Those of Us Who Know Ken Fisher Know What's Happening Is a Travesty
I first met Ken Fisher in 2004. At the time I was a “functionary” at a Washington, D.C. think tank. Getting more specific, I was a fundraiser. Eager to become an economic policy writer despite no background in economics, fundraising paid the bills while I read and wrote at night and on weekends. Notable about 2004 is that no organization wanted me for my writing, which meant that the footer on my op-eds was “John Tamny is a writer in Washington, D.C.”
All of what’s been written so far rates mention simply because in 2004 I asked Fisher to meet via e-mail about the organization I was raising money for. Naively trying to appear somewhat credible, I attached a recent opinion piece that yet again indicated my status as a writer whom no one was ready to be affiliated with.
Despite this Ken Fisher, the 2nd longest serving columnist in the history of Forbes magazine, the bestselling author of countless books, and the world famous investor, took a meeting with me. Even more amazing to me was that this wasn’t some ten minute hello/goodbye meeting; rather the billionaire Fisher spent over an hour with me talking the economy, the markets, and my favorite topic of discussion at the time, Sarbanes-Oxley.
I left the meeting walking on water. Despite overseeing tens of billions of client dollars for his eponymous firm, Fisher took the time to get to know me, to discuss all manner of subjects with me, plus he listened to me. He did this even though there was plainly nothing to gain from spending time with this most mid-level of workers. See above. Ken was just being Ken. So genuine, so interested, so unlike what most would expect a billionaire to be. He didn’t have handlers shooing me away, he just sat with me in a conference room and treated me like a somebody. This is how Ken does things.
As the meeting was ending, I asked Ken if I could add him to my distribution list for the opinion pieces I was writing, and he said yes. We’ve been in contact ever since, and I’m exceedingly proud to say I consider him a very good friend.
Notable about my first meeting with Ken, and numerous meetings since then, is that he hasn’t changed one bit. He remains this extraordinarily kind person who makes time to read my columns, to discuss them with me, he tells where me where I’m wrong, cheers me when I’m right, he makes time to have dinner with me when he's in Washington, D.C., plus he always makes a point of asking endless questions about what’s going on with me as a person. Ken knows my wife, who adores him, and always asks about her along with my daughter. All of this rates mention simply because it’s the experience that those lucky enough to know Ken similarly confirm.
Indeed, in my capacity as an economics and market-focused writer I’ve gotten to know a number of former and existing Fisher Investments employees over the years. To say Ken is venerated by those who know him, who worked for him, and who still work for him, is an understatement.
Along these lines, I received an e-mail from one of Ken’s former employees last month. This was before what happened happened, which is worth bringing up for it showing what those lucky enough to know Ken think of him. In other words, this e-mail wasn’t a defensive response to what happened on October 8th. The ex-employee wrote:
“KF is the real deal - always goes out of his way to support his troops anytime something goes terribly wrong... best leader I’ve ever been around.”
The comments from the ex-employee were a preface to a post put up on LinkedIn by an existing Fisher Investments employee who wrote the following:
“So my wife passed away this past weekend, leaving behind a grieving husband and two young kids.
Throughout this process my work Fisher Investments has been more than accommodating, and hundreds of my “Fisher Family” have reached out to offer me their support.
Today I received a personal letter in the mail from our founder Ken Fisher offering me his condolences and any support I needed. It’s not often you get letters in the mail from a billionaire.
This just confirms again how lucky I am to work at such a great and supporting place where I can build my lifelong career. I’ve never worked a better place, and I don’t plan on going anywhere until I retire.”
Earlier this year I asked Ken if my friend Bill Walton and I could interview him for Bill’s eponymous show, and Ken being Ken, he said yes. Once again no handlers. No chauffeurs. I picked him up at his hotel in my eleven-year old car, and we proceeded to drive for 45 minutes, talking most of the time about me. All that changed once we got to Bill’s studio, and the two-part interview began. This requires mention because those who know me know that I’m rarely at a loss for words. The “problem” is that Ken fascinates me when he talks about politics, the economy and the markets, and this meant Bill conducted the interview largely solo. Thank goodness Bill is a true pro as I was too interested in what Ken was saying to even bother forming questions. Ken isn't just one of the nicest people I know. He’s also truly fascinating.
It's stories like this that those “new” to Ken, who only became aware of him based on quotes taken out of context, and past utterances taken out of context, are seemingly unaware of as they presently form opinions about him. They quite simply don’t know him, and because they don’t know they’re unaware of how little their perception squares with reality.
The media aren’t helping in the matter as they write about “lewd remarks he made this month at a financial services industry conference in San Francisco,” as though Ken just made a point to talk in locker-room fashion about women because, well, the billionaire can. And that he somehow doesn’t know any better. The “lewd” quote comes from the New York Times, and it’s a reminder of how very much media members can warp perception. They clearly have in this case as the very excellent Abigail Shrier made plain in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece. Shrier brought context to a “story” that has so far lacked it. Shrier informed readers that what Ken actually said was very meaningful, and respectful to everyone, including women. In Shrier’s words,
“The advice he [Fisher] gives his employees is to approach potential investors sensitively. Otherwise, he said, it’s like ‘going up to a woman in a bar and saying, ‘Hey, I want to talk about what’s in your pants.’”
One wouldn’t know it from reading about Ken’s much commented on speech, but he was explaining to those in attendance that money for most people is a very uncomfortable subject to discuss. And because it is, those seeking to manage the money of others need to approach the situation delicately. In Shrier’s words, Ken was telling his audience that in approaching potential clients, “Don’t be a jerk; talk to them like people, woo them, win them over. Don’t be that guy.”
Sadly, it’s not just Ken’s comments at an investor conference earlier this month that are being mangled. Eager to create a narrative out of nothing, journalists have unearthed other past assertions to build their weak case. Since Ken made “lewd remarks” about women, he must be a rabid right winger who hates politicians and charity; the latter more than the former. The truth has been cast aside amid media attempts to create a horrid narrative.
Indeed, the same New York Times piece that reported about “lewd remarks” well out of context, noted that Ken had said at a 2011 investor conference that entrepreneurs had contributed more to society than any politician. This was reported in damning fashion, but any sentient being would acknowledge that Ken is absolutely right. Without getting into limited government versus big, the simple truth is that life absent individuals like Edison, Ford, Kroc, Jobs, Dell and Bezos (to name a microscopic few) would be defined by relentless drudgery.
Other media accounts have focused on Ken’s disdain for charity as being indicative of some miserly, hateful individual. In truth, Ken’s just being realistic: what powers the economy forward is investment, the matching of capital with the talented, ambitious, visionary, and usually all three. There are no companies, no jobs, and there is no progress without investment, so Ken thinks it unwise to give money away. At risk of putting words into his mouth, he despises cancer, poverty, and addiction, but is not so arrogant as to presume that he knows how to fix the maladies mentioned. Since he doesn’t, he allows market actors to direct his immense wealth to its highest use. Ken’s disdain for charity is born of powerful compassion. He correctly thinks the investment that has improved our lives in countless other ways will similarly speed us along much more quickly to cancer and heart disease cures, along with erasure of poverty and addiction.
In short, the remarkable, brilliant, kind and compassionate truth about Ken Fisher has been lost amid media attempts to create villainy where it doesn’t exist. This is shameful, and it demands correction. Those who know the wonderful truth about Ken owe it to reason and justice to correct a false narrative that has nothing to do with the person they know.