FIDELITY'S WORLD: The Secret Life and Public Power of the Mutual Fund Giant by Diana B. Henriques

FIDELITY'S WORLD: The Secret Life and Public Power of the Mutual Fund Giant

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A revealing take on the secretive family firm that manages over $400 billion of the world's money and throws its weight around in capital markets. In reviewing the rise of Boston-based Fidelity, which now bestrides the domestic mutual-fund industry like a colossus, New York Times correspondent Henriques provides informative perspectives on the fortunes of Wall Street and its principal outposts over the past 75 years or so. Although investment companies and trusts played a significant role in the 1929 crash, they weathered the ensuing storm and largely escaped the New Deal's harshest reforms. Toward the end of WW II, a Brahmin named Edward (Ed) Crosby Johnson II gained control of a Lilliputian Fidelity (created in 1930). An aggressive approach to marketing and investing and a flair for innovation enabled him to make it into a leviathan. Fidelity's growth was not without friction. When it became apparent during the go-go 1960s that there was no room at the top for outsiders, hotshot portfolio manager Jerry Tsai left for greener pastures. In due course, the torch was passed to Edward (Ned) Crosby Johnson III, who has taken the closely held organization to new heights. By the author's critical account, however, he has done so in ways that raise substantive issues involving the obligations of fiduciaries. Despite the benign image projected by successful portfolio manager Peter Lynch, Fidelity played hardball in the high-stakes takeover game of the 1980s. More recently, it has become a force in so-called vulture investing, e.g., decreeing the merger of bankrupt Macy's with Federated Department Stores and restructuring enough debt to keep Donald Trump in the casino business. In the context of this activism, Henriques wonders pointedly about Fidelity's lack of accountability, regulatory or otherwise. As complete a story on a consequential financial institution and intermediary as is likely to be had this side of the corporate archives.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Scribner