tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg April 10, 2021 9:00am-9:30am EDT
♪ david: this is my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. the highest calling of mankind, i've often thought, was private equity. [laughter] david: and then i started interviewing. i watched your interviews, so i know how to do some interviewing. i learned from doing interviews how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked how much he wanted. he said 250. i said fine. i did not negotiate with him. and i did no due diligence. david: i have something i would like to sell. and how they stay there. you don't feel inadequate being only the second wealthiest man
in the world, right? [laughter] one of the most impressive men i have ever met is wes moore. ♪ he grew up in my hometown of baltimore, became a rhodes scholar, white house fellow, war veteran, and he has been running robin hood. he is stepping down and likely to run for governor of maryland. he is someone who will clearly make a mark in this world, and he has already done so. welcome to our show. wes: it is so good to be with you, as always. thank you. david: tell people what the robin hood foundation is. some people think of robin hood as stock trading, but that is not what you do, right? wes: that is not what we do. it was amazing, during the whole gamestop episode, people were blowing up my in box saying, unblock my trades. i said, i have no idea, but i wish you luck with that.
but the robin hood foundation is a 32-year-old organization with an exclusive goal of ending poverty. it was started by paul tudor jones and a collection of other people who were in the investment business. and they started this foundation with a say, we want to take metrics and best practices and invest in the organization we think has the highest probability of being able to end the scourge of poverty. and they started off making $40,000 worth of investments. now 32 years later, we have allocated just shy of $4 billion into this work and fight. and we fund everything from education, housing, transportation, mental health, physical health, criminal justice reform, anywhere poverty is the cause or consequence. we will find, fund, build, if necessary, all these mechanisms that we think put us on the pathway of creating a more
equitable society. david: how much money does robin hood giveaway annually? wes: when we think about the process of the last year, we raised around $240 million. in the past four years that i have been ceo, we have raised over $675 million, but there are those certain foundations that will take a portion of the endowment and allocate that to grant making. the robin hood endowment is essentially zero. right? the uniqueness of our model is every dollar we get in, it will go out within the next calendar year, so on january 1, it is like press go again. we raise and get the money out as quickly as possible. david: who pays for the staff? who pays all the administrative costs? in some foundations that can be
5% to 10%. wes: if not more. the other unique mechanism of robin hood's model is the fact that that our board covers all operational expenses. david: covid must have made it difficult to raise money and figure how to give it away. and run the foundation remotely, so how did you do that? wes: covid was, covid in this past year was remarkable. and there was a lot of uncertainty about what does that mean in terms of how we continue to move at a quick and fast pace despite we would not be together. how do we consider the fact we knew how damaging this was going to be on our communities. and community partners. we saw 11 years of job growth go away in 11 weeks. and we knew which communities would be hit hardest by that. it was our communities. and so, but i am so proud of the way that we responded and rebounded. we activated the relief fund,
for only the third time in the history of the organization. once was after 9/11, hurricane sandy, and now, covid-19, where we had a few specific focuses. one was supporting the nonprofit sector, which we knew would take an extraordinary hit, and all the organizations doing the social service work in the city and beyond that needed it. and the second piece was emergency cash assistance, just getting cash into people's hands. we knew from data that we funded and helped build that over 40%, around 43% of people could not afford a $400 shock. with cash. that shock was here, it a lot -- it was a lot more than $400, so you had to get cash support to the people that needed it the most, and specifically people who we saw government intervention was not touching. david: let me ask you, during covid, many nonprofit organizations have suffered
because donors don't feel as wealthy as they did before. did your donor sate not right now? i know it is a problem, but i don't make much money as i used to, or did you get more money from donors? wes: we saw people who stepped up significantly. i think there are a couple of things that we learned that help to uncle package -- to un-package. one was that the reality was that not everyone was getting financially hurt. that while you did have certain people who did see incomes decrease, or in many cases go away, you saw some that actually saw their businesses increase in john. part of the challenge we continue to see is how the separation and wealth divide shows itself. you had people who that dynamic in reality showed itself in philanthropic giving. the second piece was, we saw a
david: let's about how you became the head of the robin hood foundation. because you have worked in new york, but you are from baltimore. and you are minding your own business, living in baltimore. how did they come to you, and had you been doing anything like this that would have given you the qualifications for them to think you would be the right person? wes: david, i call myself the most accidental foundation head you could possibly imagine.
i had no background in philanthropy. you know, they were like, we would like you to consider being the ceo of robinhood. and i said, i don't know if that makes sense. i said i can think of a bunch of reasons why, but let me give you three. the first is i live in baltimore. i don't plan on moving. i don't know how i would run a new york-based organization. the second piece was i am enjoying the work here in maryland. in the third piece is i have been critical of philanthropy. in fact the head of the search community said it is all over the internet. we have seen it. we have done our due diligence. david: have you realized you could not persuade him? [laughter] let's talk about your incredible life story, when most people hear about your story, they say, how could anybody do that? you were born in baltimore. then your father died when you
were young, is that right? wes: he died when i was about four years old. he died in front of me from a rare but treatable virus. david: your mother said, ok, we are going to move you to new york. did you move to the bronx? wes: yes, she was having a difficult time with the transition. she became a widow in her 20's with three children that she was gonna raise on her own, and had a really difficult time with it. she called my grandparents, who lived in the bronx. you are right. my grandfather was a minister in the south bronx. my grandmother was a schoolteacher for 25 years in the south bronx. both immigrated to this country. david: right. wes: but their house is barely big enough for them, but they made it big enough for all of us. david: you are the perfect child and you never got in trouble, everything worked out well right? , wes: right. [laughter] that was a hard transition for me.
i found myself hurting people who did love me, so the first time i was handcuffed is when i was 11 years old. and so by the time, i was 13, after years of threats sending me away at this cooler that school or whatever it was, when i was 13, my mom sent me to military school. david: you went to military school. i assume you are not dying to go to military school. wes: it was not my first choice. david: so they straightened you out a little bit or? wes: they did. it took a while. i think i ran away five times in the first four days. david: then you went to johns hopkins, is that right? wes: that's right. a lot of the men in my life who were mentors all had something in common, they all wore the
uniform of this country, so i joined the army and went to military college. david: then you went to johns hopkins, is that right? wes: that's right. david: you must have done well because you are elected as a rhodes scholar. some rhodes scholars go to oxford, get a degree don't get a degree, then come back and go to harvard law school, yale law school, go to something important like private equity, whatever it might be, right? what did you decide to do? how come you didn't some other great law school? how come you decided to do something that not many rhodes scholars were doing? wes: i went to the world of finance and was there for a little while working at deutsche bank in london. it was great, nice. i remember getting a phone call. i was a brand-new analyst working on deals.
and it was from my buddy, a major with the 82nd airborne division. and he said something to me. he said, so when are you going to get into the fight? and that was indicting for me. i trained. i am a paratrooper. i have gone through all my training with my soldiers, and my soldiers are now in afghanistan, deploying to iraq. you know, i was working in high finance. and i literally went back and thought about it, prayed on it, and called him back up a couple days later and said, mike, i am in. and so, i ended up doing, they did a by-name request for me, and i left and joined up with the 82nd airborne division. i went to fort benning to do my training, then around nine months after that conversation i
had in the stairwell, i was getting ready to deploy with the 82nd airborne to afghanistan. david: ok, so you go to afghanistan. did you ask for an office job, something where you could not be shot at or something like that? wes: no, not at all. i was very clear. i'd led a group of paratroopers as a special operations officer, information operations, psychological operations, and we were in the field. what is interesting is so much of that conversation in 2005 was iraq. you know, we had about 150,000 troops in iraq at the time. in afghanistan, only 17,000 troops. and so i remember when i got deployment orders for afghanistan, people were like, at least you're not going to iraq. not knowing the kind of fighting in afghanistan at that time. and literally within the first days of afghanistan, i started
seeing firsthand a firefight, you start seeing just what kind of fighting was going on in afghanistan. david: how long were you there? wes: i was over there just a little shy of a year. david: you came back to the united states? wes: i did. david: what did you do then? wes: first, a white house fellowship. the same gentlemen was a former white house fellow. i came back from a mission and he said i want you to apply for this thing called the white house fellowship. he said it is important for people in washington to get a first-hand understanding of the year you are having right now, so they can see what is going on on the ground, so i applied for a white house fellowship, and i had the honor of working under then secretary of state condoleezza rice and her team, which was unbelievable and a life-shifting experience to go through that. david: after your white house fellowship, you work for condoleezza rice. does your mother say can you get
a serious, full-time job, make some money? is that what you finally decided to do? what did you do? wes: i did. my mother was like, slow down, start actually preparing a family. and also, i was married at that point, so now you are thinking about, what are the things you want to be able to do? started to think about my and i -- about the things i was interested in, the skill set i had, so i decided that maybe i should try to give finance a shot. and then i had the pleasure then of working at citi as an analyst associate, then vice president. just working on collections of deals. david: you moved to new york? wes: yes. we were living in maryland, then moved to new york for a few years. david: when did you move back to baltimore? wes: i remember having a conversation with another mentor of mine, a person who was running investment banking, now running for mayor.
ray mcguire. i went to him and said i think it is time to do something different. i just finished actually writing a book called "the other wes moore." it was an important process for me to be reflective about my own life, and that is when i said i made the decision i really wanted to leave finance and focus on these issues that are my life's burning issues. david: so now you will be leaving shortly robinhood. are you going to pursue a higher calling of private equity, or are you thinking of doing something else? wes: i know the work i want to do. i'm thinking about what is the right platform. ♪
as well to make everybody else look bad. you are doing too many things. so tell people now who are watching who the other wes moore was. wes: right after i got the rhodes scholarship, the baltimore sun, wrote this article about this local kid who just got an award and was going to england on the scholarship. and at the same time, they are writing a series of articles about four guys who walk into a jewelry store, and attempted to rob the jewelry store, and it was botched, the jewelry store robbery, and ended up murdering an off-duty police officer. there was a 12-day manhunt for these guys. after 12 days, all four guys were caught. one was a guy, we were living in the same area, around the same age, both grew up in single-parent households, and his name was also wes moore. i reached out to him and wrote him this note. he wrote me a note back, and
that turned into dozens of notes, dozens of visits. i have now known him for almost two decades. at the same time i was getting ready to go to england, he was getting ready to start his life sentence in prison, so the other wes moore evolved from our friendship, and these things happening that causes the split amongst these two kids with similar backgrounds. david: so you have now written five books. one is about freddie gray, a person who was taken into a police paddy wagon and on the way to the police station died and caused riots in baltimore. what is your own view about the racial situation in the u.s. because of examples like freddie gray or george floyd have gotten worse than when you're growing -- you were growing up?
or do you see any progress being made? wes: i see the potential for progress being made, and the potential for progress being made is the fact that we are now understanding and talking about this as not isolated instances, but understanding the longevity and lineage of this. that the damage of george floyd was not the fact that we watched a homicide on camera, but the fact his name gets added to a much longer lineage of names that there has been no accountability for, right? it also comes down to the fact that we watch how these acts and these issues of systemic racism do show themselves, and not just -- in not just policing. whether you are talking about educational attainment, wealth, whether you're talking about mortality, basic asset allocation, it is race. and it is impossible to
understand this without disaggregating the importance of it, so the platform for progress is the fact that we are now having a mature and honest conversation about what is it going to take for us to move into a better space, and a place where we are watching not just oppressed populations demanding justice, and that is the power of this moment. david: many african-american men of your age and older have told me that their own life experiences where they were stopped by police for things that did not seem appropriate at the time for them, certainly. have you had those run-ins since you have been an adult? wes: absolutely. absolutely. and you know, but it is both the fact we have had these interactions, and the fact that the sound of a police siren has a different pitch, depending on what neighborhood you are in,
and your heart rate speeds up in a different way when you are already anticipating that this encounter could go wrong, and how it could be interpreted by other people, but also the fact that i as a father, i know i am going to be forced to have conversations with our children. david: so now you are leaving shortly from robin hood and go live in baltimore. will you pursue the higher calling of private equity? or are you thinking of doing something else? i've read in the newspaper that you're thinking of running for governor of maryland? is there any truth to that? wes: i am exploring running for governor. i'm thinking about it in terms of i know that i want to focus on true systems change. i think we are just at a very crucial point where on issues where i have spent my entire adult life on, whether they be ending child poverty, whether it be eliminating the racial
wealth gap, how do we think about education in a fair way where we are providing real , pathways for our students. these are issues right in front of us right now, and we are making generational decisions right now. i know the issues i want to get done and the work i want to do. i'm thinking about what is the right platform. i think there is not just take unique potential lane, but a unique way to do that. david: suppose the president of the united states is watching this and says, running for office that is tough. why don't you come in and i will give you a senior job in the administration. would you go into the biden administration, or do you really want to run for office in the governorship in maryland? wes: i have a deep admiration for all people who choose to serve in administrations. i am at this stage of my career where i know my skill sets. and i know what i am good at. i am a pretty good executive.
i know how to run things. and run large organizations, and high -- and i have worked within and with government my entire career, and for me, this is not about going into politics. for me, this is about the fact that the executive role that controls the budget has a chance to actually change the destiny for a generation of children and families, that makes my heart beat faster, and that is what makes me excited. david: people are watching would say, ok, after he got his life together, a rhodes scholarship, white house fellowship, five books, heads robinhood happily , married, two kids. this is a perfect picture. make us feel that we are not so inadequate ourselves. tell us something you are doing that doesn't work out where you failed, so we can feel like were -- we are not just watching a superhuman. we want to watch somebody who
♪ carol: covid-19 has exposed a sickness in global society. it's exacerbated deep-rooted inequalities in the united states. >> the wealth divide has just exploded in the wrong direction. >> structural inequality is not healthy. it means we're leaving productivity on the table. carol: around the world, migrant laborers are bearing the brunt of the crisis. and while rich nations are well into their vaccine campaigns, developing countries are falling behind. >> we're not going to have as swift a recovery in the united states or in europe, if we don't make sure that everybody gets vaccinated. carol: 2.5 million women have left the u.s. workforce due the pandemic, while corporations face a growing demand to fulfill