Paul Singer (businessman)

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Paul Singer
The Global Financial Context Paul Singer.jpg
Singer at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2013
Born Paul Elliott Singer
(1944-08-22) August 22, 1944 (age 71)
New York
Residence New York City
Nationality United States
Alma mater University of Rochester (B.S.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)
Occupation Founder of Elliott Management
Net worth Steady US$ 2.1 billion (August 2015)[1]
Children Andrew and Gordon[2]

Paul Elliott Singer (born August 22, 1944) is an American hedge fund manager, activist investor, and philanthropist.[3][4][5][6] His hedge fund, Elliott Management Corporation (EMC)—specializes in distressed debt acquisitions.[7]:301[8] Singer is also the founder and CEO of NML Capital Limited, a Cayman Islands-based offshore unit of Elliott Management Corporation.[9] In 2015, Forbes rated Singer's net worth as $2.1 billion.[1][5][10][11][12]

Singer's philanthropic activities include financial support for LGBTQ rights,[13][14]—since his son came out as gay in 1998,[13][15] and financial assistance to "entrepreneurship around the world and Jewish causes."[13] He funds the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and passionately defends the 1%.[16] Singer is active in Republican Party politics and collectively, Singer and others affiliated with Elliott Management are "the top source of contributions" to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.[17]

Fortune magazine described him as one of the "smartest and toughest money managers" in the hedge fund industry.[16] A number of sources have branded him a "vulture capitalist", largely on account of his role at EMC, which is widely regarded as a vulture fund.[5][11][18][19] In 1996, he began using the strategy of purchasing sovereign debt from nations in crisis—such as Argentina,[16][20][21][22][23] Peru[9][24][25]—through his NML Capital Limited[9] and Congo-Brazzaville through Kensington International Inc.[19]—when the countries were in chaos, making "millions of dollars in interest repayments and fees on the original debt" when the countries stabilize.[19]

Education and early career[edit]

Singer was born in 1944 in New Jersey, and grew up in a Jewish family,[10][26] one of three children of a Manhattan pharmacist and a homemaker.[16] He obtained his B.S. in psychology from the University of Rochester in year 1966 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1969.[16][27] In 1974, Singer went to work as an attorney in the real estate division of the investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.[16][27]

Elliott Management Corporation[edit]

In 1977, with a convertible arbitrage "winning formula", Singer left law to create his own investment company. He founded the hedge fund Elliott Associates L.P. with $1.3 million in seed capital from various friends and family members.[13][16] Elliott Management Corporation as of 2015 oversees Elliott Associates and Elliott International Limited, which together have more than $27 billion in assets under management, in what is a "multi-strategy fund".[1][13] According to Financial Times, Elliott's principal investment strategy is buying "loans and bonds owed by companies in trouble" and "seeking to influence the outcome of a bankruptcy".[13][19] EMC has been termed a "vulture fund", a characterization Singer rejects.[7][23][28][29][30]

Termed a "specialist in activism in technology companies" by the Wall Street Journal, Elliott Management's varied portfolio also includes a prominent Tech component, pursuing "more than 40 campaigns aimed at tech companies" since 2004, according to Reuters. The corporation also includes a private equity division.[31][32] It is the ninth-largest U.S. fund as of 2015.[33]

A 2012 CNN profile of Singer noted that losses sustained early in his career led to a “risk aversion that still guides his investing today. For example, he rarely uses leverage to juice returns.” Thanks to his caution, “Elliott has had only two down years” since 1977, rising “4.2% in 2011, a year in which most hedge funds lost money.” According to CNN, Singer focused from early times “on distressed assets,” buying up bankrupt firms' debt and acquiring “a reputation for strong-arming his way to profit.” Elliott has been involved “in most of the big post-crash restructurings, including Chrysler and auto parts supplier Delphi.” Over Elliott's history during 1977-2008, it has averaged 14.7 percent annual returns, compared with 10.8% for the S&P 500 stock index as a whole.[13][20][22][34][35][36] After taking over the firm, Singer and co-investors threatened to cease supplying General Motors and Chrysler with parts, demanding payment of $350 million from the US Treasury, a demand which Treasury deputy Steven Rattner described as "extortion".[37]

Forbes noted in December 2012, that Elliott Management had offered to purchase the software firm Compuware after having accumulated 8% of the company's stock. Elliott expressed the view that Compuware had great promise but had been under-performing under its current management.[38]

Sovereign debts[edit]

Elliott was termed by The Independent as "a pioneer in the business of buying up sovereign bonds on the cheap, and then going after countries for unpaid debts",[9] while Singer describes his business model as "a fight against charlatans who refuse to play by the market’s rules".[21]


In 1996, Elliott bought defaulted Peruvian debt for $11.4 million.[25] Elliott won a $58 million judgement when the ruling was overturned in 2000, and Peru had to repay the sum in full under the pari passu rule.[21][24][33] When former president of Peru Alberto Fujimori was attempting to flee the country due to facing legal proceedings over human rights abuses and corruption, Singer ordered the confiscation of his jet and offered to let him leave the country in exchange for the $58 million payment from the treasury, an offer which Fujimori accepted.[22][39] A subsequent 2002 investigation by the Government of Peru into the incident and subsequent congressional report,[40] uncovered instances of corruption since Elliott was not legally authorized to purchase the Peruvian debt from Swiss Bank Corporation without the prior approval of the Peruvian government, and thus the purchase had occurred in breach of contract. At the same time, the fund's representative, Jaime Pinto, had been formerly employed by the Peruvian Ministry of Economy and Finance and had contact with senior officials.[41][42]


After Argentina defaulted on its debt in 2002, NML Capital Limited refused to accept the Argentine offer to pay less than 30 cents per dollar of debt.[9] These are bonds with a face value of $630 million, which NML reportedly bought for $48 million,[33] but that Elliott assessed were then worth $2.3 billion with accrued interest.[16][43]

In early October 2012, NML arranged for the seizure of an Argentine naval training vessel in Ghana, the ARA Libertad, in an effort to force Argentina to pay the debt.[44][45] Argentina, however, refused to pay the debt, and shortly thereafter regained control of the ship and removed it from Ghanaian waters after its seizure was deemed illegal by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.[46][47][48] After the release of the vessel, the director of Tema Harbour in Ghana stated that $7.6 million losses sustained by the port as a result of the incident should be covered by NML, whilst legal action against the hedge fund was being considered.[49]

In February 2013, the U.S. appeals court heard Argentina's appeal in the NML case.[50] In March 2013, Argentina offered a new plan that was judged unlikely to be acceptable to the New York court.[51] On August 23, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court's verdict and dismissed said plan.[52] In June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Argentina's appeal of the ruling.[53]

In March 2014, attempting to satisfy court awards, NML Capital sued SpaceX seeking the rights to two satellite-launch contracts bought by Argentina valued at $113 million.[21]:2[54][55] In March 2015, the suit was dismissed in a U.S. district court in California.[56][57]

On March 24, 2016, following President Obama's meeting in Buenos Aires with Argentina's President Mauricio Macri, the US Justice Department filed a brief as amicus curiae with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, calling for "a swift resolution of this long-running litigation;" a move that, according to the New York Times, increased "the pressure on a group of holdout bondholders"—including Singer's NML Capital—"that refused to take part in two debt restructurings."[58]


A case involving another Cayman Islands-based subsidiary of Elliott, Kensington International, saw the president of the Republic of Congo Denis Sassou-Nguesso accuse Singer of undermining a United Nations backed effort to lift developing nations out of debt. "Our disputes have always been with sovereigns who can pay but refuse to do so," Singer wrote in an e-mail to The Nation.[59][60] Kensington was later awarded $100m in the UK High Court, after attempting to sue for $200m for a debt bought for $10m.[18][61][62] During the case, US President George W Bush had used a constitutional clause preventing seizure of Congolese assets in the United States by the hedge fund.[37][63]

Dispute with Samsung[edit]

In a long-standing dispute between Singer and members of the Lee family over a merger between Samsung and Cheil Industries, Samsung published numerous depictions of Singer as an anthropomorphic vulture on its corporate website. The cartoons were denounced by Singer and others as antisemitic. Samsung denied that the cartoons were antisemitic, but pulled the advertisements from their website.[10][64][65]


Singer signed The Giving Pledge, which signals a commitment by individuals to donate more than half of their wealth within their lifetime to address society's "most difficult moral and economic challenges."[14] He also founded the Paul E. Singer Family Foundation, which supports charitable causes including the Harvard Graduate School of Education Singer Prize for Excellence in Secondary Teaching,[66] VH1 Save The Music Foundation,[67] the Food Bank For New York City, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, the American Unity Fund, the New York City Police Foundation[68][69] and[17][70] Singer and The Paul E. Singer Family Foundation are behind The Philos Project, a pro-Israel Christian organization.[71] [72] In 2016, Singer partnered with the Museum of the Bible to fund Passages Israel, a program to take college students to Israel.[73]

He also serves on the Board of Fellows of Harvard Medical School and the Board of Directors of Commentary Magazine.[74][75]

Political activity[edit]

Singer is an active participant in Republican Party politics. According to The New York Times, he supports "like-minded candidates who often share his distaste for what they view as governmental over-meddling in the financial industry."[76] Singer has contributed more than $1 million to the political efforts of the Koch brothers.[77][78] In 2014, Singer led a group of major Republican donors to form the American Opportunity Alliance, a group that brings together wealthy Republican donors who share Singer’s support for LGBTQ rights, immigration reform and Israel.[79] In 2015, he supported Marco Rubio for the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[80]

Singer was a major contributor to George W. Bush's presidential campaigns.[13][81] On March 14, 2008, Singer hosted a Republican National Committee luncheon in his home for 70 guests that raised $1.4 million for Bush.[82][83][84] President George W. Bush appointed Singer to serve on the Honorary Delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.[85]

In 2007, Singer was one of Rudolph Giuliani’s most important fundraisers in Giuliani’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination.[13][60] In 2007, Singer led a financial industry fund-raising effort for Giuliani, first as regional finance chair and later as senior policy adviser.[86][87] Singer lent Giuliani his private jet.[87][88] That same year, Singer at $175,000 was the sole contributor to a campaign to support a petition drive for a proposed California initiative to apportion the state's 55 electoral votes by congressional district. At least 19 of the state's 53 congressional districts were expected to vote for a GOP presidential candidate, enough to change the national results in a close election.[60][89]

Singer was one of the largest donors of the 2010 midterm election cycle, contributing more than $4 million to support Republican candidates.[83]

In 2011, Singer donated $1 million to Restore Our Future, a Super PAC (political action committee) created to support Mitt Romney, in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election.[90] In 2013, Singer also gave $100,000 to the Club for Growth, a 501(c)4 organization that supports tea party candidates.[91] He has also donated millions of dollars to organizations that advocate for a strong military and for supporting Israel.[92][93][94]

Singer is a member of the Committee on Capital Markets Regulation, a non-governmental, non-partisan research organization.[95] He is also Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank in New York City[96] and on the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a political lobbying group in the United States that promotes Jewish Republicans.[67] He also served on the board of directors for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.[97]

During the 2016 Presidential election campaign Singer supported Marco Rubio and donated a million dollars in March to the Our Principles PAC-a PAC attempting to derail Donald Trump's election campaign.[98][99][100]

LGBTQ rights[edit]

As well as contributing to private initiatives, Singer also actively seeks to persuade other Republicans to support gay marriage.[13] He has joined other Wall Street executives in support of LGBT equality and stated that same-sex marriage promotes “family stability” and that in a time when “the institution of marriage in America has utterly collapsed,” the fact that gay couples want to marry “is kind of a lovely thing and a cool thing and a wonderful thing.”[101][102]

Singer, whose son married his fiance in Massachusetts, has also financially supported the legalization of gay marriage in New York,[103] and Maryland.[104] In 2011, this advocacy included, supporting legislation allowing same-sex marriage in the state of New York along with other GOP donors.[105]

In 2012, Singer provided $1 million to start a Political Action Committee named American Unity PAC. According to the New York Times, the PAC's "sole mission will be to encourage Republican candidates to support same-sex marriage, in part by helping them to feel financially shielded from any blowback from well-funded groups that oppose it."[106] In 2014, Singer urged Republicans to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This bill requires workplace protections to extend out to the LGBT community.[107] As of June 2014, Singer had donated an estimated $10 million for the gay rights movement.[13]

Singer helped fund Freedom For All Americans to promote LGBT issues in states and local communities in the United States.[108]

Writings and commentary[edit]

Singer has written columns in the Wall Street Journal.[74] In 2009, he wrote a piece titled, “Free-Marketeers Should Welcome Some Regulation,” in which he argued that, “It's true that monetary policy was too lax for too long, and the government encouraged lending to people who were unlikely to repay their loans. But this crisis was primarily caused by managements and individuals throughout the financial system who exercised extremely poor judgement. The private sector, not the public sector, is where the biggest mistakes were made.”[109]

At a September 2006 financial conference in New York City, Singer delivered a speech called "Complexity Made Simple," advising that the purchase of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) was a serious mistake, and anticipating the downturn of the housing market by nearly a year before the $770 billion taxpayer-funded bailout.[27]

Hedge fund manager Jim Chanos stated in an August 2009 radio interview that he and Singer had met with G7 finance ministers in 2007 to warn them that the global financial system was increasingly unstable and approaching a catastrophe, with banks on the verge of sinking the global economy. The pair argued that decisive action was called for, but Chanos claims they were met with indifference.[110]

Personal life[edit]

In 2015, Singer was 327th on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, 1006th among the world's billionaires, 350th of American billionaires, and the 16th highest earning hedge fund manager.[1][10] Singer has been divorced since 1996. He has two sons, Andrew and Gordon.[2] He lives on New York City's Upper West Side and has a house in Aspen, Colorado.[16]

Singer began studying classical piano at the age of 10, and forms part of a family band, together with "one of his sons on guitar, the other on drums", and "his son-in-law on saxophone". He enjoys Led Zeppelin and has played onstage with Meat Loaf.[16] He is a fan of Arsenal F.C.[13]


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