Since this story was published, the organizer of the Tiburon CEO Summit barred Ken Fisher from attending future Tiburon events. Read about Chip Roame’s lengthy letter and decision in RIA Intel’s follow-up story.
At least three financial advisors have broken a popular wealth management conference’s confidentiality policy after hearing comments made by billionaire Ken Fisher yesterday.
Alex Chalekian appears to have been the first. The founder and chief executive of Lake Avenue Financial, a Pasadena, CA-based RIA that manages $160 million in assets, was appalled by what he heard Fisher say during a fireside chat at the Tiburon CEO Summit held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.
“The things said by Ken Fisher were absolutely horrifying. He made comments about genitalia, talked about picking up on a girl, and don’t show them what’s in your pants,” said Chalekian in a video posted to his personal Twitter account. The video has been seen more than 50,000 times in under 12 hours.
“I just had to open up and mention how disgusted I am.”
Rachel Robasciotti, the founder of Robasciotti & Philipson, a San Francisco-based RIA that manages $125 million, has attended numerous conferences for advisors. She’s observed panels and groups of attendees that lacked diversity, as well as inappropriate behavior.
But as an active advocate for companies to abolish mandatory arbitration for harassment complaints, she had to say something after Fisher’s remarks comparing success in wealth management to sleeping with women.
After the comparison, Fisher backtracked and said he didn’t want to be viewed as someone like the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, according to Robasciotti. Still, it struck a nerve with her.
“It was very ironic for me to be sitting in the room through this whole session and feeling like I was being negatively impacted by this because the rules of the conference silenced me,” Robasciotti told RIA Intel.
“I just can’t morally let it go.”
Impact investing consultant Sonya Dreizler participated in a panel discussion with Robasciotti and also knowingly broke the policy. She gave RIA Intel permission to publish a statement about what she observed.
“I was at the Tiburon CEO Summit, and attended most of the 'fireside chat' session where Ken Fisher spoke; the chat was a plenary session from the main stage. I watched Alex Chalekian’s video on Twitter and can confirm that what Alex said about the fireside chat is true. 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.”
Others who attended the fireside chat confirmed that attendees were unsettled by Fisher’s comments but chose to remain anonymous.
In an email to RIA Intel, a spokesperson for Fisher Investments attributed the following comments to Fisher: “While I said words he cited I don’t think he heard me correctly and clearly misconstrued my meaning and certainly my intended meaning. Most of his slant is 'gotcha' wrong in my view. To the extent he and any others were offended I apologize truly and sincerely.”
Tuesday evening during a dinner for attendees, Robasciotti said that Roame acknowledged that some of what Fisher said was inappropriate. “I don’t think Chip was condoning this,” she said.
Roame could not be reached to comment for this story.
The visceral responses to Chalekian’s video weren’t solely due to what Fisher said during yesterday’s fireside chat but rather his alleged history of saying offensive things at conferences yet still being invited to speak at them.
Morgan Housel, partner at The Collaborative Fund and a former Wall Street journalist, tweeted “He does this at every conference I’ve seen. Awful.” Courtney Ranstrom, co-founder of Trailhead Planners, tweeted “Ken Fisher did the same thing at the EBI West conference in June 2018. I don’t understand why he keeps getting invited to speak.”
Robasciotti agreed with the commenters. An executive who publicly considers conversations about money and “genitalia” to be similar is bad for the industry, she said.
“This shouldn’t be who is leading the industry for RIAs.”
Fisher, who describes himself on Twitter as a “self-made multi-billionaire,” founded the eponymously named company in 1979. Today, he is executive chairman of the firm, which managed $112 billion through June.