My mutual fund gives me a fright

Rating: NNNNNDo you know what your mutual funds are doing while you sleep? Here's a lesson in how we're implicated in.

Rating: NNNNN

Do you know what your mutual funds are doing while you sleep?

Here’s a lesson in how we’re implicated in the nasty side of the new economy without even knowing it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Toromont Industries Limited, where Local 112 of the Canadian Auto Workers is on strike against a company that services Caterpillar construction equipment. Toromont’s hard-line demand to freeze wages and its refusal to negotiate suggest to me that the company is gunning for a decertification at the only unionized branch of its operation.

CAW member Joe Flexer called frantically this week to tell me that the union had caught company officials talking to a bevy of union members at The Greek restaurant at Weston Road and Highway 7. It’s illegal for the company (which did not return my calls) to negotiate directly with workers. They must go through the union. But I digress.

Shortly after that article appeared, I was leafing through the mail that piles up at home when I idly opened a brochure from Bissett Mutual Funds, in which I have a few dollars. Imagine my shock upon discovering that Toromont is one of the very companies that has made the Bissett Canadian Equity Fund such a solid performer. There it is, with the other bad guys that will be financing my retirement: cigarette maker Imasco Limited, Alcan Aluminium, oil company Exxon and tree-killing paper maker Kimberly-Clark.

A call to Bissett in Calgary this week yields the somewhat welcome news that they’ve got out of Toromont. It’s a well-managed company and a good financial performer, but there are just too many other traditional blue-collar stocks in this fund for our high-tech age.

In my own defence, let me say that I also have dough in the hippie mutual funds, too. There are the ethical funds sponsored by the Vancity Credit Union in BC, for example. I bought the Ethical North American Equity Fund — assured I would have no money in war, porn or polluting companies — for more than $47 a share, and I’ve lost. It’s been down to below $40 a share at times.

So much of the money sloshing around the stock market is from us small investors. If we pooled our cash we could really make a difference. Now, if someone can figure out how to do that and make money, please let me know.

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