This week's announcement by Merrill Lynch that it is renaming its mutual fund advisory group to Princeton Portfolio Research and Management (no more MLIM or Mercury) has caught the attention of the lawyers at Princeton University. Merrill's move shouldn't have surprised them, but it appears it did.
The New York Times reported Thursday
that the university has asked Merrill to not use the name.
"It now appears that Merrill is planning to exploit the university's name and reputation for its commercial gain," Cass Cliatt, a spokesperon for Princeton University told the paper in response to questions about the issue. "We don't want Princeton to be associated with the performance of Merrill's funds."
It seems, Ms. Cliatt and her associates at Princeton U. have little faith in Merrill's fund management abilities.
Perhaps, they have more faith in Merrill's capabilities as a retirement plan administrator, which would explain why their was no similar hubbub when Merrill took the Princeton name for the Amvescap Retirement business it acquired last May
Princeton's lawyers did not just miss the Merrill press releaase, they have also missed out on the Google revolution. A quick search reveals that Merrill has created separate branding
of the new group for use with its plan sponsor clientele (see this conference listing
and scroll up to see a separate entry for Merrill Lynch).
At the time of the Amvescap deal, Merrill officials said that they adopted The Princeton Retirement Group
name and brand because it "will carry neutral branding to complement the distribution, product and client service requirements of each institution served."
That explanation sounds similar to the reasons Merrill took the Princeton name for its fund advisory arm.
Somehow, though, Merrill's move in the 401(k) business passed by Princeton U.'s legal team without notice while the fund move hit them square between the eyes -- which just goes to show that even in academia distribution gets less respect than product.
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