French ministers get low grades from money experts

PARIS (AP) — France’s government leaders have bared their financial assets and the ruling is in: they’re not very good at money.

President Francois Hollande forced all 38 of his cabinet ministers to publish their financial records this week and the initial headlines focused on how eight of them were millionaires. But after in-depth analysis, several wealth managers said the findings are more interesting for what they say about how well the officials charged with shepherding taxpayer money do when it comes to managing their own portfolios.

The results, they said Tuesday, are unimpressive.

“What I find shocking is the absence of investment in equities, and even less in small and medium sized enterprises,” said Meyer Azogui, the president of private wealth managers Cyrus Conseil.

Azogui said that if he was managing cabinet members’ personal fortunes, “I’d tell them they need to invest more in the French economy, which needs it!”

Perhaps worryingly for France’s national pocketbook, Azogui says the minister whose portfolio appears to be the least well managed is the finance minister, Pierre Moscovici.

“Moscovici’s wealth statement is the most atypical,” Azogui said. “For someone of his age, professional background and present responsibilities, it’s quite small,” Azogui said. “I hope he will take care of the country’s money better than his own!”

Moscovici, 55, declared a total net worth of 268,000 euros ($350,000), largely accounted for by a 200,000-euro house in Montbeliard in eastern France. He has 17,368 euros in the stock market.

Asked whether France’s ministers were good investors, another wealth manager responded with a curt “Non.”

Henry Masdevall, president of wealth management firm Valorey Finance, said the cabinet’s overall investment strategy appeared “very conservative.” Like Azogui, he said he’d advise cabinet members to put more of their money in FCPIs, French investment vehicles designed to funnel money to small, innovative firms that find it hard to finance themselves from banks or on the markets.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius topped his colleagues with assets worth 6.55 million euros but it was the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who earned earned the wealth managers’ greatest approval.

Ayrault declared a net worth of 1.62 million euros, made up mostly in real estate, life insurance contracts and interest bearing savings accounts. “It’s a good portfolio, he seems to have done not too bad,” Azogui said.

Overall, however, the ministers’ personal financial acumen was judged middling at best.

“Their portfolios are really undeveloped for people with their professional level,” Azogui said.

One explanation may be that the many of the Socialist ministers in Hollande’s government pride themselves in not being part of the rich elite, but leading lives not too removed from those of the average French person.

A less charitable view may be that with very comfortable civil service pensions to fall back on, they have less need to save for retirement than the average French person, Azogui said.

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