If there were any doubts about the power Ray Dalio wields via the $100 billion-plus in assets managed by his Bridgewater Associates in Westport – time to put that doubt to rest.
Time magazine included Dalio on its list of the 100 most influential people in the world, among several moguls who include Warren Buffett, IBM Corp.’s Ginni Rometty, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Apple’s Tim Cook.
If that quartet is regularly in the public eye, Dalio’s inclusion marks a symbolic first of sorts in which privately held hedge funds in Fairfield County and elsewhere are joining the mainstream of American business, despite their ongoing penchant for secrecy.
As Dalio showed up at this past winter’s Davos economic summit, SAC Capital Advisors founder Steve Cohen made a public bid to put his own vast wealth into play by buying the Los Angeles Dodgers, ultimately getting beaten out by an investment group led by Magic Johnson.
In a statement published by Time, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said Bridgewater’s vast assets are not enough to qualify Dalio for Time’s list, citing more his leadership in financial circles.
“What matters more is that he has strong and a bit unorthodox convictions about the workings of the economic machine,” Volcker wrote. “Ray was, for example, one of the first to recognize the risks of the excessive indebtedness and leveraging of the U.S. and some European economies. I have seen the respect Ray commands and the influence of the Bridgewater research. His strong support for Federal Reserve actions during the financial crisis, considered dangerous by some, is a case in point.”
Hedge fund chiefs have gained influence over the past few years.
The Center for Responsive Politics points to 2007 as a milestone year when hedge funds ramped up their political organization and funding in response to increased governmental scrutiny.
That year, Greenwich-based Tudor Investment Corp. became the first hedge fund to form a political action committee, according to Federal Election Commission data cited by the Center for Responsive Politics.
In the 2008 election year, the organization tracked $19 million in political donations from hedge funds and their key employees, quadruple the amount four years previous with Democrats increasing their share to two of every three dollars of that amount. Stamford-based SAC gave nearly $650,000 in 2008, sixth among hedge funds that year, with Tudor, Bridgewater and AQR Capital Management also in the top 20.
Still, Democrat U.S. Rep. Jim Himes has raised little money from hedge funds in the current election cycle, with Greenwich-based Lone Pine Capital the top industry donor with a $5,000 contribution. Some 30 corporate and organizational donors have given more to Himes, led by $22,000 from donors affiliated with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Those with Goldman Sachs connections have given triple that amount to Christopher Meek, however, who is running for the Republican nod to square off against Himes this fall.
As of 2012, four hedge funds were in the top 10 for the investment industry, with Shumway Capital the only one ranked in the top 10 with some $750,000 in political contributions in the 2012 fiscal year.
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