|Alma mater||University of Pennsylvania|
University of Chicago Booth School of Business
|Occupation||Hedge fund manager|
|Employer||AQR Capital Management|
|Net worth||US$2.6 billion (January 2020)|
|Spouse(s)||Laurel Elizabeth Fraser|
Early life and education
Asness was born to a Jewish family, in Queens, New York, the son of Carol, who ran a medical education firm, and Barry Asness, an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. His family moved to Roslyn Heights, New York when he was four. He attended the B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp and graduated from Herricks High School where "(he) wasn't an academic star". He graduated from the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology (M&T) with dual degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Thereafter, he entered the finance PhD program at the University of Chicago and became the research assistant to Eugene Fama, an influential efficient market theorist and empiricist.
Asness' dissertation, in opposition to his mentor, asserted that profits consistently beating market averages were attainable by exploiting both value and momentum; in his context, value means using fundamental analysis to assess the true worth of a security and momentum means betting that it will continue to go up or down as it has in the recent past. Neither idea was original with Asness but he was credited with being the first to compile enough empirical evidence across a wide variety of markets to bring the ideas into the academic financial mainstream. However, the strategy for accumulation is subject to the same constraints as any other and systemic effects in markets can invalidate it: AQR and other similar ventures lost massive amounts of wealth in the Financial crisis of 2007-2010 with assets declining from $39 billion in 2007 to $17 billion by the end of 2008.
After completing his PhD, Asness accepted a job with Goldman Sachs as managing director and director of quantitative research for Goldman Sachs Asset Management. At Goldman, he founded the Goldman Sachs Global Alpha Fund, a systematic trading hedge fund and one of the earliest "quant vehicles" in the industry. The fund used complicated computerized trading models to first locate underpriced equities, bonds, currencies, and commodities and then use short selling to take advantage of upward or downward price momentum. The fund was designed to make money regardless of the direction the market was moving. In 1997 he left Goldman Sachs and founded AQR Capital Management in 1998. According to Forbes, in October 2019 he had an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion.
Economic and political commentary
Asness frequently comments on financial issues in print and on CNBC and other television programs. He has frequently spoken out against high hedge fund fees. In particular, he has been critical of hedge funds with high correlations to equity markets, delivering stock index fund performance (which is available cheaply) at prices that could only be justified by extraordinary market insight that only the best hedge funds seem to deliver consistently.
In 2008, he complained about short-selling restrictions in The New York Times. In a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed (written with Aaron Brown) he claimed the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill would lead to regulatory capture, crony capitalism and a massive "financial-regulatory complex." In Bloomberg columns, he discussed taxation of investment managers and healthcare reform. He posts commentary on financial issues, generally from a libertarian and efficient markets viewpoint.
He is known for taking some outspoken contrarian stances, like in calling out the tech bubble (Bubble Logic, 2000) and those who claimed options should not be expensed (Stock Options and the Lying Liars Who Don't Want to Expense Them, 2004). He was also known as an outspoken critic of U.S. president Barack Obama. Two tracts he authored protest the Obama administration's treatment of Chrysler senior bondholders.
In 1999, Asness married Laurel Elizabeth Fraser of Seward, Nebraska, the daughter of a retired Methodist pastor. Asness has four children. He listed his Miami penthouse for sale in October 2019, after purchasing it from Boris Jordan in May 2018.
Selected academic publications
- Asness, Cliff et al., 2001, "Do Hedge Funds Hedge? Be cautious in analyzing monthly returns.", Journal of Portfolio Management
- Asness, Cliff, 2003, "Fight the Fed Model", Journal of Portfolio Management
- Asness, Cliff et al., 2013, "Value and Momentum Everywhere", Journal of Finance
- Asness, Cliff et al., 2003, Financial Analysts Journal,"Surprise! Higher dividends = higher earnings growth"
- "Forbes profile: Cliff Asness". Forbes. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
- JTA: "Jewish, Republican, pro-gay rights" By Ron Kampeas Archived December 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine May 14, 2011
- JTA: "Asness Meets ‘Grim Reaper’ Before Fund Rebounds From 50% Loss" By Richard Teitelbaum 7 October 2010
- Vardi, Nathan. "How Cliff Asness Became A Billionaire By Building A Kind Of Vanguard Of Hedge Funds". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
- Fortune: "Cliff Asness: A hedge fund genius goes retail" By Shawn Tully Archived 2013-11-03 at the Wayback Machine December 19, 2011
- AQR Capital Management website Archived 2010-03-17 at the Wayback Machine
- Stevenson, Alexandra (2016-11-22). "Investment Funds Get Millions to Stay in Connecticut". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
- Barron's accessed November 12, 2019
- Kim, Tae (2017-11-03). "Top Wall Street quant Cliff Asness doesn't believe AI will revolutionize investing". www.cnbc.com. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
- Joe Nocera: Cliff Asness Is Mad as Hell. September 21, 2008
- Asness, Clifford S.; Brown, Aaron (May 13, 2010). "The Treasury-Financial Complex". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660.
- "Money Managers May Face New Tax Increase: Clifford S. Asness". Bloomberg.com. June 14, 2010.
- "'Don't Ask' Is No Way to Run Health Care: Clifford S. Asness". bloomberg.com.
- "stumblingontruth". stumblingontruth.com.
- Rob. "My Obsession". A Rich Life.
- Jesse Eisinger in the Wall Street Journal Archived 2011-07-10 at the Wayback Machine
Whitney Tilson in the Motley Fool
- ABC News. "Meet President Obama's Newest Opponent, Clifford Asness". ABC News.
- Jessica Pressler. "Hedge-Funder Cliff Asness Is Not Afraid of Barack Obama". Daily Intelligencer.
- Peter Robinson (22 May 2009). "The Protest Of A Patriot". Forbes.
- Avlon, John (February 28, 2013). "The Pro-Freedom Republicans Are Coming: 131 Sign Gay Marriage Brief". The Daily Beast.
- "WEDDINGS; Laurel Fraser and Clifford Asness". August 15, 1999 – via NYTimes.com.