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More Pension Fund Clients Fire Putnam

November 01, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Putnam Investments was fired Friday by pension funds in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Iowa, increasing pressure on Chief Executive Larry Lasser to stop the defections or step aside.

Pension fund clients have withdrawn more than $4 billion in the three days since state and federal regulators accused Putnam, the Boston-based unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos., of securities fraud for failing to stop improper trading in its funds.

"Investors want Marsh to hold on to assets, hold on to clients and protect the business," said John Kichula, an analyst at Glenmede Trust Co. "If that means letting Lasser go, then he should go."

Lasser, 60, has been trying to shore up confidence in Putnam. The executive, who was paid $163 million in the last six years, met with officials of the Massachusetts pension fund last month before they fired the firm.

On Monday, he said in a letter to customers that he was embarrassed about the allegations. He faces possible defections from at least 10 other public pension clients, including California.

Marsh & McLennan shares have dropped 14% since Sept. 16, when Massachusetts regulators said they were investigating Putnam, the nation's fifth-largest fund company. The shares fell $1.75 to $42.75 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

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