Peter Lynch's Fidelity Investments Fined $400,000 for Misleading Troops.
There's gonna be Hell,
When you hear mother freedom start ringing her bell.
It's gonna feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you...
Brought to you courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue."
In August, 2004, I wrote a column entitled "Save Our Soldiers from Peter Lynch".
It followed up on an award-winning New York Times series written by Diana Henriques. I wrote several columns about Mr. Lynch and Fidelity Investment, the company where he serves as vice chairman.
Fidelity was peddling an archaic style of mutual fund to military people called contractual mutual funds.
A contractual mutual fund is a terrible deal. Congress outlawed it last year. If Lynch and Fidelity had truly thought that contractual funds were great, they would have made Lynch's famous Magellan Fund contractual. They did not.
Military people have often been prey for questionable financial operators such as payday lenders. The reason is thatsoldiers are often young and financially inexperienced but still make decent money.
I'll be willing to bet that Peter Lynch does not have his money in a contractual fund nor do his Hollywood pals like Lily Tomlin. Fidelity only pushed the stuff on military people.
In 2004, I asked people to stand up for our soldiers and write to everyone they could about the problem. Many groups that support the military did the same.
Finally, The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), a group with real clout, listened.
The NASD reached a settlement with Fidelity Investments Institutional Services. Fidelity agreed to pay $400,000 to settle a complaint accusing them of producing misleading sales materials for the Fidelity Destiny I and Fidelity Destiny II contractual mutual funds.
Fidelity will not admit any wrongdoing, but the sales literature that they gave to soldiers fail to mention the 50% sales charge that soldiers were to pay on the funds.
A pretty big OOPS. A fund doesn't look so good when you take 50% off the top.
Fidelity sold a lot of product to soldiers through First Command Financial Services, a company whichpaid $12 million to settle regulatory charges stating it mislead soldiers about the fees and performance of the contractual plans First Command was peddling.
Even though $400,000 is chump change to a guy like Peter Lynch and a billion-dollar company like Fidelity, the settlement is a black mark on their record.
I have offered a challenge several times to Peter Lynch: if he is unable to prove that a soldier could make a good return with a Fidelity contractual fund, he should go to Iraq and take the place of the soldier owning the fund.
Lynch is still in Boston, and soldiers with his contractual funds are still in Iraq. Since Congress banned sales of the funds, future sales are no longer a concern. Current contractual funds, however, remain in place. The NASD will use the $400,000 to help military people make informed financial decisions.
People ask why I single out Mr. Lynch. At the time when contractual funds were being peddled to soldiers, Lynch was using his "Mr. Clean" image to do television commercials for Fidelity with his Hollywood chums Lily Tomlin and Don Rickles.
Lynch and Fidelity can't have it both ways: they can't use the stellar returns that Lynch achieved (many years ago) with his Magellan fund to attract high-end customers while selling garbage to soldiers.
It is like a fundamentalist church with a strip club and casino in the basement.
I'm hoping that the fine cost Lynch and Fidelity a lot more than the $400,000 that they forked over.
Even if manyAmericans have opposed the Iraq war, they have universally supported the people who have fought and died in it. Military people do their job with more honor and courage than I will ever have.
It's why I get angry when financial companies take advantage of them.
The $400,000 settlement has gotten little notice in the media, but I hope that changes.
When Americans find out that Peter Lynch and his Fidelity Company were not playing straight with soldiers, I hope there will be hell. I hope Americans make the leaders at Fidelity feel like the whole world is raining down on them.
Brought to you courtesy, of the Red, White and Blue.
Don McNay is the author of the Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or read other things that he has written at www.donmcnay.com. His award-winning column is syndicated to over 200 newspapers.
August 2004: Save Our Soldiers from Peter Lynch
August 2004: Sending a Message to Peter Lynch
August 2004: Detailed Information about Fidelity & Contractual Mutual Funds
January 2005: Stop Scamming Brave Soldiers
January 2006: Wall Street Bookies
October 2006: Payday Loans, Soldiers & Donations to Congressmen
Recent News about the settlement between Fidelity and the NASD
Fidelity Fined for Misleading Troops
Motley Fool: A Dishonorable Discharge for Systematic Investment Plans