BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Ken Griffin may be one of the smartest guys on Wall Street, but he still can’t understand why millennials are attracted to socialism.
Speaking at conference for financial titans on Tuesday, the Chicago-based hedge-fund tycoon — who scooped up a $240 million penthouse on Central Park South in Midtown Manhattan earlier this year — blasted calls for a redistribution of wealth coming from left-wing politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“Where we see government involved in great degrees of subsidizations is where we often see the economy break down the greatest,” Griffin said Tuesday at the Milken Institute Global Conference here.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “fueled the great financial crisis of 2008” by backing the low-end mortgage market, Griffin said. Meanwhile Sallie Mae, the US’s student-lending arm, is responsible for the “exploding” cost of higher education in the US, he said.
Separately on Tuesday, an annual “rich list” survey by Institutional Investor found that Griffin came in No. 3 among the highest-paid hedge-fund managers, as his 2018 income slipped to $870 million from $1.4 billion a year earlier.
The Citadel founder is worth $11.8 billion, according to Forbes.
Ironically, Griffin was beat out by No. 1-ranked Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, who lately has been claiming that the capitalist system has created a “national emergency” that will only get fixed with higher taxes on the wealthy.
Dalio is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the high-profile conference, founded by junk bond financier Michael Milken, who served just under two years in prison in the early 1990s for securities and tax violations.
Coming in at No. 2 was James Simons of Renaissance Technologies — a prominent backer of the Democratic Party who is famously at odds politically with his arch-conservative hedge fund co-founder Robert Mercer.
Total compensation for the top 25 fund managers fell 28 percent, to $11.2 billion, compared with 2017, according to II’s annual survey. But Dalio saw his earnings for the year increase by $700 million, to $2 billion, over the same period.
With nearly two-thirds of hedge funds losing money in 2018, Institutional Investor saw nearly half of the 25 top-earning managers for 2018 fall off the list.
Appaloosa’s David Tepper, who had the second-highest earnings for 2017 with $1.5 billion, didn’t even make the $50.8 million cut-off needed to crack the top 25. Assets at Appaloosa dwindled last year as Tepper withdrew some of his own wealth from the fund to complete his $2.3 billion purchase of the Carolina Panthers football team.
Third Point’s Dan Loeb was another hedgie to fall off the top 25 list as the fund shed 11 percent in 2018.
“The free market is, of course, not perfect,” Griffin admitted on Tuesday. Nevertheless, it’s worked out for him and the employees at his hedge fund Citadel, whose operating chief is the son of a Chicago police officer, he said.
“I’ve seen the American Dream work out and I’ve seen the consequences of economic freedom play out for all of my colleagues,” he said.
Griffin said government-backed college loans have frequently enabled universities to jack up tuitions — and the same problem now threatens health care, as a Democratically-controlled Congress weighs “Medicare for all” legislation.
College grads are “completely disillusioned with their economic prospects given the … extraordinarily high cost of education they’ve been paying, courtesy of the US government,” he said.
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