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Fund Times: Fidelity, Putnam Bolster Executive Ranks

Plus, liquidations, new funds, reopenings, and more.

Morningstar Analysts, 06/16/2008

Morningstar's fund analysts cover 2,000 mutual funds. Their full analyst reports, including Stewardship Grades, are available in Morningstar Principia Mutual Funds Advanced and Morningstar Advisor Workstation Office Edition.

Robert L. Reynolds will become Putnam Investments' new CEO and president beginning in July. Putnam's board approved the move this week, along with the transition of current CEO and president Ed Haldeman into the chairman's role. Reynolds brings a wealth of experience to Putnam, which he acquired during his time at one of its crosstown rivals. He was with Fidelity Investments from 1984 through 2007, and in the latter half if his time there he served in numerous executive-level roles in various divisions of the company.

But Putnam, whose managerial and executive ranks have been in flux recently as it tries to right a struggling fund lineup, wasn't done there. After naming Andrew Matteis its director of U.S. large cap equity research only two weeks ago, the firm has bolstered its U.S. large-cap team even more. Gerald Sullivan and Rob Brookby will join that group as managing director and senior portfolio manager, and senior vice president and portfolio manager, respectively. They'll make the move in June and September, respectively, from American Century Investments, where they managed American Century Fundamental Equity AFDIX. That quant-oriented large-blend fund launched in late 2005 and is well on its way to a strong three-year record by absolute and relative measures.

Fidelity also announced a big hire. It lured Thomson Reuters executive Michael Wilens to its post as head of asset management. Wilens will also become a member of Fidelity's executive committee upon joining the firm in July; he had similar responsibilities at Thomson. At Fidelity, Wilens will oversee Fidelity Management & Research Company, Pyramis Global Advisors, and Strategic Advisers, helping developed high-level strategies and guiding the firm's technology- and operations-related decisions.

Van Kampen Approves Fund Liquidation
Van Kampen Disciplined Small Cap Value's VKDAX days are numbered. Last week, its board voted to liquidate the fund, with a special meeting of shareholders scheduled for August 19 to approve the action. Manager Feng Chang took over here on May 21, a bit more than one year after the fund's inception. Chang inherited a small, sinking ship. The fund has only $5 million in assets, and in the last year it has posted a 17% loss, trailing 70% of small-value competitors. Too many poor-performing funds last for too long, and while one year is too short a time to judge a fund's worth, this may be for the best. Still, it's too bad its investors paid a steep 5.75% load only to suffer such a fate so soon.

Absolute Investment Advisors Plans Latest Fund
Absolute Opportunities will be the newest offering from Absolute Investment Advisors once it launches on August 29. It seeks better risk-adjusted returns than the S&P 500. AIA has selected two subadvisors for this fund, GMB Capital and Metropolitan West (both of which it has hired for other funds, as well). MetWest will seek opportunities in distressed debt, while GMB will focus on global absolute-return strategies, each managing its sleeve independently of the other. This new fund will charge 2.95%, a very high levy even for a new fund that has fewer assets across which it can spread operating expenses.

USAA Reopens Fund Lineup
USAA is reopening its fund complex to new investors. The company had previously closed most funds, making an exception for members of the armed services and their families. While a bit surprising, the move isn't a shocker. Last month USAA announced plans for the launch of a Global Opportunities fund and a series of target-date retirement funds, parts of which will be subadvised by other money managers looking to grow their own assets under management.

Etc.
Redemption fees for Franklin Templeton funds will be eliminated September 1. The fund family announced the change this week, though it will keep all other policies and procedures regarding market-timing. As for the redemption fees, they were for holding periods as short as seven days, with the fees being as much as 2% of assets.

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