First, What Happened
Fisher Investments’ founder and chair had made
crude remarks before. But this time — on Oct. 8 at
the Tiburon CEO Summit — was different.
Early the next day, conference attendee Alex
Chalekian reacted to them in a video posted on
Twitter, which quickly went viral. He described
them as “a true debacle. It was horrible. Things that were said
by Ken Fisher were just absolutely horrifying.”
Chalekian, head of Lake Avenue Financial and RIA
Integrated Partners’ practice acquisitions, said Fisher referred
to “genitalia, … picking up a … girl, …. Jeffrey Epstein, … and
[made] other inappropriate comments at the conference.”
He and others at the event were “disgusted by this, and
many of the women expressed to me that this is why they don’t
like coming to these conferences. It makes them very uncom-
fortable. And this obviously doesn’t help the situation.”
In the remarks, Fisher described prospecting for new cli-
ents like “going up to a girl in a bar … going up to a woman in a
bar and saying, ‘Hey, I want to talk about what’s in your pants,’”
according to an audio recording obtained by CNBC.
Rachel Robasciotti, founder of wealth manager Robasciotti
& Philipson, was one of less than 20 women among the 220
guests at the Oct. 9 event. “I sat in the audience stunned by
what I was hearing,” she said in a blog post (and on television).
“When you are on stage, you’re there because others want
to learn from you … ,” Robasciotti explained. “When your
description of the world uses women as sexual objects and
refers to employees as if they were cattle, it has an impact on
real people in and outside of the room.”
Sonya Dreizler, founder of the impact-investing consulting
firm Solutions With Sonya and another conference participant,
also spoke out: “Since this content is not about business issues,
I’m choosing to break [the event’s] code of privacy to confirm
that the comments from the stage were indeed outrageous.”
Fisher also made crude statements at an event in 2018.
“There were similar comments to what Alex [Chalekian] ref-
erenced about advances towards women and just some sexual
comments that you could tell the audience was uncomfortable
with. And there were comments afterwards about how they
could not believe … what [Fisher said],” according to advisor
Justin Castelli of RLS Wealth Management.
Equally unbelievable to some have been Fisher’s responses
to the recent remarks. After seeing Chalekian’s video, Fisher
first said in a statement: “While I said most of the words he
cited, he wasn’t hearing the context of what I was communi-
cating and seems to have misconstrued its essence — certainly
misconstrued my intended meaning.”
He added: “The rest is just nonsense. … To the extent he or oth-
ers in that large crowd were offended, I apologize most sincerely.”
Nearly a month later, though, the firm returned to its defen-
sive stance. “Any fair account … would acknowledge that Ken
used the language he did to underscore how some advisors …
behave in pushing their services on prospective clients. Given
most people’s privacy about their financial life, aggressive
sales pitches are the equivalent of a crude come-on in a bar.
His point was, that’s no way for a financial advisor to behave,”
according to John Dillard, the firm’s head of global public rela-
tions, who spoke recently to the Los Angeles Times.
Ironically, Fisher’s firm has been accused of such behavior.
Since 2016, 125 individuals have filed grievances against Fisher
Investments with the Federal Trade Commission, Bloomberg
reports. The firm’s “hardball” tactics include marketing phone
calls, spam emails and impersonations of supposed friends, co-workers and government officials. In September, Fisher told
ThinkAdvisor the firm spends some 6% of revenues on marketing.
“The firm itself, and Ken to a certain extent, has a reputation in the industry that rubs people the wrong way,” said
Kirsten Plonner, communications chief of FiComm Partners.
“People [have] turned a blind eye, and he’s known for making
off-color remarks; there’s nothing illegal or criminal about
that, except [on Oct. 8], it really struck a nerve in a big way.”
Oct. 8, 2019
Ken Fisher makes
lewd remarks during
fireside chat at
Tiburon CEO Summit.
Leaders of Fisher’s firm
reportedly talk to pension
advisor Mercer and
disclose retail investors
have pulled $20 million.
Attendee Alex Chalekian
posts video on Twitter
describing his disgust with
Banned from future
events by Tiburon,
News breaks that
Michigan is pulling
$600 million from Fisher
Investments, which says
it is forming diversity and
inclusion task force.
“When your description of the world uses
women as sexual objects and refers to employees
as if they were cattle, it has an impact on real
people in and outside of the room.”
—Rachel Robasciotti, founder and principal, Robasciotti & Philipson