Ford to drop Fidelity Contrafund from employee retirement investment options

Ford Motor said it was dropping Contrafund as an investment option in its employee retirement accounts, pulling an estimated $900 million from Fidelity Investments' flagship mutual fund.

"From time to time, changes are made to the selection funds to best suit the needs of our employees," the company said in a statement Thursday evening. "Ford continues to partner with Fidelity through other investment mandates in our defined benefit and defined contribution plans."

Ford said the change would happen next month. Fidelity was not immediately available for comment.

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Contrafund, managed by Will Danoff, is a behemoth in the mutual fund industry, with $113 billion in assets.

Danoff is considered one of the industry's best stock pickers, generating a total annualized return of 9.55 percent over the past 10 years. That is 1.89 percentage points higher than the benchmark S&P 500 Index, according to Morningstar.

Mainstay Capital Management Chief Executive Officer David Kudla said Ford had been eliminating investment options for employee retirement plans, sometimes without offering a replacement.

"They've been taking out actively managed funds," he said.

Kudla's firm, whose client base includes Ford workers, oversees about $2 billion.

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So far in 2015, Contrafund's 7.71 percent total return is three times more than the S&P 500's 2.48 percent, according to Morningstar. Danoff is beating 73 percent of his large-cap growth fund peers.

Still, investors have made net withdrawals of $6 billion from Contrafund this year, according to data from Thomson Reuters' Lipper unit. Some of the outflows, however, may reflect money being shifted into collective investment trusts run by Fidelity as retirement plans seek to lower expenses by using a less regulated investment vehicle.

Various Ford retirement plans had $863 million invested in Contrafund at the end of last year, according to an annual report by the Ford Defined Contribution Plans Master Trust.

Ford said its employee retirement plans would keep the Fidelity Growth Company Fund as an option. Managed by Steve Wymer, the $42 billion fund is beating 78 percent of peers this year with a total return of 8.20 percent, according to Morningstar. Wymer's 10-year total annualized return is 11.43 percent, or 3.77 percentage points more than the S&P 500, according to Morningstar.

Ford retirement accounts had about $736 million invested in the Growth Company Fund at the end of 2014, according to the automaker's disclosures with the U.S. Department of Labor.