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The 2015 Pension 40: Paul Singer
No. 37 Paul Singer, Founder and President / Elliott Management Corp.
After the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) announced in September 2014 that it would stop investing in hedge funds, Paul Singer, founder of $26 billion Elliott Management Corp., told clients in a quarterly letter that he thought the U.S.’s largest public pension plan was “off base.” In particular, Singer took CalPERS to task for complaining about hedge fund fees. “We at Elliott do not understand manager-selection criteria based on the level of fees rather than on the result that investors could reasonably expect after fees and expenses are taken into account,” he wrote. His response was a typical defense of hedge fund fees. What makes Singer, 71, more notable than other hedge fund managers on pension issues is his chairmanship since 2008 of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, an influential conservative think tank that has long taken a skeptical view of defined benefit pensions. In a 2011 talk at the institute, Singer praised the organization’s work on the true costs of underfunded pension plans. More recently, the institute has continued its pension research while advocating for charter schools and educational reform. When the American Federation of Teachers launched its list of hedge fund managers who support the demise of defined benefit plans (see Randi Weingarten, No. 4), the union singled out Singer. Nonetheless, at one Manhattan Institute gathering in 2013, the chairman, a prominent GOP donor, jokingly linked the issues of school choice and defined benefit plans, riffing that school choice represents “policies aimed at providing children with the defined benefits that children deserve.” A spokesman for Elliott Management declined to comment.