Early warnings kept the lid on what could have been a can of worms for institutional investors.
The worm -- a new computer virus -- bit into Financial Research Corp.'s computers, deleting files and forcing a three-hour shutdown last Thursday, according to an analyst at the Boston mutual fund data company.
A couple of users in a Fidelity Investments unit were affected, a spokesman said. The Boston fund giant notified its 28,000 employees late Wednesday to beware of e-mails professing to reply to one referring to "attached zip docs."
Some pension fund executives and money managers contacted by Pensions & Investments said their computer departments alerted company officials early last week about the worm, and they took preventative measures. All said their operations were not affected by the virus that sought to infiltrate and destroy information stored on corporate America's computers.
"We were alerted by our computer department in advance about how it would come into the system," said Shelby Faber, assistant treasurer with Texaco Inc., White Plains, N.Y. "We set up a virus scan," said Mr. Faber, who oversees the $5.1 billion pension fund, of which $155 million is internally managed. The virus arrives via e-mail as an attachment. When opened, it attaches to the computer's software and destroys files stored in software programs Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
GE Investments, Stamford, Conn., also was prepared for the virus when it started spreading last Thursday. "We were able to isolate it," said Tim Benedict, a GE Investments spokesman. GE Investments oversees the $59 billion pension fund for General Electric Co. "The virus did not affect us and had no effect on the assets that we manage," said Mr. Benedict.
The company, nevertheless, was taking extra precautions. GE will be getting upgraded software systems to protect and clean out the new virus, said Anthony Sirabella, chief information officer at GE Investments. "We have cut off access to the external world," said Mr. Sirabella. "We are not getting any outside e-mail until we add a patch to our virus software."
AT&T Co., Berkeley Heights, N.J., also was infiltrated by the virus, but its computer department was able to limit its spread, said a spokesman for the $29 billion pension fund. Computers in its investment subsidiary AT&T Investment Management Co. weren't affected by it. "Our systems people took quick action to implement a solution," said David Caouette, a spokesman.
The computer system for State Street Global Advisors was rumored to be infected when reports about the virus began spreading midweek last week. The rumors were unfounded, according to a spokeswoman.
"We are aware of the problem and are taking precautions," said Darby Stott. "We have virus protection on all computers and sent out an alert to employees to watch for the virus."
At J.P. Morgan Investment Management Corp., New York, a warning was put out on Thursday. The firm, which has $316 billion in assets, has not been affected by it, according to spokeswoman Bridget Smith. Likewise, San Francisco-based Barclays Global Investors, the manager of more than $615 billion, also was prepared. "We got a communication . . . to be aware, and the systems people cleansed the system," said Deborah Larson, a Barclays spokeswoman. "They were a few steps ahead of the virus."