Donald Luskin (born April 1954) is Chief Investment Officer for Trend Macrolytics LLC, a consulting firm providing investment strategy and macroeconomics forecasting and research for institutional investors.
Luskin is a contributing editor and columnist both for National Review Online (NRO) and SmartMoney.com. His columns touch on investing, economic and political matters. Luskin is a frequent guest on Larry Kudlow's CNBC television show, Kudlow & Company. He has published three books, Index Options and Futures: The Complete Guide, Portfolio Insurance: A Guide to Dynamic Hedging and I Am John Galt: Today's Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It (co-author Andrew Greta). He also writes a blog, "The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid," based on the title of his as-yet unpublished book. The blog's tagline is: "How big government, big business, big media and big academia block your road to financial freedom—and tell you it's for your own good." Luskin is a self-avowed libertarian, and his blog links to other financial and political blogs espousing similar beliefs. He formerly was a columnist for TheStreet.com and Business 2.0 magazine. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Journal of Portfolio Management, the Harvard Business Review, and other publications.
Biography and achievements
On his blog, Luskin states he "attended Yale in 1973–1974; dropped out to rejoin the real world as soon as possible."
After college, Luskin worked for several years as a creative consultant to Los Angeles companies such as Mattel and Teledyne, and motion picture studios Warner Brothers and LucasFilm. He and two colleagues developed a series of all-night treasure-hunts, one of which was adapted into the Walt Disney motion picture Midnight Madness.
Luskin's investment career began in 1979, when he started a hedge fund while an options market maker on the Pacific Stock Exchange. As his fund grew and evolved, he became a market maker on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (where he helped pioneer index options trading, executing the very first OEX contract) and the New York Stock Exchange, where he traded the first option contract in the NYSE's history.
In 1984 Luskin joined Jefferies & Co., a brokerage firm. There as senior vice president, he invented POSIT, a crossing network enabling institutional investors to exchange entire portfolios with each other. POSIT was later spun out of Jefferies as a separate publicly traded company, Investment Technology Group.
In 1987 Luskin joined Wells Fargo Investment Advisors, a division of Wells Fargo Bank, as senior vice president in charge of investment management and trading. He became vice chairman when the firm merged with Nikko Securities in 1989, becoming Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisors. When the firm was acquired by Barclays Bank in 1995 and became Barclays Global Investors, Luskin became chief executive officer of the firm's global business in mutual funds. Over Luskin's eleven years with the firm, assets under management grew from $69 billion to over $500 billion. Luskin was responsible for numerous innovations in index funds and quantitative investing—including the development domestic and international quant-active funds, every one of which outperformed its benchmark over Luskin's tenure—and the creation of the first sector ETFs. Luskin created the LifePath family of mutual funds, for which he is the named inventor on a US patent.
In August 1999, during the tech bubble, Luskin and partner Dave Nadig started the MetaMarkets Open Fund, the first mutual fund to publish trades and list its holdings in real-time via its website. This "transparency" and "openness," Luskin and Nadig said, was a step forward in the financial world, equivalent to the political revolutions and international democratic transformations of the 1990s, because it leveled the playing field for the average investor and overthrew "financial elites." MetaMarkets.com, the venture-backed company that Luskin and Nadig founded to operate OpenFund, was hailed by Fortune magazine as one of the "coolest companies" in America in 2000. Their model was dismissed by some analysts as being a "gimmick," having nothing to do with investing per se: "They brought chat boards to life in a mutual fund." At its peak, OpenFund received $45 million in investments, and the fund's biggest positions included companies like JDS Uniphase and Extreme Networks. At the end of 1999, OpenFund was among a handful of the best-performing mutual funds in America. After the market top in March 2000, the valuations of technology companies collapsed and many OpenFund investors redeemed their shares. The fund was shut down in the summer of 2001, after losing much of its investors' money. Published reports note that the open fund lost over half its value.
Conflicts with Paul Krugman
Luskin has been controversial as a public intellectual. Much of his blog and many of his NRO columns are devoted to arguments that economic facts, figures, and trends are distorted by politicians, pundits and the media. He has a particular animosity towards the New York Times, especially columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, whose economic pronouncements he has endeavored to debunk. Luskin is de facto leader of what he calls the "Krugman Truth Squad," an ad hoc group of bloggers who are dedicated to detailing and rebutting what they consider Krugman's lies and distortions.
According to Daniel Okrent, former Public Editor of the Times, "Luskin serves as Javert to Krugman's Jean Valjean. From a perch on National Review Online, he regularly assaults Krugman's logic, his politics, his economic theories, his character and his accuracy." Luskin claims that his work has resulted in corrections from Krugman and "the imposition of a new and more rigorous corrections policy for the entire Times editorial page."
Krugman has occasionally responded directly to Luskin's criticisms. In one instance Luskin accused Krugman of making an arithmetical error in his appraisal of the costs and effects of the 2003 tax cuts. Krugman responded with a series of postings on his website. In one such posting, apparently referring to the persistence of Luskin's criticisms, Krugman humorously referred to Luskin as his "stalker-in-chief". Later, after Luskin appeared at a Krugman book signing, Krugman said of Luskin on the Fox News television program Hannity and Colmes, "That's a guy, that's a guy who actually stalks me on the web, and once stalked me personally". The animosity between Luskin and Krugman became so intense it became the subject of a story in The New Yorker with extensive remarks from both men. Krugman's characterization of Luskin as a stalker was repeated by blogger Atrios (Duncan Black) prompting a threat of legal action from lawyers representing Luskin.
Over the years, some of his predictions have been controversial. In May 2001, when he was a columnist for the financial website theStreet.com, he predicted a new bull market in gold and gold stocks, for which he drew intense criticism from fellow columnists including Jim Cramer. Shortly thereafter, Luskin's escalating public dispute with Cramer led to his resignation from theStreet.com via real-time postings on the site's discussion boards that became a cause célèbre on the web.
Luskin's predictions were controversial again in 2008 when, in a September Washington Post opinion piece, he cited evidence of what he claimed were factual errors made by Barack Obama and members of his presidential campaign concerning the state of the economy. Luskin claimed that the market was healthy, and Obama was simply using the state of the economy to discredit John McCain. However, the following day, Lehman Brothers filed for the biggest bankruptcy in US history and two days later, on September 16, stock markets imploded, thus discrediting every prediction he made in his editorial. Additionally, in the same editorial, he cited evidence that the economy was weak, but not in recession. He wrote, "…anyone who says we’re in a recession, or heading into one—especially the worst one since the Great Depression—is making up his own private definition of recession." Shortly afterward, following the sudden collapse of Lehman and several other large financial firms, the economy sharply worsened, and was subsequently declared to have been in recession all year by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Foreign Policy included Luskin's prediction in its list of "The 10 Worst Predictions for 2008" on its website and noted that it gave additional opportunities for liberal bloggers to criticize Luskin. The editors of The Yale Book of Quotations also made note of the inopportune timing of Luskin's editorial and included his prediction in their list of "Top ten quotes of 2008". He has been singled out for "some of the worst, money losing commentary of the past few years."
- Index Options and Futures: The Complete Guide. ISBN 0-471-85464-6.
- Portfolio Insurance: A Guide to Dynamic Hedging. ISBN 0-471-85849-8.
- I Am John Galt: Today's Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It
- The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid
- CKL's HotSheet: SnoutCast #47: "Before Midnight"
- US Patent
- "A fund goes live on the Net". CNN. September 17, 1999. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
- "OpenFund closes its doors". CNN. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
- ClosedFund: Seeking Buyer, MetaMarkets Shuts Down Funds – TheStreet
- Daniel Okrent, "The Privileges of Opinion, the Obligations of Fact", New York Times, March 28, 2004
- Donald Luskin, "Boxed in With Corrections", National Review Online, October 4, 2005
- The Unofficial Paul Krugman Web Page
- The Unofficial Paul Krugman Web Page
- The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid
- Ben McGrath, "Blalking", New Yorker, November 17, 2003.
- Eschaton: 10/26/2003 – 11/02/2003
- Donald Luskin, "The Gold Game: Electrified by the Third Rail", theStreet.com, May 23, 2001
- Bill Alpert, "We Fight in Public", Barron's, June 25, 2001
- Luskin, Donald, Quit Doling Out That Bad-Economy Line, Washington Post, September 14, 2008
- Determination of the December 2007 Peak in Economic Activity
- The 10 Worst Predictions for 2008, Foreign Policy, December 2008
- Palin tops list of memorable quotes, MSNBC.com (Associated Press), December 15, 2008.
- Barry Ritholtz, cited in Better Trades, February 2, 2009
- The Washington Monthly
- Trend Macrolytics LLC – Luskin's corporate site
- Trend Macrolytics LLC – Principals – Luskin's official biography
- The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid – Luskin's blog
- National Review Online – column archive
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- SmartMoney.com – column archive
- ClosedFund: Seeking Buyer, MetaMarkets Shuts Down Funds