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Monday, March 21, 2005

Is the Fund Action Curse Reversed?

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

Some in the fund industry may be secretly crossing their fingers for the reawakening of the II Newsletter curse after learning that this year's winner is SEC Chair William Donaldson. In recent years winners of the industry newsletters' annual awards have had a suffered a spate of misfortune. A glance at the list of recent winners and what happened to each after they took home the hardware might have you thanking the editors for overlooking your nomination.

Jim Connelly, formerly of Fred Alger Management, is serving out time a New York prison after conspiring to destroy evidence (reminder: don't tell others to delete emails) when Eliot Spitzer came calling. Connelly had won the 2002 Fund Action Fund Leader Award for his role in keeping the firm together after the attack on the World Trade Center.

Also caught in the Spitzer snare was Mark Williamson, former chairman and CEO of Invesco Funds. Unlike Connelly Williamson has avoided prison, but don't look for him at fund industry events ever again. Ironically, Fund Action recognized Williamson with its 2000 award for turning around the Invesco brand. That brand no longer exists.

Two other recent winners are also out of the industry.

1999 winner and former Janus CEO Thomas Bailey saw the firm he founded take a nosedive along with the NASDAQ in 2000. In 2001 he became a cover boy for Fortune magazine in one of the least flattering articles ever written about a fund executive. Oh yes, Janus executives were also about to pick a fight with their then corporate parent.

2001 winner Julie Domenick got off easy compared to the others. The one-time lobbyist for the Investment Company Institute jumped to private practice at Loeffler Jonas & Tuggey last August after being effectively forced from her job by a Republican Congressional PAC. She won the award for taking the lead in pension reform, but that influence did not protect her after Republicans won the midterm elections in 2002 and started looking for lobbying sinecures for loyal party members. Domenick is a Democrat.

Still, the curse may have reversed. 2003 winner James Riepe is still chairman of T. Rowe Price and, if anything, the Baltimore-based firm is riding higher than ever. He won the award for helping the firm grow fund flows by $9.2 billion from 2002 to 2003 and for defending the industry before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. So far, his karma is intact.

Let's hope Donaldson fares as well. 

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