Vice President Mike Pence (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)
As people across the world denounce the Trump administration’s destructive climate policies, courting of far-right regimes, and callous policies towards immigrants, top Wall Street figures are getting set to hobnob with Vice President Mike Pence at an upcoming investor conference.
On September 19th, the CEOs of major hedge funds and private equity firms will once again gather for the annual Delivering Alpha conference, which sells itself as “one of the most influential investor conferences every year” that “brings together the biggest asset managers and investors” with prominent economic and political figures. This year’s conference, which is being presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor magazine, will be held in the luxurious Pierre Hotel in Manhattan.
Last year’s conference featured Stephen Bannon, the architect of Trump’s 2016 election victory and a fomentor of today’s global far-right political surge. This year, Mike Pence will speak in a session titled “America’s Economic Agenda.”
The conference gathers together some of the world’s most powerful figures who are major profiteers tied to some of the gravest problems humanity faces today. These are investors in the fossil fuel industry, exploiters of the housing crisis, and drivers of an austerity agenda that has led to the closure of schools and hospitals. Many turn a blind eye towards human rights abuses and enable authoritarian leaders in their relentless pursuit of personal profit.
Importantly, the conference also includes top managers of university endowments and pension funds, many of which do business with these Wall Street leaders, investing the money from workers’ retirements and college donations into funds that these figures oversee.
The gathering will serve as a chance for these elites and money managers to meet, socialize, and network to further these agendas. Here are a few profiles of some of the Delivering Alpha 2019 speakers:
Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO & Co-Founder, Blackstone
Stephen Schwarzman is the founder, chairman, and CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm that oversees around $545 billion in assets. Schwarzman is a close ally of Donald Trump. He chaired Trump’s now-disbanded CEO Council and has been a major fundraiser for and donor to Trump.
Blackstone is the largest private owner of rental homes in the U.S. – it gobbled up 50,000 homes after the 2007-8 housing crash – and is one of the largest landlords in the entire world. The United Nations has condemned Blackstone for its practices of “aggressive evictions” and raising rents. Blackstone is also a major investor in the fossil fuel industry, and its profiteering has been tied to everything from the Amazon forest fires to Sea World. Schwarzman also does major business with Saudi Arabia and its leader Mohammad bin Salman – going so far as giving the country reduced fees on the tens of billions it has committed to invest with Blackstone – even after the widespread global condemnation of the Saudi leader for his suspected responsibility for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Schwarzman is worth a whopping $17.9 billion. He raised eyebrows when, on the eve of the onset of the Great Recession, he threw a luxurious 60th birthday bash for himself (he did the same a decade later in 2017, for his 70th birthday).
Nelson Peltz, CEO & Founding Partner, Trian Fund Management
Nelson Peltz is the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Trian Partners, an activist hedge fund that oversees more than $10 billion in assets. Trian’s portfolio includes General Electric, Legg Mason, Procter & Gamble, and Wendy’s. Peltz is on the advisory board of Delivering Alpha 2019, alongside several pension fund Chief Investment Officers, including Christopher J. Ailman, CIO of California State Teachers’ Retirement System. CalSTRS invests over $1 billion with Trian – in fact, around 20% percent of all funds that Trian and Peltz oversee are made up of just three worker pension funds from California, New York, and Ontario, Canada.
Peltz has been catching heat for Trian’s refusal to have Wendy’s join the Fair Food Program, which ensures better wages and safer working conditions for farmworkers. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has long demanded that Wendy’s follow the examples of companies like Walmart, McDonald’s, and others and join the program, but Peltz and Wedny’s have so far refused. Peltz is the board chair of Wendy’s.
Peltz lives a lavish life. He owns a $123 million Florida estate and 27-room mansion in Bedford, New York – the latter which has been reported to be a “house of horror” for employees. He reportedly owns private jets and helicopters, and he once threw a $2 million bar mitzvah for one of his sons. Peltz has also given a combined $85,800 to Donald Trump.
Joshua Harris, Co-Founder & Senior Managing Director of Apollo Global Management
Joshua Harris, Leon Black, and Marc Rowan founded Apollo in 1990. It has grown into one of the largest asset management firms in the world with over $300 billion under management through its various business segments.
Harris’ session at Delivering Alpha is cleverly titled, “The Apollo Mission.” Apollo’s mission, in fact, has been to cash in from exploiting the less powerful. In Puerto Rico, it sought out an “activist role” with fellow bondholders as Puerto Ricans struggled to meet Wall Street’s demands. In education, it cashed in on the for-profit University of Phoenix, which leaves the few students who graduate woefully underprepared with lower than average earnings while saddling them with tens of thousands in debt. Interestingly, Apollo depends of the retirement money of ordinary workers for much of its business – public pensions make up 29% of Apollo’s investor base.
Notably, Apollo Co-founder Leon Black had many ties to the late Jeffrey Epstein, including a business investment that was pulled together years after Epstein’s conviction in Florida. Black attempted to distance himself in a recent letter to employees and investors, noting that much of his relationship was focused on donating to various philanthropic causes. Indeed, Black donated $5.5 million to MIT at Epstein’s behest. Black has a net worth of $7.8 billion.
Michael Arougheti, Co-Founder, CEO & President of Ares Management
Michael Arougheti is the co-founder, CEO and President of Ares Management, which oversees $142 billion in assets. According to one August 2018 report, Ares is the fourth top private debt fund manager of the past terms years in terms of capital raised.
Among other sectors, Ares is a major investor in the fossil fuel industry. Its current portfolio includes oil and gas corporations like California Resources Corporation, Blackbrush Oil and Gas, Halcón Resources, Gastar, Verdad Resources, Salt Creek Midstream, and others. Ares has also been an investor in the controversial Pilgrim Pipeline, a proposed 178-mile double pipeline that would deliver crude oil and oil products back and forth between Albany, New York to Linden, New Jersey, running through the land of the Ramapough Lenape Nation. In 2016, Ares was widely reported to be an investor in the pipeline and was criticized by local communities. It’s unclear whether Ares is still an investor in the pipeline, which has since struggled to move forward.
Antony Ressler, Ares’s co-founder, chairman, and recently former CEO who is worth $2.8 billion, is a major backer of charter schools in California and a powerful elite figure in Los Angeles – for example, he co-chairs the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and sits on the board of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Ressler is also the brother-in-law of Apollo Management co-founder and CEO Leon Black.
Ulrike Hoffmann-Burchardi, Managing Director, Tudor Investment Corporation
Tudor Investment Corporation was founded by Paul Tudor Jones II in 1980. Jones has amassed a $5.1 billion personal fortune, along with several mansions and a personal hunting reserve which was built on top of 86 acres of federally protected wetlands. Notably, his contractor served six months in prison for the violation while Jones paid $2 million in a plea bargain with federal prosecutors.
Ironically, Jones has frequently expressed concern over potential revolutionary uprisings resulting from the vast inequality under which he and his ilk have thrived. “It’s a scary time for someone who grew up and prospered [in the private sector],” he said to an audience.
To combat these rising tides of resentment that he foresees, Jones has committed to grand philanthropic gestures. However Jones is also a well-known debt vulture who bought up hundreds of millions in Puerto Rico bonds and then sued and lobbied for drastic austerity cuts in Puerto Rico to ensure a payday. He is no stranger to these contradictions. Jones is a longtime board member of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and considers himself an environmentalist while his hedge fund is deeply invested in oil and gas.
Bruce Richards, Co-Managing Partner & CEO of Marathon Asset Management
Bruce Richards and Louis Hanover co-founded Marathon in 1998. Their $17 billion hedge fund specializes in distressed debt and has been characterized as a “rag-and-bone picker” that figures out ways to profit off of others’ financial disaster. Marathon has taken advantage of a number of high profile debt crises including in Greece, Ireland, and most recently, Puerto Rico.
Marathon was one of the leading PREPA bondholders with a whopping $520 million in bonds. Richards himself frequently asserted that PREPA bonds were a “risk worth taking” and that the restructuring, including cutting costs to pay creditors, was “absolutely it’s the best thing for Puerto Rico.” Now Marathon hold $2.5 million in bonds but the firm is one of the members of the new “Ad Hoc Group of Fuel Lenders” and has issued $97.5 million in fuel loans to the Puerto Rico.
Richards is a fan of Donald Trump’s economic agenda and has said that the administration’s attempts at lowering regulation of the financial sector would be a boon for economic growth.