Hedge-funders Use Their Skills for Good, Not Evil

Hedgers
Photo: Judith Pszenica/The New York Times/Redux

Here's a heartwarming holiday story. Today's Times profiles Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld, two 26-year-olds who quit their jobs at a Westport hedge fund to start a foundation that puts charities through a rigorous cost-benefit analysis and then rates them on their effectiveness. It's called GiveWell, and it's apparently causing quite a stir in the nonprofit community. Yes, they sort of sound like they might be kind of jerks — one blog calls the way they communicate with charities "breathtaking" in its audacity ("Here's, arguably, a 26-year-old punk, who doesn't know what he doesn't know, telling legions of veteran do-gooders that they are possibly, indeed probably, wasting their time and their donors' money!"). And, yes, the Times is a little effusive about how they gave up their massive hedge-fund salaries for "a lot less pay" (according to the Times, they each receive a salary of $65,000). And, yes, we suspect that a Harvard grad called "Holden" might have a little backup somewhere. But that is not the point. The point is this: Wouldn't it be nice if all finance folks used the qualities inherent to them — arrogance, aggression — to doing something good? Yeah, we're looking at you, Dan Loeb.

Two Young Hedge Fund Veterans Stir Up the World of Philanthropy [NYT]
Who Wants Holden Karnofsky's Money? [The Agitator]