Open Letter to the Sohn Conference Foundation

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ON HEDGE FUNDS, PHILANTHROPIC HYPOCRICY & CANCEROUS CASH

 

April 30, 2016

The Sohn Conference Foundation
c/o COO Tiffany Stevens & Paula Bernstein, Development Manager
750 Third Ave, 22nd floor
New York, NY 10017

SENT VIA EMAIL
Board of Directors: Douglas Hirsch, Daniel Nir, Evan Sohn, Graham Duncan

RE: Concerns regarding the Sohn Conference Foundation mission and scheduled speakers at the 2016 Sohn New York Investment Conference

To the Board:

In 2015 we wrote a letter raising serious concerns regarding the mission of the Sohn Conference Foundation and the scheduled speakers at the Sohn Investment Conference who do business in direct conflict of your mission.

This year we are, again, outraged. And so we write again, now aligned with leading grassroots environmental organizations 350.org and Greenpeace, to voice our concerns together, and louder.

Several of the billionaire and multimillionaire hedge fund managers associated with the Sohn Conference Foundation are currently piling into fossil fuel investments, supporting pro-fossil fuel think tanks, and funding climate change denying politicians.

Their investments, philanthropy and campaign cash actually cause cancer.

David Einhorn, Stanley Druckenmiller, Paul Singer, Seth Klarman and Paul Tudor Jones are synonymous with “Cancerous Cash” in three major ways:

(1) They invest in big polluters and fossil fuels

(2) They fund junk science and dirty think tanks, and

(3) They bankroll the political candidacies of climate change deniers.

Instead of investing in green energy and renewable resources, these hedge fund managers are pouring billions of dollars into propping up the fossil fuel industry, in an attempt to enrich themselves at the expense of people and the planet.

The very same individuals you have solicited to raise money for pediatric cancer research are making millions of dollars through investments that have increased exposure to carcinogenic chemicals for children and adults.

These hedge fund managers are deeply involved in investments and lobbying that are keeping the cancer-causing fossil-fuel industry afloat, despite historic and worldwide rejection of dirty energy.

“Big Green” organizations partnered with Hedge Clippers, leading student and campus-based groups and state-based environmental advocates in California to detail their roles in a recent joint report, Hedge Funds and Fossil Fuels.

We summarize their dealings below. What’s worse, they are not only investing in the dirty energy sector, but they’re also making political donations to climate change deniers in government, and taking control of college and university endowments, some of those where cancer research is taking place.

The Sohn Conference Foundation is dedicated to the treatment and cure of pediatric cancer, supporting cutting-edge medical research, state-of-the-art research equipment, and innovative programs to ensure children with cancer survive and thrive.

There are profound conflicts between the admirable and unimpeachable goals of the Foundation and the work and investments of the billionaire hedge fund managers scheduled to speak next week and at upcoming Sohn conferences.

For these reasons, we again urge you to cancel their speaking presentations at the 2016 Sohn Investment Conference and at your subsequent conferences.

clipper next

Fossil fuels release harmful carcinogens—compounds that cause cancer in humans—into the environment in two ways: during the process of extraction, and during the process of combustion, i.e. when they are burned for fuel.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the most widespread environmental carcinogen and is known to cause lung cancer. Fossil fuel production and use is a principal source of air pollution.

Another recent study found increased incidence of blood cancers such as leukemia and Non-Hodgkins lymphoma among people living near fossil fuel processing plants.[1]

Producing fossil fuels emits carcinogens such as benzene and formaldehyde, into the environment; air quality tests around some oil and gas (“fracking”) operations found levels of these carcinogens often exceed federal guidelines.[2]

Another study found that people who live near fracking sites have higher long-term cancer risks.[3]

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, children are more sensitive to chemicals in the environment than adults. A 2013 study by UCLA researchers found that higher levels of exposure to traffic exhaust in utero were associated with higher odds of childhood cancers.[4]

According to a 2008 article in Environmental Health Perspectives entitled “Children Are Likely to Suffer Most from Our Fossil Fuel Addiction,” exposure to air pollution in utero is associated with increased risk of cancer later in life.[5]

clipper nextThe work and investments of the following speakers are in direct conflict with each aspect of the Foundation’s work. Any speaking roles should be cancelled and namesakes removed or diminished from all Sohn event materials:

Stanley Druckenmiller’s hedge fund Dusquesne Family Office has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in fossil fuels in the last year. Druckenmiller was also a major contributor to FWD.us, a group that ran ads in support of the Keystone XXL pipeline, and is a Trustee for the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental nonprofit that promotes natural gas as a climate-friendly alternative to coal.

Seth Klarman and his hedge fund have over a third of their holdings—worth more than $1.8 billion—in the energy sector, including a nearly $1 billion stake in Cheniere Energy, a Houston-based oil and gas company. Klarman and his wife, Beth, have given $51,800 to climate change denying politicians since 1998.[6] Klarman will be judging this year’s Investment Idea Contest.

Paul Singer and his hedge fund are leaders in investing in the dirty energy sector, with more than $1.1 billion invested in energy equities as the most recent quarter. Singer is Chairman of the conservative Manhattan Institute, which promotes a fossil fuel energy agenda. In 2013, he gave $200,000 to the think tank run by high-profile “climate change skeptic” and fossil fuel advocate Bjørn Lomborg. Over the past three years, he has donated more than $2.8 million to conservative think tanks that advocate for fossil fuels, including the Manhattan Instittue and the Americn Enterprise Institute. Singer and his employees have contributed over $1.1 million to climate change denying politicians, with $95,000 from Singer alone. [7] He is scheduled to speak at Sohn Tel Aviv.

Paul Tudor Jones owns a significant stake in Castleton Commodities International, a global energy commodities merchant with extensive investments in both fossil fuel commodities and infrastcuture, including coal terminals. A featured speaker at the 2014 Sohn conference, Tudor Jones paid $2 million in 1990 as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors regarding his failure to supervise his contractor/landscaper, who was charged by federal prosecutors with filling in 86 acres of protected wetlands as part of the creation of Tudor Jones’ private hunting reserve, Tudor Farms. [8] 

David Einhorn’s hedge fund ownS a 12% state in Consol Energy, a coal and natural gas company that has been repeatedly cited for polluting West Virginia waters with carcinogenic chemicals, while lobbying successfully against laws and regulations that would have increased protections for the public against exposure to toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.

We expect that you will take these concerns seriously, and we are available to meet with you to discuss the details of these conflicts directly.

Thank you for your consideration, and thank you for your dedication and leadership in the field of pediatric cancer treatment, care and research.

Yours very truly,

Brett Fleishman, 350.org
Senior Global Analyst

Charlie Cray, Greenpeace USA,
Senior Research Analyst

TJ Michels, Hedge Clippers
Campaign Director

Leewana Thomas, United Students Against Sweatshops
National Coordinator

 

Footnotes

[1] http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/25/world/la-fg-alberta-air-20131026

[2] http://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-069X-13-82

[3] http://ecowatch.com/2013/12/09/10-toxic-ingredients-used-in-coal-oil-gas-production/

[4] http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1306761/#tab2

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2516589/

[6] “Hedge Funds and Fossil Fuels,” http://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-28-hedge-funds-and-fossil-fuels/

[7] “Hedge Funds and Fossil Fuels,” http://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-28-hedge-funds-and-fossil-fuels/

[8] “Hedge Funds and Fossil Fuels,” http://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-28-hedge-funds-and-fossil-fuels/

#HedgePapers No. 28 – Hedge Funds and Fossil Fuels

air-pollution

Fossil fuel companies are at the root of the climate crisis. Indeed, according to a recent study in the journal Climatic Change, the climate crisis of the 21st century “has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age.”[1] The vast majority of those 90 companies are in the business of producing oil, gas or coal. Some are household names like Chevron, Exxon, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell. But the fossil fuel industry does not exist in a vacuum. There are a host of other industries that legitimize, bolster, and enable fossil fuel corporations to continue their business of releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

» read more

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#HedgePapers No. 27 – Closing Wall Street’s Lucrative Loophole: How States Can Raise Billions by Taxing Carried Interest

pile of cash

Across the country, states stand to gain many billions of dollars in revenue by closing the carried interest loophole. It’s a long overdue element of financial reform that the federal government has failed to enact.

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#HedgePapers No. 26 – Puerto Rico: Pain and Profit

pr flag capitolio

As 2015 came to an end, there was much speculation about the January 1st deadline for Puerto Rico to pay its creditors. There was no question that the island would default on its almost $1 billion in debt payments, but no one knew precisely how large that default would be. When the deadline arrived, Puerto Rico defaulted on only $37.3 million, a much smaller amount than many had feared.[1] Some bystanders speculated that because the island could still pay 97% of their debts, the government was exaggerating the extent of their crisis.[2]

That argument not only belies fiscal reality – the Puerto Rican economy has shrunk over 10% since 2006 – but also disregards the tremendous suffering the Puerto Rican government is imposing on its people in order to pay its creditors. With a poverty rate already at an alarming 45%, the island’s austerity budget is quickly turning its debt crisis into a full-fledged humanitarian disaster.[3]

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#HedgePapers No. 25 – Endangered Endowments: How Hedge Funds Are Bankrupting Higher Education

Harvard-College-Cambridge-MA-Widener-LibraryThe Harmful Role of Hedge Funds in University Endowments

University endowments play an important role in the lives of students, faculty and other campus workers. Endowments are funded by donations, and universities use the investment returns to pay for improvements to buildings and facilities, provide scholarships, fund teaching and learning, and provide other services and economic support to the surrounding community.

Over the last decade, however, a troubling trend has emerged: Hedge funds—largely unregulated, high-cost investment vehicles run by the ultrawealthy—are managing larger and larger portions of these endowments, and charging universities the highest fees in the business to do so.

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Partner Paper No. 3: Wall Street Money & Massachusetts Schools

Hedge Clippers is happy to partner with Massachusetts Jobs With Justice to bring you a new expose on how huge amounts of out-of-state hedge fund cash is now pouring into Massachusetts to fund lobbyists and politicians with the aim of privatizing education in the Bay State.
Read Wall Street Money & Massachusetts Schools
Since 2014, hedge fund managers have spent millions to try to eliminate New York’s cap on charter schools, with much of that money funneled through Families for Excellent Schools. FES organizes charter school parents to lobby for charter school expansion, and was essential to pulling off the large pro-charter rallies in Albany and NYC that have helped advance Governor Andrew Cuomo’s school privatization agenda. It spent more than $9 million on political lobbying, a state record.

With a few victories under its belt and a start-up grant possibly earmarked by Boston hedge fund billionaire and Republican money man Seth Klarman FES expanded its operations into Massachusetts, where the fight over charter school expansion is starting to heat up (and where the Secretary of Education is also an FES trustee!).

This report explores how Wall Street financiers created, control, and fund FES to advocate for more charter schools.

Read Wall Street Money & Massachusetts Schools
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Partner Paper No. 2: All That Glitters Is Not Gold — An Examination of US Public Pension Investments in Hedge Funds

Pyrite_(Fools_Gold)A new report by our colleagues at the American Federation of Teachers and the Roosevelt Institute has found that public pension investments in hedge funds aren’t paying off. The eleven pension systems studied received absolutely no benefit from their investments in hedge funds, with high fees eating up all of the returns and stated investment strategies failing to pan out.

The report finds that pension investments in hedge funds really turn out to be a transfer of wealth from hard-working public employees to greedy billionaire hedge fund managers.

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#HedgePapers No. 24 – Puerto Rico Hedge Fund Vulture Holdouts

Los Tiranos, Los Vampiros, y El Terminator
(The Tyrants, the Vampires, and the Terminator)

The Puerto Rican debt crisis has recently reached a new stage in negotiations between the government and its bondholders: deals have been reached with many creditors and ad hoc groups have fallen apart, but several creditors are continuing to hold out, intending to squeeze massive profits out of a Puerto Rico on the brink.

Unsurprisingly, this holdout group is led by hedge funds, and unyielding billionaire hedge fund managers.

Sources close to the negotiations have named three of the vulture holdouts: Aurelius Capital Management, Brigade Capital Management, and Monarch Alternative Capital.

None of the three hedge funds is particularly well known – they mostly toil in the arcane, under-scrutinized world of distressed debt, in which “vulture funds” use heavy-handed legal and bargaining tactics to extract maximum profit from failing companies and debt-ridden economies.

They aren’t household names, but they ought to be – the effects of their business practices are felt far and wide in the US and beyond.

Meet Los Tiranos (the tyrants), Los Vampiros (the vampires), and El Terminator.

This report is based on our information regarding the current state of play in the Puerto Rico debt crisis — it will be updated if and when new information is available.

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#Hedgepaper No. 23 – HEDGE FUNDS AND THE GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

Your Boulder Debate Scorecard

Billionaire hedge fund managers stand astride the worlds of Wall Street and Washington like giants, using millions in campaign cash and lobbying retainers to expand their wealth.

  • Hedge fund managers benefit from the “carried interest” tax loophole that lets them pay lower tax rates than kindergarten teachers and truck drivers.[1]
  • Hedge funds are deeply involved in the Puerto Rico debt crisis, buying debt at pennies on the dollar and demanding huge payoffs through harsh austerity measures for working and retired Puerto Rican families and seniors.[2]
  • And hedge fund lobbyists have worked in Washington against the interests of working Americans, seniors and retirees – all to make their billionaire clients richer and richer.[3]

As the candidates debate in Boulder this week, it’s important for the public to understand the huge role of hedge funds in backing GOP candidates:

  • Jeb Bush has taken money from numerous hedge fund managers — and while he’d pare back the carried interest loophole, he’s offering new and expanded tax breaks to billionaires.[4]
  • Marco Rubio raised money from hedge fund vulture investors in Puerto Rican bonds,[5] and then came out against fair bankruptcy protections for Puerto Rico.[6]
  • Ted Cruz’ Super PAC took a monster $11 million donation from a single hedge fund billionaire.[7]

Collectively, hedge funds have poured millions of dollars into top-tier GOP presidential candidates’ campaign committees and Super PACs:[8] cash that ensures the protection of special benefits like the carried interest loophole, or new tax and regulatory benefits.

Next month, Hedge Clippers will publish a full compendium of hedge fund campaign cash to Washington politicians and candidates for president. But in honor of this week’s debate, we wanted to provide a scorecard of hedge fund backing for the major GOP candidates on the stage Wednesday in Boulder.

» read more
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#HEDGEPAPERS NO. 22 – Hedge Funds Attack American Health Care

martin-shkreli

Billionaire Profiteers & Big Pharma

A new analysis shows rampant speculation by hedge fund and private equity in the branded drugs that are rising fastest in price

It’s not just one highly unethical man: dozens of high-flying financial speculators at hedge funds and private equity firms are driving up the price of pharmaceuticals across the country.

The now-infamous Martin Shkreli recently became the target of extremely well deserved worldwide scorn.[1]

Shkreli, a 32-year old hedge-fund-manager-turned-pharmaceutical-executive, bought the rights to Daraprim, a toxoplasmosis drug often required by women, men and children with immune systems weakened by diseases like HIV/AIDS. After acquiring the drug rights, Shkreli increased the price by 5,000% to $750 per pill.[2]
» read more Read more

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