Tensions are mounting between Pacific Investment Management Co (PIMCO) co-founder and co-chief investment officer Bill Gross and outgoing CEO Mohamed El-Erian. There have been rumors that the two hadn’t been getting along for some time, which the news of El-Erian’s departure later this month seemed to confirm.
Then a Wall Street Journal article came out after someone at PIMCO decided to share a lot of dirt about the infighting and goings-on at the world’s biggest bond fund. Whoever talked knew details about Gross’s behavior at meetings, approximate pay, and interactions with other employees, so El-Erian is one of the natural suspects.
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Gross accuses El-Erian of talking to WSJ
Now, Gross said that he has evidence that El-Erian ‘wrote’ the article and that he is “sick of Mohamed trying to undermine me.” When she asked to see the evidence, he responded “You’re on his side. Great, he’s got you, too, wrapped around his charming right finger,” and implied that he has been monitoring El-Erian’s calls, reports Jennifer Ablan for Reuters.
A PIMCO spokesperson clarified that anyone had listened to El-Erian’s phone calls, but added that PIMCO does retain records of employee communications to ensure compliance with company policy. (The statement was worded as a denial, but the Reuters article never suggested that Gross had actually listened to the phone calls, only that he may have ‘monitored’ them.)
Of course El-Erian didn’t literally write the WSJ article, and Gross probably meant that he had provided information for the story, but it mentions at least three employees speaking off the record. El-Erian may have been one of them, but if so he wasn’t alone.
PIMCO had $80 billion in losses and outflows last year
Gross has built his career and a $1.91 trillion fund by as an incredibly talented bond investor, but now that rates have nowhere to go but up investors have been pulling money out of PIMCO at an astonishing rate. Between negative returns and outflows, PIMCO’s total assets under management fell $80 billion in 2013, more than most funds will ever have.
When he leaves his position as PIMCO CEO this month El-Erian will become chief economic advisor at PIMCO’s parent company Allianz SE, and he has said he will use the additional time his new position allows to work on a new book.