Another day, another pair of tech stock pickers queuing up in the unemployment line.
Amid steep losses for its three tech funds, the
have laid off 31 employees, including tech fund managers Alan Harris and Steve Appledorn who helped run the firm's
International NetNet and
Future Technology funds. The cuts, amounting to about 10% of the firm's workers, come on the heels of
tech specialist Jim McCall's
resignation. They're the latest of many this year among the growth and tech set, as the slew of tech- and tech-heavy growth funds launched during the Nasdaq's white-hot streak buckle under the strain of falling stock prices and rising redemptions.
The upshot is that many fund companies are guilty of the same sin they preach against in their glossy brochures: greedily putting too much faith in money in one hot sliver of the stock market.
Munder might be guiltier than most. The firm launched its NetNet fund back in 1996, when most fund shops scoffed at the idea of investing in fledgling dot-coms run by pimpled college dropouts. The fund proceeded to ride the tech wave to outsize gains, reaching a crescendo in 1999 when the fund rose 176%. Investors noticed and the fund shuttered with a whopping $12 billion in its coffers in April last year.
Though tech shares traded at thin air, the firm rolled out its Future Technology fund in October 1999 and launched the International NetNet fund seven days prior to the NetNet fund's close.
The funds have each lost more than two-thirds their value over the past 12 months, worse than the average tech fund, according to Chicago fund tracker Morningstar. The NetNet fund reopened to new investors on May 23. Thanks to its investment losses and shareholder redemptions, the fund's assets are whittled to $1.1 billion. The fund's more than $10 billion fall in assets from its peak represents a large percentage of the company's assets under management. The firm manages about $34 billion in its funds and other accounts.
The three tech funds will be managed by the three remaining members of Munder's tech team: Paul Cook, Brian Salerno and Ken Smith. The layoff also included two other portfolio managers, but a Munder spokesman declined to identify them. As fund assets and fee income have shrunk, several fund firms have had layoffs this year. The list includes giants like
is the only large firm to cut investment staff.
Of course, Munder wasn't alone in jumping on the tech bandwagon. Of the 152 tech funds out there, just 49 have been around for three years. That said, Munder is still launching funds that seem "ripped from the headlines." Its menu of 16 domestic stock funds includes the Munder Bio(Tech)2 fund, the Munder Digital Economy fund, the Munder Power Plus fund, and its two U.S. tech funds.
If the past is any guide, when a sector or style's losses start triggering firings or layoffs, it's often a sign that the worst is over -- at least for investors. Just as a slew of new funds focusing on a hot sector are usually a sign that the worst is yet to come.