Alex Chalekian, founder and CEO of Lake Avenue Financial, posted a video of himself on Twitter on Tuesday, denouncing Ken Fisher, an advisor with more than $100 billion in assets under management, for comments he made during a fireside chat at the Tiburon CEO Summit in San Francisco this week. The tweet spurred outrage among the FinTwit community Wednesday, with many saying they were “disgusted” by Fisher’s behavior and that he had made similar comments at other industry events.
“It was a true debacle,” Chalekian said, in the video. “He made comments about genitalia; he talked about picking up on a girl, and ‘don’t show them what’s in your pants.’ He made a reference to Jeffrey Epstein, talked about ‘charities are immoral,’ mentioned things about tripping on acid, and other inappropriate comments at the conference.”
According to sources at the conference, Fisher's comments shocked many in the room, and prompted some attendees to walk out of the session. Sources said Fisher made joking references to branding his employees, but the context of his comments was unclear.
Chalekian, who was praised on Twitter for shining a light on the offensive speech from the main stage of the conference, did not provide more specific examples of what Fisher actually said.
“Alex Chalekian and Integrated Partners fiercely support diversity and inclusion in our industry,” said Jason Lahita, spokesman for Integrated Partners, Chalekian’s registered investment advisor. “We are mindful of the traditionally closed nature of the Tiburon CEO Summit and have tremendous respect for its organizer, Chip Roame. For that reason we will not be commenting further at this time.”
Nonetheless, many other attendees at the conference said they were shocked by the comments, and the sense of discomfort in the room was palpable.
“While I said words he cited I don’t think he heard me correctly and clearly misconstrued my meaning and certainly my intended meaning," Fisher said. "Most of his slant is 'gotcha' wrong in my view. To the extent he and any others were offended I apologize truly and sincerely.”
Roame, managing partner at Tiburon Strategic Advisors, was not immediately available for comment. He issued an apology to all attendees for Fisher's comments at the conference's dinner Tuesday evening, and announced the advisor would be banned from future Tiburon events, according to a source close to Tiburon.
“People were aghast; they were in shock," said Brian Ross, CEO of Flyer, who was in the room during the fireside chat. “It was offensive to women, offensive to anybody who puts their time into charities, offensive on many levels. It was condescending as can be."
Yourefolio, an estate planning software provider, said the company would never sponsor another conference where Fisher was a speaker.
Some advisors said this should not have come as a surprise to conference organizers, as Fisher has made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature at other events, including the EBI West conference in 2018. In an audio recording from that conference, in response to a question from interviewer Barry Ritholtz, chairman of Ritholtz Wealth Management, Fisher used an analogy to illustrate what it’s like when folks brag about performance in direct mail pieces: “Which is a little bit like walking into a bar when you’re a single guy and want to get laid, and walking up to some girl and saying, ‘You want to have sex?’ You just turned yourself into a jerk.”
At EBI West, he was also asked what he would do differently if he were 30 years old. “If I was 30 years and I had a do-over again, I’d have more sex while I could. Once you get older, you’re like a Christmas tree: You’re firm once a year, and the balls are just decoration.”
"That Ken Fisher believes it is fine to discuss genitalia and women in a fireside chat, regardless of the audience, points to his assumptions regarding the old boys club," said Sheri Fitts, host of the Women Rocking Wall Street podcast. "Many men believe that if they're just 'joking' it is somehow okay."
“The time for lip service is over," Ross said. "We’ve got to fulfill the promise of inclusion in this industry.”