I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly Michigan’s Chief Investment Officer, Jon Braeutigam, pulled $600 million of the State of Michigan Retirement Fund’s pension account out of investments managed by renowned money manager Ken Fisher.
The decision wasn’t driven by investment performance or by politics. Simply stated, it was because of crude and off color comments made by Mr. Fisher during a recent financial conference.
His language was totally inappropriate, and it wasn’t as if a hidden microphone made a recording. He made the comments openly in front of an audience of financial professionals while describing his business’ operations. The attendees, I understand, were absolutely aghast.
If you look far enough into any person’s background, I think you’re likely to find something they regret saying. Just a few weeks ago, while getting my teeth cleaned, the dental hygienist kept asking me to open my mouth wider. I kiddingly told her that as often as I put my foot in my mouth it should be a piece of cake to open it a lot wider.
In other words, I’m far from perfect, and over the years, I’ve made a regrettable comment or two. But never in my wildest imagination would I ever incorporate vulgar and lewd language while making a financial presentation to my peers.
I tip my hat to the State of Michigan for promptly leading by example. We are generally a very understanding country where people are willing to give others a second chance after a misstep.
But incorporating vulgarity into describing how your company does business is far more than a misstep. It’s an insight to the inner workings of a company’s business model and is inappropriate beyond a doubt, especially in this day and age.
The people you entrust to watch and manage your investments are as important as the returns they provide. Whomever you entrust should not only be honest and ethical, but also the kind of people you would feel comfortable and confident introducing to your family, coworkers and friends.
Years ago, when my sons were toddlers, my wife and I took them out for ice cream. When one broke his spoon on the frozen ice cream I went back to the counter and asked for another. The owner charged me five cents to recoup his cost, but he lost a client.
In today’s world, if you don’t like the work of a tradesman, you don’t rehire him. If you aren’t satisfied with the service at a store, you don’t return. Likewise, if you don’t care for the behavior of your financial advisor, you move on. Which is exactly what Michigan is doing with a portion of the state’s retirement money.
It’s rare to find anyone that’s perfect, but you can certainly endeavor to associate yourself with people and businesses that strive to be fair and treat everyone in an honorable, professional and caring manner.
Our leaders in Lansing made an appropriate decision and made it promptly. I encourage you to look at the people behind your nest egg. Are they the kind of people that share your integrity? If they not, I suggest you move on.
And once again, I’d like to mention that my book, “A Thought for Your Pennies,” will soon be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.