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Feb. 25, 2024

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Fisher Investments moving HQ from Camas to Texas

Former CEO Ken Fisher said in 2015 that HQ designation has no “significance at all”; no indication if move will lead to layoffs

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Fisher Investments announced the multibillion-dollar money management firm would be relocating is headquarters from Camas to a suburb of Dallas, but it remains unclear what — if any — impact the change will have on its local operations.

In a one-sentence statement released Friday, the company said the move was to take effect immediately in response to a Washington State Supreme Court ruling last week upholding a new 7 percent capital gains tax “and in recognition of whatever it may do next.”

Fisher employs 905 people in Clark County, according to the Columbia River Economic Development Council’s list of top employers. It employs more than 1,200 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to The Dallas Morning News.

There has been no layoff or closure notification for Fisher Investments’ Camas operation with the Washington State Employment Security Department. The WARN Act requires companies that employ more than 100 workers to notify affected employees 60 days prior to any layoff or closure.

Camas city officials said they have received no information from Fisher Investments about the company’s intentions, according to Bryan Rachal, spokesperson for the city of Camas.

“We value them as Camas’ largest employer, and many of their employees reside in Camas, so we hope there’s an opportunity for them to retain their workforce in our city,” Rachal said.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said Monday that it, too, is in the dark about Fisher’s intentions.

“We’re not sure what this terse announcement means for the company’s employees in Washington,” Inslee’s deputy communications director and press secretary said in an email. “We’ll be following developments. It’s unfortunate that a company would go to such lengths to avoid a fairer tax system that will benefit working families.”

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HQ in name only?

The company did not respond to repeated attempts for additional information about the change and its potential impacts; but for his part, the company’s founder has downplayed the importance of a company headquarters in an interview before he stepped down from the CEO post in 2016.

“We operate, believing the old headquarters concept to be technologically obsolete, off a virtual headquarters concept today,” then-CEO Ken Fisher said in 2015 when the company moved its headquarters to Camas from California. “The government requires a mailing address for ‘headquarters,’ and ours was changed to Camas. Otherwise, there is no significance at all.”

Damian Ornani, the CEO of the company since 2016, lives in Dallas with his family, as does Fisher, who serves as executive chairman.

Fisher Investments manages more than $197 billion in assets globally, including $156 billion for private investors, $39 billion for institutional investors and $2 billion for small to mid-sized business retirement plans.

The company made Camas its headquarters in 2015 after opening a satellite office in Vancouver in 2007. Up until 2015, Fisher Investments’ headquarters was in Woodside, Calif.

The company bought a 150-acre office campus in Camas in 2008, saying at the time that it was being considered as a corporate headquarters along with Texas and Florida.

Camas and Woodside, Calif., are still listed on the company’s website as corporate offices, as is Plano, Texas. Fisher lists 15 American offices on its website as well as several overseas.

Court ruling

At issue was a 7-2 decision by the Washington Supreme Court upholding a 7 percent capital gains tax, which was enacted in 2021. The tax is on the sale of stocks, bonds and other high-end assets, except for the first $250,000 each year and for gains from the sale of retirement accounts, real estate and certain small businesses.

After its passage, the tax faced a legal challenge that argued it violated the state and federal constitutions and would discourage investment in the state. The state constitution limits a property tax to 1 percent annually.

The court found the tax to be an excise tax, rather than an income or property tax. The 41 other states that tax capital gains tax it as income. Texas is one of seven states that don’t tax any income. The others are Alaska, Nevada, Florida, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.

The tax was reportedly expected to be paid by 7,000 people in Washington and bring in nearly half a billion dollars a year.

Businesses still seeking area

Despite Fisher’s headquarters relocation announcement, business in Clark County is moving forward.

“Across the country, companies are prioritizing relocation decisions based on access to talent, predictability of business environment and culture fit,” said Jennifer Baker, president and chief executive officer for the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

Baker said her organization is seeing a surge in business attraction activity. Companies in technology-enhanced production, applied engineering, and chips and integrated circuitry manufacturing are all looking here.

For these industries, Baker said, “the region demonstrates a nationally competitive skilled workforce base to which our communities offer unparalleled Pacific Northwest quality of life amenities.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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