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West Coast Firms Quick to React

Although geographically distant from last week's tragedy, many West Coast fund companies took decisive action in the following days.

San Francisco-based RS Investments posted a message on its site announcing that the firm had not lost any staff in the tragedy and was fully operational. Frank Russell of Tacoma, Washington, posted a similar Q&A-style message.

"We're putting some information on our Web site that talks about the fact that we're more than capable of processing and we haven't lost any staff. We're encouraging them to stay the course, that now is not the time to make a panic decision," said Sandy Cavanaugh, VP at Washington Mutual, the Seattle-based firm which runs the WM Group of Funds.

"I think the main thing is that we encourage people to look at what they're doing and talk to their financial advisor," she added.

Advising the Advisors

Cavanaugh explained that the firm will also be communicating the same messages to its reps. While all firms have prepared their call center staffs to handle queries from uncertain investors, load fund firms feel that is best handled by investors' advisors.

"We do need to communicate with our shareholders, but again, we do rely on the financial advisor who knows the client," said Chuck Freadhoff, spokesperson for Los Angeles-based American Funds.

"Our funds are for the most part sold through financial intermediaries, so the way that we are communicating with shareholders is through our distributors," said Lee Chase, VP of marketing for fund sales at Wells Fargo. "In turn, our distributors all have their communication plans in place."