Bill Gross Could Make Money for His Old Pimco Investors Before His New Ones at Janus

The bond king's lawsuit against Pimco echoes claims in a shareholder suit from last year.

Bill Gross

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Since taking over the management of the Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund (JUCIX) a year ago, Bill Gross has lost money for Janus investors, posting a minus-2 percent return. But running the Janus fund wasn’t the only thing he was doing.

Gross recently filed a lawsuit against his old employer, Pimco, in which he seeks $200 million in damages for compensation he says he was wrongly denied. Deep in the lawsuit is a point that could offer a boost to a separate shareholder suit against Pimco, filed on the last day of 2014 by Robert Kenny, an investor in the Pimco Total Return Fund

In that suit, Kenny argues that as Total Return grew into the largest mutual fund in the world, Pimco didn't fulfill its fiduciary duty to ensure that the compensation it received as the fund's adviser wasn't excessive. In particular, he says the fund's administrative costs went up even as Pimco Total Return got bigger and achieved economies of scale. In some years, those fees doubled, and they eventually added up to more than $600 million for fiscal 2013.

From Kenny's suit:

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 1.02.39 PM

That's more than half a billion dollars to administer one mutual fund for 12 months, accounting for half of the total $1.25 billion in fees earned by the fund. It's about the same as the expenses earned by the top five largest Vanguard index funds combined.

Here's that tidbit from Gross's lawsuit:

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"Gross's suit echoes Kenny's claims of unreasonably high fees," said Elliott Stein, senior litigation analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. "And Kenny's suit, which recently survived a motion to dismiss and is on to the discovery phase, could seek evidence from Gross to bolster its claims." Any damages recovered in Kenny's suit would flow to the fund, and that benefits all the fund's shareholders, Stein said.

Pimco had no comment.

So, in a twist of fate, the current and former shareholders of Pimco Total Return could end up the big winners, thanks to Bill Gross. 

Now if only he could make it rain for his new investors at Janus.

Eric Balchunas is an exchange-traded-fund analyst at Bloomberg. This article was edited by Bloomberg News.

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