It hasn't been a good year for Putnam Investments. The mutual fund company -- owned by insurance concern Marsh & McLennan
It's been reported that the office of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer -- as well as Massachusetts securities regulator William Galvin -- have issued subpoenas to Putnam Investments for purposes of inquiring into specific practices relating to expense rebates for certain clients sponsoring retirement plans. It's a complex issue, and there are arguments that reimbursements for various administrative costs is a ubiquitous practice which need not raise any eyebrows.
I'm not interested in debating that matter here. The primary purpose of this piece is to afford some perspective on my own involvement with Putnam mutual funds. Currently, I have an investment in the George Putnam Fund Of Boston
It was back in 1998 that I became attracted to the excitement of the equities market through CNBC. I just had to get involved, and the easiest way to do that was replicate a friend's strategy: go down to a local bank, sit down with an advisor, and throw in some money. I didn't have a lot, just a grand, but that was enough of an initial deposit for the Putnam vehicles. I was pretty happy with what I had done.
Then, I stumbled upon some writings from two notable brothers (and we all know who I'm talking about, don't we?) on a quest to educate people about fund expenses, among other issues. I quickly assimilated the knowledge about the egregious effects of excessive fee structures and realized that my destiny was with the Vanguard 500 Index Fund
Why is that, do you think? (Use of the second person is purposeful here because I'm sure many are in the same boat.) I am not completely certain; to be honest, it could perhaps be the vice of sloth tendencies on my part. Yet, with all of the attention the black sheep of Marsh & McLennan is receiving, I think it is in the back of my mind that things will improve even further than they already have at the institution (granted, some will proffer that the steps they've taken are still in the baby stage, and I wouldn't countermand such a concept) as the years progress.
Maybe, the George Putnam fund will become a five-star winner down the road and will radically reduce its expense levies; maybe new owners will come to run it. I just don't feel like taking back what I've given them. I'm not adding any new proceeds, to be sure, but there is a certain useful charm to holding onto a past mistake, I think.
I don't recommend such an introspective approach to the Fools out there. This is just something I personally feel I can learn from. Those who own Putnam funds might be best to get out of them. Perhaps the main moral of this tale is to not fear your mistakes but embrace them -- accept and analyze.
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas currently has an investment in the George Putnam Fund Of Boston (Class B shares) and the Vanguard 500 Index Fund, but not in any of the individual companies mentioned.