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The 2015 Pension 40: John and Laura Arnold

No. 2 John & Laura Arnold Co-founders / Laura and John Arnold Foundation

John & Laura Arnold
Co-founders /
Laura and John
Arnold Foundation
Last year ranked: 2

Since 2008, when John and Laura Arnold founded the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in Houston, the couple has become a ubiquitous presence in the retirement reform debate. The Arnolds have provided support to reform efforts in various states through their foundation while privately making political contributions to candidates they agree with. Arnold, 41, grew up in Dallas and graduated with a degree in mathematics and economics from Vanderbilt University before joining Houston energy company Enron Corp. He made his fortune on Enron’s natural-gas trading desk, then, after the company collapsed in December 2001, launched an energy-focused hedge fund firm, Centaurus Advisors. Arnold closed the firm in 2012 so he and his wife, Laura, a corporate lawyer, could dedicate themselves to philanthropy. Pensions, a key focus of the foundation, along with prison and educational reform, evolved from their interest in public sector issues where they felt their money, estimated at $2.6 billion, could have the greatest impact. The Arnolds are not without their critics, in part because of the Enron connection. Many public sector unions contend that the youthful-looking John Arnold has a right-wing, union-bashing agenda. The foundation’s pension expert, Josh McGee, who is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, disagrees, insisting the Arnolds are merely promoting good public policy. The foundation surprised some of its detractors by supporting initiatives in California and Connecticut to create retirement funds for private sector workers not currently in pension savings plans. In August the foundation released a white paper on Houston’s public employee retirement plan that has triggered debate in the oil-dependent city and across Texas. “We’ve always cared about retirement policy,” says McGee. “We like good policy.”

The 2015 Pension 40
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