Finally this bastard who ruined my childhood is rotting in hell (kidding, probably a very nice guy, RIP). http://t.co/kgnxFkRJw5 — Clifford Asness (@Cimmerian999) December 17, 2014 [via @matt_levine]
If you’re killing time at the office, working on Turkey Day, or are looking for a fun interactive game for the family to play Thursday night after dinner, test your knowledge of Asnessisms with this quiz brought to you by Hedge Fund Intelligence. Or simply appreciate the above rendering of Clifford in his bedroom, by […]
The AQR chief sure knows how to sell his industry, and is now continuing his somewhat less-than-full-throated “Hedge Funds: They’re Alright, I Guess” campaign on his own website. To sum up his masterpiece, “Hedge Funds: The (Somewhat Tepid) Defense”: Most hedge funds are crap and you should probably just invest in an index fund. But […]
The AQR chief has made clear that there are many things he doesn’t like: Democrats. The real Warren Buffet when a robotic alternative is available. College professors talking to him when he’s enjoying a bottle of wine. But these, friends, are just the beginning. Saying I have a pet peeve, or some pet peeves, just […]
I suppose in like 1985 there were people who worked on Wall Street and un-self-consciously ate cheeseburgers for breakfast, got shoeshines at their desks, went to strip clubs every night, and slammed down their phones hard enough to break them, but my assumption is that in 2013 any remaining “stereotypical Wall Street behavior” is mediated […]
“The only way to finance a big European-style state is to have it paid for by massive taxation of everyone, mostly the middle class. Right now, we are avoiding honest debate on this fact…The first truth is that the current tax rates cannot support the promises made to middle-class Americans. The most unaffordable items in fiscal projections are Social Security for everyone and government-sponsored health care for the middle class. You cannot preserve these even with Draconian slashing of military, infrastructure, welfare, education, and other expenditures. The second truth is that you cannot pay for the Life of Julia, or any vision of a cradle-to-grave welfare state, without massive and increasingly regressive middle-class taxes. The poor don’t have the money to pay for a European-style welfare state, and the rich, rich as they are, don’t have anywhere near enough. Not only that, it’s easy to tax middle-class assets and transactions — things like payrolls, sales, and real estate — but soaking the rich means taxing investments. Investments are complicated and can be restructured to minimize taxes. Also, investments are the lifeblood of economic growth. Raising significantly more taxes from the rich also requires higher marginal tax rates — and their rates are already quite high. High marginal rates distort the economy and yield less revenue than anticipated because they increase the rewards for legal and illegal tax avoidance…to achieve anything like the European-style entitlement state they advocate, we need to tax everyone a lot more, not just the 1 percent. Despite all the drum circles protesting the inequitable distribution of resources, the wealthy just don’t have enough. The middle class and even the poor must step up to carry more of the burden if this is our desired endgame. [The American, related]
Do you want to invest like Warren Buffett? Sure you do. You know who will tell you how? Strangely, some guys at AQR:* [W]e create a portfolio that tracks Buffett’s market exposure and active stock-selection themes, leveraged to the same active risk as Berkshire. We find that this systematic Buffett-style portfolio performs comparably to Berkshire […]
Friday morning at AQR, August 10. Cliff Asness glanced pensively at a candy-colored array of Marvel superhero figurines lined up along his east-facing window. Spiderman. Captain America. The Hulk. Iron Man. Comic book heroes of his boyhood days on Long Island.–The Quants, by Scott Patterson, page 100.
On an August morning, Asness walks to his sun-dappled office windowsill and picks up a Captain America action figure. The hedge-fund mogul owns a panoply of action heroes, from the Hulk to the Silver Surfer, and the comic books that spawned them.–Bloomberg Markets Magazine, October 7, 2010
“Hedge funds charge far too much in general by claiming to be geniuses,” says Asness, lounging on a sofa in his corner office, surrounded by foot-high plastic models of comic book heroes.–Fortune, December 19, 2011
As a child, Clifford Scott Asness gave no sign of his future as a Wall Street tycoon. He was born in October 1966 in Queens, New York. When he was four, his family moved to the leafy suburban environs of Roslyn Heights on Long Island. In school Asness received good grades, but his interest in Wall Street didn’t extend beyond the dark towers of Gotham in the pages of Batman. Obsessed with little besides girls and comic books, Asness was a listless teenager, without direction and somewhat overweight. At times he showed signs of a violent temper that would erupt years later when he sat at the helm of his own hedge fund.–The Quants, by Scott Patterson, page 12.
“His super-villains are intellectual dishonesty and ignorance,” says Jonathan Beinner, a managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and a former classmate of Asness. “When someone offers an opinion that Cliff feels is incorrect or dishonest, whether it be related to investments, politics or pizza, he feels it is his duty to stand up, even if it’s not in his best interest.” Asness admits to a superhero complex. His favorite Marvel comic book character is Captain America, who gains strength with the help of a secret serum and whose shield can be used as an indestructible weapon. Asness has an image of the shield tattooed on his left arm.–Bloomberg Markets Magazine, October 7, 2010
The above is a rendering of a Batcave that will soon be built in the home of an unnamed Greenwich resident. When it is completed in Novemeber, the spread will include “a Batcomputer, Batmobile, Batsuits, 180 degree film screen, sound effects, gargoyles and even a Bat-themed elevator.” The problem? This guy is not only infringing on Asness’s territory as resident super hero obsessive/aficionado/scholar-in-residence/neighbor who dresses up and role-plays his character of choice but is apparently too cowardly to show his face or reveal his name so that Cliff might confront him. The other problem? Captain America doesn’t have some kind of cool underground lair setup of his own. The only recourse? Someone spends the next couple weeks writing a series of fan fiction that describes his house, and then spends $20 million to have that built.
Something you may or may not know about Cliff Asness is that by day, he is a hedge fund manager but by night he is the second coming of his hero, Captain America. Like the Captain, the AQR founder believes his duty is to defend America, only instead of fighting Axis Powers, Asness’s enemies are liberal Commie Socialists hell-bent on destroying this country. Because his shield has been in the shop for repairs for the past couple years, Cliff has been forced to use other weapons to pummel his foes, namely writing amazingly witty1 emails to his friends and colleagues about how much Obama et al suck. Most recently, Captain Asness circulated “Some Useful Definitions to Understand Our Modern Progressive World,” a little glossary of unalphabetized terms he put together sure to cut his adversaries deeply. (The Captain also helpfully pointed out in a footnote that many of the definitions were “written sarcastically as a faux left-winger, [while] some [are] just conservative/libertarian interpretations of what the left really means,” in case that was lost on his audience.) They include:
- The 1%
Definition: Those who pay more than 1/3 the total federal income tax and are never thanked for it. More generally, they are responsible for all evil in the world today (unless they work in Hollywood or hitech in which case they are “honorary 99%-ers” regardless of income, tax rate, and lifestyle).
– Cash for Clunkers
Definition: What we came up to replace World War II as stimulus. Many perfectly good cars destroyed, no Nazis defeated.
Definition: A more extreme form of “entitlement” defined above. Note that modern usage throws out
the long tradition of natural rights only of a negative nature, that is, the right not to have something
done to you, for rights of a positive nature, that is, the right to certain goods and services, like health
care, Apple products, and soy milk. Since, no matter how important these items are, these modern
positive rights must still be produced and taken from others, essentially the word “rights” now often
stands for a system of slavery and theft.2
Some Useful Definitions [PDF]
Earlier today, Politico ran a story titled “Can Chuck Schumer win back Wall St. for Democrats?” Apparently the New York Senator recently “embarked on a fence-mending campaign with senior Wall Street executives, many of whom have grown furious with the Democratic party,” in a charm offensive that has included “holding private dinners [including one put on by Pershing Square manager Bill Ackman], organizing high-end fundraisers for Democratic candidates and quietly pressing for super PAC donations.” According to Politico, “the outreach appears to be working: Hedge fund and private-equity executives have held six different fundraisers for Democratic challengers and senators at Schumer’s request, sources say.” Some financial services employees, however, are not so easy. Take Cliff Asness for example. The AQR manager happened to read the piece and here’s what he had to say about it:
From: Cliff Asness
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 01:08 PM
To: AQR lieutenants, other top hedge fund managers
Subject: Can Chuck Schumer win back Wall St. for Democrats?
Good title question. Only if Wall Street is so f—ing stupid as to defy credulity, honor, and morality. So, yeah, probably.
Best line: “Chuck Schumer is pro-business”. Yeah, ones that buy him off in explicit crony-capitalism, but he wants to regulate and tax to death ones that don’t. Don Corleone was also pro-business. You guys say this stuff with a straight face huh?
p.s. Sorry about the multiple emails, merging lists (though that is probably not the thing that upsets people)
While the above response should come as a shock to exactly no one, we don’t think Schumer should give up on Asness so easily. The guy just wants to be wooed. Start with some limited edition action figures, add some $700 bottles of wine, and go from there. You whip out a Mego Elastic Batman, he’s listening. You show up with a a matching Captain America shield tattoo but instead of on your forearm it’s on your face? He’s nominating you for President. You’re welcome.
Robert C. Jones is also a devoted practitioner of transcendental meditation. Now that he has his own firm, System Two Advisors L.P, he’ll promote “TM” among his employees, and fellow quants. “‘This would be good for you,’ he told me. He knows I’m kind of tightly wound,” says Mr. Asness, who’s known for tantrums involving […]
There are those who think that Warren Buffett’s days of being an awesome value investor are behind him. Those people are crowing a little today after his recent darling Bank of America crossed $5 in the wrong direction, which I guess is a big deal. Here, however, is probably a thing not to think about […]
So you’re Cliff Asness, and you’re in Washington for dinner with a couple of buddies, one of whom happens to be Republican congressman Paul Ryan. Just you, some bros, a nice meal, a little chat about monetary policy and the debt ceiling negotiations. And you’re feeling pretty good, maybe because you just saw the Atlas […]
Yes, technically elected officials did it but it wouldn’t have happened without said hedge fund managers, who made the case over lunch.
I will tell you the stimulus was wasteful and politicized, and the American people, not being idiots, know they will have to pay for it eventually…I will also tell you Dodd-Frank, with its enshrining of too big to fail and its large regulatory costs, is an albatross. I will add that ObamaCare’s gigantic new entitlement […]