoints some of the pension board members, demanded that he withdraw the money from the town of Fisher.

“Ken Fisher’s statements involve not only his own judgment, but potentially that of the company as a whole,” Walsh wrote to the board. “Boston will not invest in businesses run by people who treat women like commodities. “

The city relies on outside investment firms to manage its $ 5 billion pension fund and has been using Fisher Investments since 2006.

Emme Handy, the city’s chief financial officer, said she had a fiduciary responsibility to retirees, and while the CEO’s comments were “incredibly distasteful” they also represented “bad judgment.”

“We are very clear. We have no relationship with a manager who exercises such poor judgment, ”Hande said. “It’s an appropriate decision to make, and we are protecting the investments and living our values ​​with our investments as well, which is extremely important to the mayor. “

Boston joins Michigan Pension System and City of Philadelphia Pension Fund by abandoning Fisher Investments, bringing the total amount withdrawn to over $ 900 million, according to the media.

Other public retirement programs are reassessing the advisability of doing business with the company.

Fisher does not manage money for the Massachusetts state pension system, a spokesperson for the state treasurer said. The company was on a list of preferred investment services providers for the state’s deferred compensation plan, but was told in a letter sent Tuesday that it had been removed from that list because “the comments represent a culture which is incompatible with the position and beliefs of this Office.

Fidelity Investments, as first reported by Reuters, is also reviewing its relationship with Fisher Investments. A spokesperson for Boston-based Fidelity told The Globe that Fisher manages around $ 500 million for the financial services giant.

“We are very concerned about the highly inappropriate comments he has made,” said Vin Loporchio of Fidelity. “We believe that the opinions he expressed do not correspond to the values ​​of our company. “

The male-dominated investment industry has always been notoriously sexist, but two years after the MeToo movement, this behavior is not tolerated. It is unusual for organizations to sever links with a fund manager for offensive comments, and this is applauded.

“People can’t assume that they can talk about women in a derogatory way and that their clients and peers will take this type of remark as business as usual,” said Karen Firestone, CEO of the management company. fortune of Boston Aureus Asset. Management. “This should not and cannot be accepted anymore. “

Fisher Investments manages more than $ 112 billion for large institutions and high net worth individuals, according to its website.

Fisher spoke at an invitation-only conference hosted by Tiburon Strategic Advisors in San Francisco last week. The remarks were meant to be private, but some participants decided to make them public due to the sexist nature of the comments.

“The things that were said by Ken Fisher were absolutely horrible,” said Alex Chalekian, managing director of Lake Avenue Financial in Pasadena, Calif., In a video posted to Twitter. “I just had to open up and mention how disgusted I am. . . . We need to change that. We have to change it now.

Fisher, in a statement, apologized, saying:

“Some of the words and phrases I used at a recent conference to make certain points were clearly wrong and I should not have said them. I realize that this kind of language has no place in our business or our industry. I sincerely apologize.

But in a interview with Bloomberg News, he showed little remorse.

“I’ve lectured a lot, a lot of times, in a lot of places and said things like that and never got that type of response,” Fisher, 68, told Bloomberg. “Most of the time the audience understands what I’m saying.”

Shirley Leung can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on twitter @leung.