Fisher Investments founder Ken Fisher is getting pilloried in the press for his reportedly boorish remarks at the Tiburon CEO Summit, which is billed as a closed-press, off-the-record event. It all started when one attendee related, via a video posted to Twitter, that Fisher managed to pack lewdness, misogyny, references to drug use, and digs at the poor into a single presentation. It’s unclear whether Fisher found any time to malign his go-to target, annuities. The story has been picked up in at least two trade publications, here and here, and we expect it will have legs.
We will leave it to Fisher’s peers and clients to weigh the veracity of the account, which he is disputing, and the implications for his business, but the firestorm around the remarks is an object lesson for something we like to remind our clients of at every opportunity: Anything you say at a conference—even if the organizers tell you it is closed to the press, or that attendees have pledged to keep the proceedings “off-the-record”—may end up being picked up and reported.
In this case, one of the attendees had a crisis of conscience and shared his account on Twitter when he felt he could not stay silent. But it could just as easily be an audience member with a phone (as presidential candidate Mitt Romney found out at a fundraiser where he famously declared half of Americans don’t pay taxes) or someone who simply calls up a reporter and shares their account of what was said.
Speaking off–the–record to a single reporter is risky enough (see our guide to the perils and pitfalls of that here). Speaking to a room full of your peers and expecting your remarks to remain in confidence is just plain reckless.