This content is from: Corner Office
The 2014 Pension 40: John and Laura Arnold
Pension policy was not something John Arnold, 40, gave much thought to during his days as an energy trader at now-defunct Enron Corp. Nor were pensions on his mind during the years when he ran his own natural-gas-focused hedge fund. That changed after Arnold and his wife, Laura, a former corporate attorney, founded the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in 2008 in their hometown, Houston, and the next year signed the Giving Pledge, agreeing to donate half their fortune in their lifetimes. Pension reform quickly became a pillar of the foundation, with the Arnolds funding pro-reform candidates and ballot initiatives through their political contributions. “We as a foundation get drawn to issues where actors who are involved in shaping public policy have interests that differ from good long-term public policy,” says John Arnold, who majored in mathematics and economics at Vanderbilt University. Pension reform “is an issue that does not have a natural advocate because the cost is dispersed across society as a whole and the benefit goes to a concentrated few.” Arnold says he grew more passionate about the need for pension reform after reading Steven Greenhut’s 2009 book, Plunder: How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation. Over the past four years, as the foundation has played an active role in states like Illinois, Kentucky and Rhode Island, in some cases in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts, Arnold has come under criticism from labor, which sees a deep-pocketed billionaire taking away its entitlements. The Arnolds counter that they are trying to help workers by forging an equitable and sustainable retirement system for all.