Dodging the Bullet in Palm Beach

The town of Palm Beach does indeed have a lot to be thankful for, as investment manager Robert Harvey steered them clear of one subprime meltdown:

Independent money manager Robert Harvey, of Palm Beach, will receive kudos at the Town Council meeting for his vigilance about the risk to $51 million the town had invested in the Florida Fund.

The state-run Local Government Investment Pool, once the nation’s largest at $32 billion, was frozen by state administrators on Nov. 29, less than 24 hours after Harvey persuaded Palm Beach officials to withdraw the town’s entire holdings…Harvey, chairman of Harvey Capital Management on Royal Palm Way, was chairman of the Town of Palm Beach Retirement System for a decade in the 1990s.

He will be accompanied today by his son, Alexander Harvey, whom he credits for bringing a troubling Bloomberg News report about the Florida Fund to his attention Nov. 28.

That day, he e-mailed Town Manager Peter Elwell and Finance Director Jane Struder. He followed up with voice mails to make sure they had seen his notes.

After examining the situation, Elwell and Struder told Harvey that the situation was worse than they’d realized, he said.

"They decided that afternoon, at 2:30, to withdraw, and within two hours they were out," he said.

Florida issued a freeze on the pool the next day, catching many local governments short of cash. One was Port St. Lucie, which had invested $135 million in the pool the same day Harvey was alerting Palm Beach.

A good deal of the key to survival in the current economic climate is in avoiding (or getting out of) bad investments as much as picking good ones.

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