Even critics concede that Mr. Marco is tremendously respected in the field, with more than one going so far as to describe his following in Taft-Hartley circles as a "cult of personality." Mr. Mitchell, President and Chief Executive Officer Ian W. Jones and Senior Consultant Michael D. Joyce are also highly regarded. The critics, however, say many of the remaining consultants, though solid professionals, are younger or less proven. Among the industry veterans who have left over the past decade are Lauma Griffin, Chris Wallace, John Fitzpatrick, Chris Holmen, Monty Tarbox, Todd Davis and Nancy Kaszak. Some of them say they respect Mr. Marco and valued their time with the firm.
Still, some Taft-Hartley executives and service providers say the turnover has made them wary. One lawyer familiar with Marco says that while most of his clients remain happy with the service Marco Consulting is providing, "I don't know how (the company) can continue this way, with the load they have."
Some plan executives say service has suffered. Larry Wilson, controller of the $250 million California Correctional Peace Officers' Association, Sacramento, said the CCPOA stuck with Marco after the fund's consultant, Mr. Elliot, left last August. But Mr. Wilson said the CCPOA wasn't satisfied with the service it got subsequently and opted to hire New England Pension Consultants, Mr. Elliot's new employer, instead.
Mr. Elliot said CCPOA is one of seven clients he worked with at Marco that have moved to New England Pension Consultants. The others are the $285 million Construction Industry Laborers pension fund, Las Vegas, which voted to hire NEPC Feb. 18; the $250 million IBEW 357 fund, Las Vegas; the $75 million IBEW 191 fund, Everett, Wash.; the $38 million Cement Masons 797 fund, Las Vegas; and two smaller Teamsters funds in Northern California with assets of $30 million and $15 million, respectively.
Mr. Marco said the plans that switched were the smaller ones that Mr. Elliot himself had brought to MCG. "The big ones went with us," he said. Mr. Elliot said he's already snared the third and fourth biggest funds of the 14 or so he looked after at MCG, and he's not ready to concede the bigger ones yet. Larger plans often take more time to make decisions on changing their service providers, he said.
Mr. Mitchell noted that Mr. Elliot's father, Walter Elliot, served as a trustee on some of the plans his son has won from MCG. Walter Elliot said he is a trustee on only two of the seven accounts that have followed John Elliot to NEPC from Marco. In both instances, the elder Mr. Elliot said he recused himself when the boards deliberated about hiring a new consultant.
Mr. Mitchell said MCG hasn't lost any clients that Mr. Erfort served.
Defections to date, though few, aren't necessarily insignificant. The fact that seven have already followed John Elliot out of the Marco fold shows that things are in play, and MCG may well lose some major clients during the coming year, said the ex-Marco consultant who left more than a year ago.
Competitors say they have been seeing an increase in the number of Marco clients that are at least interested in looking at other consultants.
The departures at MCG have left some in the Taft-Hartley community concerned that Messrs. Marco and Mitchell are being forced to carry too heavy a load at this point in their careers; Mr. Marco is 57 and Mr. Mitchell is 56.