And with that, I’ll turn it over to Jim.
Good morning. Thank you for joining us for our second quarter earnings discussion. I’ll begin with my overview of our business performance for the quarter and then Walter will discuss our financial results in more detail. Afterwards, we’ll take your questions.
As we reported yesterday, our headline operating results were impacted by a few items, the largest of which relates to taxes in prior periods. Walter will explain these in more detail. If you exclude these items, EPS and return on equity would have been up nicely.
Overall, results in the quarter were solid despite the challenging market conditions and low interest rates that continue to pressure revenue levels which you are seeing across financial firms; and as you would expect, we are adjusting our expense levels to reflect this decline. We’re making good progress executing our strategy in helping our clients navigate a difficult market environment. Our business fundamentals are sound with solid traction in our advisory business, good client acquisition, and strong retail net flows.
In asset management, we’ve completed our integration of Columbia Management and together with Threadneedle have a global platform with strong performance and expanded distribution. In protection annuities, we maintained good books of business with strong risk management and underwriting. We continue to manage expenses prudently and our balance sheet and capital management underpin our firm. Meanwhile, we have the flexibility to invest for business growth and return significant capital to shareholders while maintaining the flexibility afforded by our free cash flow and large excess position.
During the quarter, we devoted $428 million to share repurchases and dividends. With the increased dividend we announced last quarter, our dividend yield is about 2.9%, which is at the higher end of our peer group. In fact, over the past six quarters we’ve returned more than 130% of our operating earnings to shareholders, putting us in the top quintile of financial companies in the S&P 500.