Putnam Investments’ insistence that the state cut down several trees just so the traffic going by could see their sign along Interstate 93 in Andover, Mass., is either laughable or pathetic, or quite possibly both.

An article in today’s Boston Globe chronicles this exercise in the absurd.

The situation is this.

Some years ago, this friendly neighborhood multinational put its offices in a building alongside the interstate. It then cleverly put its corporate sign on the ground, behind a stand of trees, where no one could see it, instead of up on the building, where it might be more visible.

This prompted them to worry they might lose business, so they cut the trees down. The problem was, the trees were on state property. They were ordered to replant them.

Well, the trees grew up, as they are wont to do. This time the global investment firm asked the state to do their cutting for them. Which they did! Next problem, the trees also border a wetland, and they never bothered with the necessary permissions.

This has stirred the ire of the local conservation commission. The state’s response was that the investment firm had threatened to pull out of the state, losing a thousand jobs in the process.

Now, I realize we’re not talking about cutting into an old-growth forest like the Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, or clear-cutting protected land like around Quabbin and elsewhere, but seriously… do the people at Putnam think that investment decisions are determined by a drive-by glance at a corporate sign?

And then for the boneheads in state government to give in to their heavy-handed approach to the problem?

To paraphrase an old airline slogan …

Is this any way to run an investment firm?

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