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Current Affairs

A Magazine of Politics and Culture

11 Billionaires Who Need Shaming

These billionaires have been very, very bad…

Pets are infamously mischievous and capable of causing all manner of havoc. Hence the existence of “dog shaming” and “cat shaming,” practices designed to hold animals accountable for their misdeeds. You may have seen them: photos of guilty-looking pets with signs around their necks detailing their bad acts (e.g., “I Sneak Into The House of Our Buddhist Neighbors And Eat Their Food Offerings To Buddha”). But when you think about it, it’s a little unfair that these poor creatures are being singled out. After all, the wrongdoing of a lone pug or collie, no matter how exasperating, pales next to the crimes of the bourgeoisie. And yet the wealthy so often get off scot-free, without punitive humiliation of any kind. We propose to rectify this by introducing a new means of ensuring justice: billionaire shaming.

Ray Dalio

What radically differentiates Dalio’s business advice is its unsparingly calculating approach, and its insistence that people’s feelings are a kind of weakness that needs to be overcome rather than an aspect of themselves that should be dealt with sensitively and thoughtfully. Dalio encourages managers to embrace “tough love,” and the intentional infliction of “pain,” because, as his formula states, “pain + reflection = progress.”  — “How to Make Everyone in Your Vicinity Secretly Fear and Despise You,” Current Affairs

Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch sold political coverage that could be digested directly by the stomach, bypassing the mind. He fed viewers a steady diet of Southern Strategy bromides about minorities and foreigners and queers and feminists and Sean Penn, all working together to steal the minivan out of Middle America’s driveway. — Rupert Murdoch is Deviant Scum,” Rolling Stone

Thomas Peterffy

Beyond his status as a billionaire entrepreneur, Peterffy may be best known for his staunch opposition to socialism. During the 2012 election season, he spent millions on commercials warning against the dangers he perceives of wealth distribution and some other socialist concepts. His greatest political preoccupation today is still socialism, and he finds the growing interest in it among young people disturbing. “I think American youth have no idea what they are talking about, they are completely too prone to emotional outbursts,” Peterffy says. “Analysis would simply prove to them without incentive there is no effort.” — Meet the Richest Man in Florida, a Hungarian Immigrant Who Hates Socialism and Hangs Out at Mar-a-Lago,” TIME 

Wilbur Ross

It is difficult to imagine the possibility that a man like Ross, who Forbes estimates is worth some $700 million, might steal a few million from one of his business partners. Unless you have heard enough stories about Ross. Two former WL Ross colleagues remember the commerce secretary taking handfuls of Sweet’N Low packets from a nearby restaurant, so he didn’t have to go out and buy some for himself. One says workers at his house in the Hamptons used to call the office, claiming Ross had not paid them for their work. Another two people said Ross once pledged $1 million to a charity, then never paid. A commerce official called the tales “petty nonsense,” and added that Ross does not put sweetener in his coffee.  There are bigger allegations. Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But all told, these allegations—which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements and an SEC fine—come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history. — “New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting,” Forbes

Charles Ergen

Dish was named “America’s worst company to work for” by the website 24/7 Wall Street, based on scathing reviews on the job site Employees have been subjected to “badge reports,” where they are red-flagged for showing up minutes late. When they travel, staffers are asked to take red-eye flights, share hotel rooms and reimburse the company if they tip more than 15 percent. One field-service specialist tells THR, “In my office, you are not even allowed to use the restroom in the mornings before leaving on your route or in the evenings until you’re off the clock.” — “Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen Is the Most Hated Man in Hollywood,” The Hollywood Reporter 

Dan Gertler

The U.S. government accused Gertler of corrupt mining and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and said he acted as a middle-man to enrich his longtime buddy, President Joseph Kabila. The two have been close since Gertler arrived as a young diamond merchant during a civil war in 1997, and Congo — one of Africa’s poorest countries — is the main source of his wealth. “Most of my business is in the Congo and my faith is in the Congo,” Gertler, 44, said in a rare interview on Dec. 21, just hours before the U.S. government imposed economic sanctions against him. — “Congo Bribery Probe Puts Israeli Billionaire’s Future on Hold,” Bloomberg

Donald Sterling

“Just evict the bitch.” It was 2002, and Donald Sterling was talking to Sumner Davenport, one of his four top property supervisors, about a tenant at the Ardmore Apartments. Already the largest landowner in Beverly Hills, Sterling had recently acquired the Ardmore as part of his move to extend his real estate empire eastward toward Koreatown and downtown LA. As he did, Sterling “wanted tenants that fit his image,” according to testimony Davenport gave in a discrimination lawsuit brought against Sterling in 2003 by 19 tenants and the nonprofit Housing Rights Center. (That case ended in a confidential settlement in 2005; attorneys for the Center declined to comment for this story. In a separate suit, also concluded in 2005, Davenport claimed Sterling sexually harassed her, and lost. She declined comment. The Magazine has obtained depositions in both cases.) Cultivating his image, Davenport said, meant no blacks, no Mexican-Americans, no children (whom Sterling called ‘brats’) and no government-housing-subsidy recipients as tenants. So according to the testimony of tenants, Sterling employees made life difficult for residents in some of his new buildings. They refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment. They refused to do repairs for black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules. When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to Davenport. “That’s because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they’re not clean,” he said, according to Davenport’s testimony. “And it’s because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day.” He added: “So we have to get them out of here.” — Uncontested: The life of Donald Sterling,” ESPN

Joe Ricketts

These employees had announced their intent to unionize several months ago, and Ricketts’ shutdown announcement came just one week after the official vote to do so. In his shutdown notice, Ricketts suggested it was purely a business decision. As Hamilton Nolan noted in the New York Times, though: “DNAinfo was never profitable, but Mr. Ricketts was happy to invest in it for eight years, praising its work all along. Gothamist, on the other hand, was profitable, and a fairly recent addition to the company.” Last month, meanwhile, Ricketts wrote that “unions exert efforts that tend to destroy the Free Enterprise system” and said he was “against” unions operating at companies he started. On Thursday all DNAINfo and Gothamist webpages redirected to a letter from Ricketts containing the shutdown announcement. (The sites eventually returned, but it’s unclear what will become of the archives going forward.) More than 100 people were immediately out of a job after Ricketts chose to impose the corporate death penalty rather than be compelled to go through a collective bargaining process with one of his offices. It is worth mentioning here that Ricketts shuttered DNAInfo and Gothamist even before receiving any demands from the recently formed union. — Could Joe Ricketts Get Away With Shuttering Gothamist For Unionizing?” Slate

Gina Rinehart

Rinehart is a person of strong convictions. Confident she knows what is best for this country, she increasingly seeks to sway public opinion – backing campaigns against Labor’s mining tax and carbon tax, for instance, and sponsoring climate-change denialists…  it has never been a good idea to cross Rinehart. “Gina tries to be nice to everybody,” wrote one of her father’s biographers, Robert Duffield, when she was 22, but “if they disappoint her, or annoy her, or in any way seem to threaten her, the friendly filter in the opal-clear eyes drops to reveal a more steely blue … It is not anger, for anger is an uncontrolled emotion and Gina despises people who lose control of themselves, for whatever reason.” The princess of the Pilbara doesn’t shout. She sues. While her friends stay silent about her for fear of falling out of favour, her critics watch their words because they don’t want to get a writ. — The Iron Lady,” The Sydney Morning Herald

Workers at Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill project in Western Australia laughed at safety inspectors during an audit that found “clear breaches of safe work practise requirements” at parts of the site, documents show. The audit documents, obtained by the ABC under freedom of information (FOI) laws, show some construction contractors refused to comply with safety standards and laughed at the concerns of inspectors from the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP). Inspectors said contract construction workers had breached “safe work practise requirements” and had a “lack of commitment addressing occupational health and safety concerns” — Workers at Rinehart mine site laughed at safety inspectors before ‘clear breaches’ found, audit says,” ABC News Australia

The Mercers

The Mercer Family Foundation in 2016 gave $800,000 to the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank and major proponent of climate change denialism, up from $100,000 the previous year. Heartland received about $5.2 million in average annual income between 2011 and 2015, meaning the Mercers’ donation could make up 15 percent of the organization’s funding in 2016. The foundation gave $200,000 for a second year in a row to the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a discredited medial research group best known for spreading a hoax petition in 2009 claiming that 30,000 climatologists rejected global warming. Based on the organization’s average income for the last few years, that donation could make up anywhere from one-third to 62 percent of its budget.  The Mercers made first-time donations to two other prominent groups last year: the CO2 Coalition, an organization born from the ashes of the defunct George C. Marshall Institute, which denied global warming and lobbied against the science behind acid rain and smoking-caused cancer, received $150,000; and the Arizona-based Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, an oil-funded think tank run by former Peabody Energy executive Craig Idso, got $125,000.  The Mercers, Trump’s Billionaire Megadonors, Ramp Up Climate Change Denial Funding,” The Huffington Post

Words by Lyta Gold, illustrations by Lizzy Price. 

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