Someone out there has it in for Russell Investment Group. Last month, an anonymous former Russell employee ripped into the Tacoma, Wash.-based company on a website geared for policyholders and agents of parent company Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. The complaints were encyclopedic, blasting the performance of its multimanager funds, relations with its parent, its employee bonus plan and the quality of top management.
The multimanager group has an "insular, cliquish, and secretive" culture where few are held accountable for wasteful projects, according to the posting, which can be found at www.nmlcomplaints.com/essays/russellco.html.
One former-Russellite agreed the company's culture is loath to accept new ideas. "It's a chronically low expectations environment, and that's why I left," said the former staffer, who requested anonymity.
Christopher J. Phillips, Russell's public relations manager, said the website posting is riddled with inaccuracies — in particular with regard to Russell's performance and details of a bonus plan that was put in place when Northwestern acquired the firm in 1999. "It's a flame site for people who are unhappy," he said.
Mr. Phillips acknowledged, however, that Russell has been accused of being "slow to change" before. "It depends who you compare us to. Some would call us tradition-bound when you compare us to companies that change more rapidly," he added.
New CEO Craig Ueland brings "an openness to more rapid change," Mr. Phillips added.