Choosing the turmoil in Asian markets as 1997's most important investment story seemed as inevitable as a car chase in a Bruce Willis movie.
The still-unfolding saga was followed by the July 1 handover of Hong Kong to China from Great Britain in Pensions & Investments' annual readers' survey of top stories of the year.
Financial services deals ranked third in a year that early on saw the $10.2 billion merger of Morgan Stanley with Dean Witter, Discover & Co.; and as late as this month still made headlines with the Union Bank of Switzerland, Swiss Bank Corp. deal. In September, Travelers Group's purchased Salomon Brothers. That move brought together eight money management firms. And the trend continued in November, when Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. proposed the $5.25 billion purchase of Mercury Asset Management Group P.L.C..
The role of pensions in the late-summer United Parcel Service strike made that story No. 4. UPS failed in its attempt to withdraw from the Teamsters' multiemployer plan. In late October, Sen. James M. Jeffords, R-Vt., chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, called for congressional scrutiny of such plans.
Ranked fifth was the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association -- College Retirement Equities Fund's loss of its tax-exempt status. The change was part of the tax bill President Clinton signed in August. TIAA-CREF estimated in September that the change, expected to raise $1.2 billion for the federal government over 10 years, would cut interest credited to accounts by no more than 0.25% to 0.5% annually.
Pension funds' suit against Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. ranked sixth. In mid-August, New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall sued, accusing 11 current and former directors and officers of "reckless mismanagement" and behavior that, he argued, put the value of the stock at risk. By this month, 12 funds with a collective stake of 15.3 million shares had joined the suit.
Seventh place was a tie between TCW Group winning Labor Department approval to be the first money manager to provide specific investment advice to 401(k) plan participants, and AT&T switching to a cash-balance arrangement from a traditional defined benefit plan.
Ninth place went to the Sept. 30 closure of the $62.9 billion Fidelity Magellan fund, the world's largest mutual fund, to investors who were not from existing 401(k), 403(b) and 457 clients.
And ranked 10th was WorldCom's successful $30 billion all-stock bid to buy MCI. The bid pleased investment managers who, in general, said they thought the two companies were a good fit.