American Express Asset Management and Northwinds Marketing Group, a third-party marketing firm that was spun out of American Express Corp. two years ago, agreed to pay a combined $164,000 to settle state charges that they gave gifts to trustees at the $9.6 billion Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, Columbus. The investigation was launched last year by the Ohio Ethics Commission. American Express Asset will pay $39,680 and Northwinds will pay $84,320 to the pension fund, said David Graham, a plan spokesman. Each firm will also pay $20,000 to the ethics commission to cover the costs of the investigation.
The commission tracked $240,000 in payments from various fund vendors for meals, trips, alcohol, golf and other gifts for trustees, staff members and their families and friends from 1998 to 2003. Plan trustees are not allowed to accept any gifts from vendors, said Mr. Graham.
In January, Thomas A. Bennett, a former fund trustee, was sentenced to probation and fined after pleading guilty to accepting $14,800 in gifts from pension fund vendors. The ethics committee is continuing the investigation, said Mr. Graham.