Wal-Mart Bails Out of Putnam Funds

November 21, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The beleaguered Putnam Investments continues getting hammered with bad news with word that the giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest private-sector employer, is dropping two Putnam funds from its 401(k) plan.

The funds affected include the Putnam New Opportunities Fund and the Putnam International Growth Fund, according to a Dow Jones report.

Sharon Weber, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, declined to say why the investment options were being dropped, but noted that the company’s retirement-plans committee “monitor(s) all of these funds and make(s) decisions that will be of benefit to our associates.”   Weber couldn’t immediately say whether Wal-Mart had found replacements for the Putnam funds. Currently, 401(k) participants have about 15 investment options from a “good variety” of fund families to choose from, she noted.

Wal-Mart joins an expanding list of corporations, including Revlon Inc. and Interpublic Group of Cos. (See  ‘Ad’ Interpublic To List of Companies Dumping Putnam  ) that have severed some ties to Putnam. State pension funds and individual investors also have pulled out money in the past few weeks (See  More Pensions Pull Money From Putnam ). The client defections have been at least in part because of Putnam’s involvement in the ongoing fund trading scandal.

“We’re disappointed about [Wal-Mart’s] decision and hope that we’ll have the opportunity to manage investments for them in the future,” said Laura McNamara, a Putnam Investments spokeswoman.

The company automatically contributes each year to the 401(k) plan of all eligible employees, said Weber. Employees become eligible after working 1, 000 hours. As of January 31, 2002, Wal-Mart’s 401(k) plan had $1.56 billion in assets and 532,729 participants with account balances, according to regulatory filings. The retail giant has a total of about 1.2 million employees.