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Putnam Probes Ongoing, Marsh Indicates in Report

Regulators continue to hammer away at Putnam Investments, this time over potential conflicts of interest arising from its multiple role as investment advisor, retirement plan servicer and employer, parent company Marsh & McLennan indicated in its 2004 annual financial report. Although it isn't clear how serious some of these legal issues are, MMC devoted 11 pages to discussing them.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into referrals between Putnam, Mercer Consulting and other MMC companies.

The Department of Labor is looking into MMC stock trading restrictions that Putnam imposed on its employees in their 401(k)s following revelations of Eliot Spitzer's big-rigging and price-fixing investigation. The company's stock dropped nearly by half, to $24, on the news.

DOL is also looking into whether Putnam funds benefited from errors Putnam made as a retirement plan administrator. The firm has reserved $3 million to reimburse plans that were involved in those errors.

In addition, institutional investors are considering making claims "relating to alleged disclosure failures, misrepresentations and purported breaches of investment management agreements," according to the annual report.

On top of this, a former senior executive is planning to sue the firm over the terms of his departure.

The news comes on the heels of Putnam's agreement to repay $153.5 million to investors whose returns were lessened by improper fund trades by Putnam portfolio managers. However, Putnam spokeswoman Sinead Martin said that strengthened controls and ethics at the firm have "led to renewed confidence," as evidenced by a decision by the Massachusetts state pension to rehire the firm.