Whitney Tilson email explains Warren dust-up
NY hedge fund manager says Mass. senator got it wrong
NEW YORK HEDGE fund manager Whitney Tilson has found himself at the center of a high-profile dust-up with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who teed him in a recent Facebook post. Warren called out Tilson for being part of the Wall Street crowd that is thrilled by President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Wall Street insiders for top posts in his administration. Tilson, who strongly backed Hillary Clinton, says Warren got his comments all wrong. What’s more, Tilson, a founder of the advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform, counts himself as a huge fan of the Massachusetts senator, has donated to her campaign, and supports many of her efforts to regulate the financial services sector. Tilson sends out a regular email, usually focused on eduation reform issues, to a wide network. Below is the email he sent this week giving the back story and more details of the Warren saga.
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1) In his column in tomorrow’s NYT (below), Andrew Ross Sorkin criticizes Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her attack on me in a Facebook post on Dec. 1st:
The hedge fund manager she condemned was Whitney Tilson, who runs Kase Capital. Ms. Warren — the fiery Massachusetts Democrat who is known for her stern mistrust of Wall Street — called him out by saying, “Tilson knows that, despite all the stunts and rhetoric, Donald Trump isn’t going to change the economic system.” Then she added, “The next four years are going to be a bonanza for the Whitney Tilsons of the world.”
There’s one rather glaring problem with Ms. Warren’s attack: Mr. Tilson happens to be one of the few financial executives who publicly fought Mr. Trump’s election and supported Hillary Clinton. A lifelong Democrat who was involved in helping to start Teach for America, Mr. Tilson also happened to be one of the rare Wall Street executives who had donated to Ms. Warren and actively sought new regulations for the industry. Recently, he gave Mrs. Clinton $1,000 so he could see Ms. Warren speak at a campaign fund-raiser. (He’s also far, far from a billionaire.)“I’ve donated money to her, attended her events, and did everything in my power to stop Donald Trump,” Mr. Tilson told me, talking about Ms. Warren and expressing dismay that he somehow became the target of her derision. “In addition, I agree with her 100 percent that large swaths of the financial industry have run amok and prey on vulnerable Americans, and thus strong regulation, including a muscular Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is sorely needed,” he said.
Ms. Warren appears to be suffering from the same affliction that Mr. Trump’s critics accuse of him: a knee-jerk, fact-free reaction to something she had read in the news.
…When I spoke to Mr. Tilson on Monday, he said he felt that the senator had let him down in two ways: “Personally, I feel betrayed,” he said. “In recent years, I’ve really stuck my neck out by very publicly supporting her, the C.F.P.B., and a tough regulatory approach to banks — none of which wins me many friends — and this is how she repays me.”
Mr. Tilson added: “By engaging in factually incorrect, ad hominem attacks, she’s getting down into the gutter with Trump. This is misguided and counterproductive.
2) In spite of how badly Sen. Warren and/or her staff have handled this – I gave them every opportunity to fix this obvious mistake – I still support her (albeit with somewhat less enthusiasm) for two primary reasons: 1) I think she, far more than Donald Trump, is the true voice for the 60% of Americans whose real incomes today are lower than they were in 2000 (their anger/frustration is understandable; alas, their solution – electing an obvious madman/con man President – is likely, I believe, to make things worse, not better, for them…); and 2) I share her belief that banking should be boring, and that it’s insane to allow our financial system to be a highly leveraged casino that preys on average Americans.
I wonder if she’ll be smart and gracious enough to sit down with Susan and me so we can put this behind us and figure out how to work together? I’m not holding my breath – I think her fame and power may be going to her head (though I hope I’m wrong – we Democrats need strong, SANE voices now more than ever)…
3) Here’s her inaccurate and misguided Facebook post from Dec. 1st (which is still posted here):
4) Here’s the letter Susan sent her on Dec. 3rd: (I didn’t ask her to write it nor did I edit a word of it; it’s nice to know that, after 26 years together, my wife still loves me and will fight for me!):
Dear Senator Warren,
I have been one of your biggest fans ever since I was a student in your first Harvard Law School bankruptcy class in the fall of 1992. You deftly energized the entire classroom about a subject that many would find boring, and I marveled at your ability to break down complicated concepts into language that was easy to understand. I have followed your career with pride, cheering from the sidelines as you rose to national attention for your excellent work on behalf of consumers. I read and loved your book, and my husband and I supported your senatorial campaign. We are not Massachusetts residents and could not vote for you ourselves, but we did our best to encourage friends and family who could vote for you to do so. More recently, we donated $1,000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign just so we could hear you speak at a Women Lawyer’s for Hillary event at Skadden, Arps’s offices in September. We believe that you are a profoundly intelligent and empathic person who is passionate about making our country better for all Americans.
It is for all these reasons that I cannot shake the deep sense of disappointment that I have been feeling since I read your Facebook post on Thursday, December 1, in which you made highly critical and unfair statements about my husband, Whitney Tilson, without doing any fact-checking whatsoever. First, you called him a “billionaire hedge fund manager,” which, I can assure you, is laughably far from the truth. Second, you clearly know nothing about him if you could ever characterize him as being “thrilled” about anything that Donald Trump is doing. In the months leading up to Trump’s election, Whitney did little else but use his bully pulpit (through Facebook and vast e-mail lists that he typically uses to share information about investing and education reform, which is his passion) to keep Trump from the Oval Office. The two of us, inspired by your talk at Skadden, even spent a day with friends in Bethlehem, PA, going door to door to register voters for the Clinton campaign. We believe that Donald Trump personifies greed, corruption, and ignorance, and we are deeply dismayed by the reality of his election to the presidency. We have three daughters on the cusp of adulthood, and this is not the world we imagined for them.
That said, the quote you took from the Bloomberg piece as the basis for your rant was meant to be less of a statement in support of Trump’s financial picks than one of relief that they weren’t worse. Furthermore, if you had read to the end of the article, right before you are quoted, you would have seen the following:
Tilson, who was relieved Trump picked an industry veteran instead of a wildcard, still has concerns, especially because Trump promised to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted after the financial crisis almost toppled the global economy.
“I’m a fan of Dodd-Frank, I think banking should be boring,” said Tilson, who voted for Hillary Clinton. “I worry about Wall Street returning to being a casino.”
Perhaps if you had read all the way through, you would have understood that there was nuance to his statement.
When you post on Facebook, people pay attention. As of Saturday morning at 11 a.m., your unfair and inaccurate post about my husband had over 14,000 likes, 5,922 shares, and 1,155 comments. You owe it to all of us to pick your fights with those who deserve it, and we all know that there are many who deserve it right now.
At a time when the person who is about to be the leader of the free world tells lies almost as frequently as he breathes, the rest of us have to continue to pursue truth and fact. I know you believe that, and that is why I felt I had to write to you to express how saddened I was by your ill-informed post. I expected more from you.
I would encourage you to delete that Facebook post and to get to know my husband for who he is—a man who has railed against the carried interest loophole for years despite it being against his self-interest, a man who co-founded Democrats for Education Reform to try to improve the educational system for all American children, a man who serves on multiple non-profit boards and climbs mountains (literally) to raise money for the causes he believes in, a man who stood directly behind President Obama in support of the Buffett Rule back in 2012. I think you would like him.
Susan Blackman Tilson (HLS ’93)
5) After hearing from Warren’s Chief of Staff, last Friday, in which he wrote that Sen. Warren decided to only remove the word “billionaire” from her post, I emailed him this reply on Sunday:
Thank you for getting back to me. Unfortunately, removing the word “billionaire” doesn’t fix the fact that Sen. Warren’s post still totally mischaracterizes what I said in the Bloomberg article and what I really believe.
I hate Donald Trump and his toxic agenda with a passion, and fought with every fiber of my being to stop this racist madman/con man from becoming elected. Thus, the reason I expressed “glee” at him screwing his supporters is that I’m angry with them for electing him so, emotionally, I’m delighted that they’re getting their just deserts. More importantly, practically speaking, as he continues to betray his supporters over and over again (coal jobs are NOT coming back; wait until they see what Andrew Puzder has in store for them, etc.), this will hopefully undermine his support, making it: a) more difficult for him to actually implement his agenda; and b) more likely that he’ll be a one-term President.
As for being “relieved [that] Trump picked an industry veteran instead of a wildcard,” while I share Sen. Warren’s concerns about Wall Street insiders like Steve Mnuchin being put in charge of our financial system, after some of Trump’s other appointments, I was worried about him making someone like Sarah Palin Sec. of the Treasury.
To be fair and accurate, yet maintain its viewpoint and punchiness, Sen. Warren should change her post to read as follows:
Financial titans are thrilled by Donald Trump’s economic team of Wall Street insiders. But despite all the stunts and rhetoric, Donald Trump isn’t going to change the economic system – he’s going to tilt the playing field even further for those as the very top. Trump’s Treasury pick, Steve Mnuchin, helped peddle the products that led to the 2008 crisis, and then made another fortune aggressively foreclosing on families who were still reeling from the crisis. Mnuchin has already promised to push massive tax cuts for giant corporations and more lenient rules for his old buddies on Wall Street.
If Trump gets his way, the next four years are going to be a bonanza for Wall Street honchos – at the expense and pain of everyone else. It’s up to Democrats to stand up for working families – and they can start by standing up against Steve Mnuchin.
Should you or Sen. Warren wish to speak with me about this, I’m at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.Sincerely yours,