Changes at Fairholme Fund


Changes at Fairholme Fund

A reader wants to know whether to dump this fund, which recently underwent changes.

I recently received several phone calls from the Altman Group, a proxy solicitation firm, pleading for me to return my proxy card to vote on changes for the Fairholme fund. I read the proxy material and discovered that the board of directors was recommending sweeping changes to this highly successful fund. Should I dump Fairholme and look for a similar offering?

Those proposed changes have already passed, but there's no need to pull the plug on Fairholme (symbol FAIRX), a member of the Kiplinger 25. The revisions are designed primarily to update legal language in Fairholme's prospectus so that it meshes with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations that have changed since the fund's inception in late 1999.

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The only change that's immediately significant: Fairholme has removed a self-imposed limit that barred the fund from owning more than 10% of a company's outstanding voting shares. Co-manager Bruce Berkowitz says the amendment was necessary because he had been forced to stop buying shares of companies he liked to avoid crossing the 10% threshold. Increasing Fairholme's concentration in a few stocks could add to the fund's volatility, but it doesn't represent a change in the fund's investment philosophy or process.

The Altman Group badgered you because Fairholme fund had to garner a minimum number of votes to pass its changes. Most shareholders toss proxy materials without a second glance, so funds sometimes hire proxy solicitation firms to pry responses from their shareholders.

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