Britain’s Socialized National Health Service (NHS) Stripped Parents of Control, Leaving Indi No Choice but to Die

(p. A13) Indi was born with mitochondrial disease, a degenerative condition that prevents cells from producing energy. When her parents and the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England, disagreed over whether she should be kept on life support, the NHS turned to the courts to strip the parents of decision-making authority. The U.K. High Court agreed, overrode the parents’ wishes, and ordered life support removed.

. . .

While the NHS thought continued treatment would be futile, other experts disagreed, including at the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital. As part of its religious mission, Bambino Gesù specializes in treating children with rare diseases. Doctors there offered a treatment plan they thought could help Indi, free of charge. The Italian government even made her a citizen so that she could be airlifted from England.

. . .

For the U.K., the offer of free treatment by willing doctors ought to have been the end of the story. The government didn’t have to pay another penny. The grateful parents simply wanted the freedom to take their daughter to the experts in Rome.

Instead, the NHS went back to the same court and judge to insist it remained in Indi’s best interests to die in the U.K. The court again agreed and overrode the parents’ desire to take Indi to see the experts in Rome. The judge ordered that they could take her only to one place: to the hospice to die.

The parents had no choice but to comply. Lest they try anything else to save their daughter, the parents were sent to hospice with a security escort and police presence.

Deprived of treatment and with her parents forbidden to help her, Indi died within two days, under the watchful eye of the government that said all along it was looking out for her best interests.

For the full commentary, see:

Mark Rienzi. “Britain’s NHS Left Indi Gregory to Die.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 20, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

FTX Fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried Gave “More Than $5 Million” to Biden’s Winning 2020 Presidential Campaign

Bankman-Fried was convicted of fraud on November 2, 2023.

(p. B4) On the same day that Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial on federal fraud charges begins, the best-selling author Michael Lewis is set to publish a widely anticipated book on Tuesday [Oct. 3, 2023] about Mr. Bankman-Fried’s failed cryptocurrency exchange, FTX.

Mr. Lewis, the author of “The Blind Side,” “The Big Short” and “Moneyball,” spent months interviewing Mr. Bankman-Fried and other top FTX executives, and had access to the company’s headquarters in the Bahamas for the book, “Going Infinite.”

The book features previously unreported details about Mr. Bankman-Fried’s empire, from its founding in the Bay Area to its epic collapse in the Bahamas last year. Here are some takeaways.

. . .

Mr. Bankman-Fried started his first company, the hedge fund Alameda Research, alongside Tara Mac Aulay, an Australian mathematician who moved in the same philanthropic circles.  . . .

According to the book, Ms. Mac Aulay grew to consider Mr. Bankman-Fried “dishonest and manipulative,” and other senior figures at Alameda accused him of mismanagement.

. . .

When FTX was thriving, Mr. Bankman-Fried became a prolific political donor, contributing more than $5 million to Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s 2020 presidential election effort.

For the full story, see:

David Yaffe-Bellany. “Takeaways From a New Book on Sam Bankman-Fried.” The New York Times (Tuesday, October 3, 2023): B4.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 2, 2023, and has the same title as the print version. Where the online version has more detailed wording, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

The book reporting new details on the FTX debacle is:

Lewis, Michael. Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2023.

Philosopher MacAskill’s “Effective Altruism” Was Neither Effective Nor Altruistic

(p. B1) In short order, the extraordinary collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX has vaporized billions of dollars of customer deposits, prompted investigations by law enforcement and destroyed the fortune and reputation of the company’s founder and chief executive, Sam Bankman-Fried.

It has also dealt a significant blow to the corner of philanthropy known as effective altruism, a philosophy that advocates applying data and evidence to doing the most good for the many and that is deeply tied to Mr. Bankman-Fried, one of its leading proponents and donors. Now nonprofits are scrambling to replace millions in grant commitments from Mr. Bankman-Fried’s charitable vehicles, and members of the effective altruism community are asking themselves whether they might have helped burnish his reputation.

“Sam and FTX had a lot of good will — and some of that good will was the result of association with ideas I have spent my career promoting,” the philosopher William MacAskill, a founder of the effective altruism movement who has known Mr. Bankman-Fried since the FTX founder was an undergraduate at M.I.T., wrote on Twitter on Friday (Nov. 11, 2022). “If that good will laundered fraud, I am ashamed.”

Mr. MacAskill was one of five people from the charitable vehicle known as the FTX Future Fund who jointly announced their resignation on Thursday (Nov. 10, 2022).

. . .

(p. B5) Benjamin Soskis, senior research associate in the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, said that the issues raised by Mr. Bankman-Fried’s reversal of fortune acted as a “distorted fun-house mirror of a lot of the problems with contemporary philanthropy,” in which very young donors control increasingly enormous fortunes.

. . .

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s fall from grace may have cost effective-altruist causes billions of dollars in future donations.  . . .

His connection to the movement in fact predates the vast fortune he won and lost in the cryptocurrency field. Over lunch a decade ago while he was still in college, Mr. Bankman-Fried told Mr. MacAskill, the philosopher, that he wanted to work on animal-welfare issues. Mr. MacAskill suggested the young man could do more good earning large sums of money and donating the bulk of it to good causes instead.

. . .

A significant share of the grants went to groups focused on building the effective altruist movement rather than organizations working directly on its causes. Many of those groups had ties to Mr. Bankman-Fried’s own team of advisers. The largest single grant listed on the Future Fund website was $15 million to a group called Longview, which according to its website counts the philosopher Mr. MacAskill and the chief executive of the FTX Foundation, Nick Beckstead, among its own advisers.

The second-largest grant, in the amount of $13.9 million, went to the Center for Effective Altruism. Mr. MacAskill was a founder of the center. Both Mr. Beckstead and Mr. MacAskill are on the group’s board of trustees, with Mr. MacAskill serving as the chair of the United Kingdom board and Mr. Beckstead as the chair of the U.S. subsidiary.

For the full story, see:

Nicholas Kulish. “Collapse of FTX Strikes a Philanthropy Movement.” The New York Times (Monday, November 14, 2022): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 14, 2022, and has the title “FTX’s Collapse Casts a Pall on a Philanthropy Movement.”)

“Effective Altruism” Is Woke, Sanctimonious, Fraudulent, and Ineffective

(p. A1) Sam Bankman-Fried said he wanted to prevent nuclear war and stop future pandemics. And he publicly pledged to use his vast and growing wealth to do so.

But the collapse of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s firm, FTX, and the revelations that he mixed FTX’s money with that of its customers, have upended those declared lofty philanthropic goals.

Run by self-described idealists spending the wealth of their billionaire patron to make the world a better place, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s FTX Foundation and its flagship Future Fund touted deep pockets, ambitious goals and fast turnarounds.

Now Mr. Bankman-Fried’s fortune has disappeared, and the self-described philosopher-executives running the organizations have resigned. Grant recipients are scrambling for cash to plug the shortfall and fretting about the provenance of FTX’s largess after the company’s lawyers said this week that a “substantial amount” of assets were missing and possibly stolen.

. . .

(p. A6) Mr. Bankman-Fried often claimed philanthropy was his primary motivation for amassing a fortune. “It’s the thing that matters the most in the end,” he said in an April interview on the “80,000 Hours” podcast.

Mr. Bankman-Fried has said his law-professor parents instilled in him an interest in utilitarianism, the philosophy of trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

. . .

Will MacAskill, then a philosophy graduate student, pitched Mr. Bankman-Fried on the idea of effective altruism, a way of applying some utilitarian ideas to charitable giving.

. . .

Mr. Bankman-Fried had considered different career paths, he said in the “80,000 Hours” interview, but Mr. MacAskill suggested he could do the most good by making a lot of money and giving it away, a popular idea in the community.

. . .

Future Fund pledged hundreds of grants worth more than $160 million by September [2022], according to its website.  . . .

Its two largest public grants, of $15 million and $13.9 million, were awarded to effective altruism groups where Mr. MacAskill held roles. Mr. MacAskill, now a professor at Oxford University, wasn’t paid for his involvement in those organizations “other than expenses,” a spokeswoman for one of them said.

. . .

Mr. MacAskill distanced himself from FTX as it was crumbling. In a string of tweets, he accused Mr. Bankman-Fried of personal betrayal and abandoning the principles of effective altruism. He was also one of the Future Fund staffers who quit.

Last week, Mr. Bankman-Fried exchanged messages with a writer at Vox, a news organization that Building A Stronger Future had also pledged to fund.

“You were really good at talking about ethics,” she said.

“I had to be,” Mr. Bankman-Fried responded. He went on to explain it as “this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shiboleths [sic.] and so everyone likes us.”

For the full story, see:

Rachel Louise Ensign and Ben Cohen. “FTX’s Collapse Wiped Out Founder’s Philanthropic Aims.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov. 25, 2022): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added. The bracketed [sic.] is in the original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 24, 2022, and has the title “Sam Bankman-Fried Said He Would Give Away Billions. Broken Promises Are All That’s Left.”)

Michael Milken Applies “Entrepreneurial Zeal” to Quest to Live Forever

(p. B3) Michael Milken wants to live forever.

. . .

Milken in April [2023] published “Faster Cures,” a book that is part memoir, part a recounting of his efforts to bring the results of medical research to patients more quickly.

. . .

Shortly after his release from prison in 1993, he received a diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer and was told he had 12 to 18 months to live. He survived thanks to a relentless pursuit of the latest treatments and a dramatic change in diet. Longevity is one focus of the Milken Institute.

. . .

While at Berkeley, Milken read a book called “Corporate Bond Quality and Investor Experience” that examined, among other things, yield charts and default rates for bonds issued by railroads, utilities and industrial companies between 1900 and 1943.

The data revealed something surprising, he recounted in “Faster Cures:” While risk and return had always been presumed to be directly correlated, the reality was that the market had historically overestimated the risk of higher-yielding investments. Investors actually got lower returns on a portfolio of high-grade bonds than they did on a portfolio of low-grade ones over time because the higher yields more than made up for the higher level of defaults.

Milken continued his work on high-yield bonds while pursuing an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. When he graduated in 1970, he joined the staff of Drexel, where he had previously worked as a consultant.

Bonds issued by Drexel were the primary source of financing for the likes of cable-industry titan Ted Turner, cellular pioneer Craig McCaw, fiber-optic entrepreneur William McGowan and casino magnate Steve Wynn.

“There was an entrepreneurial zeal in that firm that I haven’t seen since,” said Ted Virtue, a Drexel alumnus who now runs private-equity firm MidOcean Partners.

. . .

Milken’s work on prostate cancer has also made him an influential figure in medical research, where he has developed a reputation for being data-driven and impatient with bureaucracy. Every year he hosts a summit for scientists working on prostate cancer.

“Mike looked at the problem of cancer like a business problem to be solved,” said Dr. Karen Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society. “He wasn’t focused on the flashy. He really focused on what is going to make a difference.”

When the Prostate Cancer Foundation lacked the resources to fund a major study Knudsen needed to conduct to advance her research, she said, Milken introduced her to executives from a pharmaceutical company who he thought would be interested in the science. The company ended up funding the study.

For the full story, see:

Miriam Gottfried. “Bond King, Felon, Billionaire Philanthropist.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 15, 2023): B3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated July 14, 2023, and has the title “Bond King, Felon, Billionaire Philanthropist: The Nine Lives of Michael Milken.”)

Milken’s book on how to cure more diseases faster is:

Milken, Michael. Faster Cures: Accelerating the Future of Health. New York: William Morrow, 2023.

Foundations with an End Date May Honor the Donor’s Intent

(p. C6) This year, the William E. Simon Foundation is closing its doors, or “sunsetting,” in the parlance of modern philanthropy. Since it was founded in 1967 by former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon and his wife Carol, the foundation has given away almost $300 million to the causes that mattered to them—faith, family and education.

. . .

Traditionally, sunsetting a foundation has appealed to more conservative donors. Bill Simon, Jr., who manages the Simon Foundation along with his six siblings, says that his late father set a closing date because he had seen “foundations that seemed to veer off of their donor’s intent.” Simon recalls: “Dad trusted his own seven children to know where he would have put his money…But as much as he loved his grandchildren, he did not know them.”

Indeed, Henry Ford II resigned from the Ford Foundation’s board in 1977, writing that its hostility to capitalism had thrown it off course: “Perhaps it is time for the trustees and staff to examine the question of our obligations to our economic system and to consider how the foundation, as one of the system’s most prominent offspring, might act most wisely to strengthen and improve its progenitor.”

For the full commentary, see:

Naomi Schaefer Riley. “Philanthropists Discover the Value of ‘Sunsetting’.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023): C6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 3, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

Dem Celebrities and Politicians Cultivated Crony Ties to FTX Fraudster Bankman-Fried

(p. B1) About 10 months before he was arrested on fraud charges, the cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried posed for a photograph at the 2022 Super Bowl in Inglewood, Calif.

On one side of him were Orlando Bloom and Katy Perry, the celebrity couple. On the other was the actress Kate Hudson. Standing in the center, with his arm slung over Mr. Bankman-Fried’s shoulder, was a lesser-known figure: Michael Kives.

Mr. Kives, a Hollywood agent turned investor, played an unusual role in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s business empire: super connector. He and his business partner, Bryan Baum, helped the young founder cultivate relationships with Mr. Bloom, Ms. Perry and former President Bill Clinton, and offered introductions to a who’s who of celebrities and business leaders, from Leonardo DiCaprio to the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The relationship was mutually beneficial. Mr. Bankman-Fried invested $700 million in Mr. Kives’s venture-capital firm, court records show, an extraordinary level of support for a fund with a short track record of start-up investments. Mr. Kives, the founder and face of the firm, and Mr. Baum each received $125 million as part of the deal.

For the full story, see:

David Yaffe-Bellany and Erin Griffith. “The Celebrity Super Connector Who Brought Big Names to FTX.” The New York Times (Saturday, June 24, 2023): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 23, 2023, and has the title “The Super Connector Who Built Sam Bankman-Fried’s Celebrity World.”)

Fuzzy Goals of ESG Firms Challenge Investors to Guess Their Future Success

(p. A13) Some movies not only entertain and inspire but convey broader lessons. “Air” is one of them. The film is about Nike’s efforts in 1984 to secure Michael Jordan’s endorsement of its basketball shoes, which soon after became the iconic Air Jordans. But it also tells anyone who will listen that ESG investing—environmental, social and governance—is a trap.

. . .

The Jordan family’s meeting with Adidas makes it apparent that the company has no clear leader or vision on how it would deal with Mr. Jordan in the future. This sense of confusion helps persuade the Jordans to sign with Nike, where leader Phil Knight is securely ensconced, ensuring against any radical change of direction in Nike’s relationship with Mr. Jordan.

. . .

Michael Jordan wasn’t willing to invest his personal brand in a fluctuating operation.

Investors should be even more wary when considering companies that pursue ESG. At the time of Mr. Jordan’s sponsorship decision, everyone at least agreed that the lone goal of a company was to maximize value for shareholders. Under ESG investing, by contrast, conflicts arise not only over how best to pursue company goals but over what the goals are.

For the full commentary, see:

Donald J. Boudreaux and David R. Henderson. “‘Air’ Is a Cautionary Tale About ESG.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, April 14, 2023): A13.

[Note: ellipsis and bracketed year added.]

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 13, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

Poor People Benefit More From “Entrepreneurial Capitalism” Than From Philanthropy

(p. A15) Paul David Hewson said it best during a 2012 speech at Georgetown University. Wait, who? “Aid is just a stopgap,” said Mr. Hewson, whose stage name is Bono. “Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse.” We still haven’t found what he’s looking for. An economic powerhouse would be able to afford mosquito nets and malaria drugs without handouts. That should be the endgame.

. . .

At its best, lots of philanthropy is very useful, but may not be sustainable over time—a sugar high that rarely enables that “teach a man how to fish” thing. Effective altruism may be an oxymoron. And it’s hard to miss that much of philanthropy is to fix government failures in education, welfare or medicine. I think that was Bono’s point.

But at its shadiest, philanthropy drives the misallocation of capital, overvaluing professors, the U.N. and climate poets and undervaluing those who can productively increase societal wealth to fund solutions to the future’s harder problems.

If only there were a way to use capital to provide opportunity, train workers, pay middle-class wages, help people build wealth . . . wait, it just came to me. How about starting new companies and investing in entrepreneurs and world-changing technology?

For the full commentary, see:

Andy Kessler. “INSIDE VIEW; A Wrench Thrown Into Capitalism.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 17, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipsis between paragraphs, added; ellipsis internal to last quoted paragraph, in original; bracketed word in original.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 16, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

Sam Bankman-Fried’s Brother Gabe Helped Send Misappropriated Funds to Dems, and Then Got “The Rock Star Treatment” From Biden White House

(p. B1) The group, Guarding Against Pandemics, raised more than $22 million in its first full year in 2021, turning it into an overnight lobbying force in Washington. The group’s founder, Gabe Bankman-Fried, a former legislative assistant, started getting the rock star treatment: two White House meetings with senior staff and invitations to speak on panels with government officials.

But almost all the money raised by Guarding Against Pandemics appears to have come from Gabe Bankman-Fried’s brother, whom federal prosecutors have accused of misappropriating billions of dollars from customers of his crypto exchange, FTX. The collapse of FTX prompted federal authorities to investigate allegations (p. B6) that sweeping fraud drove the exchange into bankruptcy in November [2023], as well as potential campaign finance law violations by both brothers.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged Sam Bankman-Fried, 31, with orchestrating a scheme to evade limits on corporate political donations. Prosecutors have said he recruited FTX executives and others to serve as proxies for the crypto exchange and make tens of millions of dollars in illegal political donations using customer money.

The authorities are investigating whether Gabe Bankman-Fried, 28, and some of his colleagues were part of the same so-called straw donor scheme, five people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. And they are trying to determine whether he knew some of the funds that his organization received had been misappropriated from customers.

Last month, a top FTX executive, Nishad Singh, pleaded guilty to using company money to make millions of dollars in straw donations to Democratic campaigns and committees.

. . .

The Bankman-Fried brothers relied on a small set of political consultants to guide their spending, applying the principles of effective altruism, the philanthropic movement that has a large following in the tech industry. A top adviser to both brothers was Michael Sadowsky, a committed effective altruist who had worked with the younger Mr. Bankman-Fried at the data firm Civis Analytics.

. . .

With a $25 million cash infusion from Sam Bankman-Fried, Mr. Sadowsky’s PAC became an instant force in Democratic politics. His group supported dozens of progressive candidates and got widespread attention when it spent more than $11 million on an unsuccessful House primary candidate in Oregon, an astonishing sum for such a race.

. . .

Two other key figures in the Bankman-Frieds’ political network had ties to prominent Democrats: Jenna Narayanan, a former political adviser to the billionaire investor Tom Steyer, and Sean McElwee, the founder of Data for Progress, a progressive think tank.

For the full story, see:

Matthew Goldstein, David Yaffe-Bellany and Lora Kelley. “Fraternal Turn to FTX Inquiry.” The New York Times (Friday, March 24, 2023): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “The Younger Brother Caught in the Middle of the FTX Investigation.”)

The “Affordable” Care Act Gives Huge Drug Subsidies to Rich, Urban “Nonprofit” Hospitals

(p. A1) A decades-old federal program that offered big drug discounts to a small number of hospitals to help low-income patients now benefits some of the most successful nonprofit health systems in the U.S.

Under the program, hospitals buy drugs at reduced prices and sell them to patients and their insurers for much more, often at facilities in affluent communities.

One participant is the Cleveland Clinic’s flagship hospital, which reported $1.35 billion in net income last year. The hospital doesn’t admit enough Medicaid and low-income Medicare patients to qualify for low-cost drugs under the program’s original requirements. But a quirk in federal law allowed the hospital to qualify as a “rural referral center,” despite its location near the center of Cleveland.

Despite the benefits, the program hasn’t resulted in new drug discounts for low-income Cleveland Clinic patients, nor has it caused the hospital to increase the financial assistance it offers to those who can’t afford care. (p. A10) The charity care the main hospital writes off represents less than 2% of its patient revenue, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of hospital Medicare filings.

. . .

The hospital’s $1.35 billion net income figure for 2021, she said, includes investment returns.

Cleveland Clinic’s adoption of the drug-discount program at its main hospital in April 2020 produced about $136 million in savings on drugs that year, the spokeswoman said.

The federal drug-discount program, known as 340B after the statutory provision that created it, requires pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs to participating hospitals at reduced prices. The program has grown rapidly in recent years. It now includes about 2,600 nonprofit and government hospitals, which spent at least $38 billion on discounted drugs last year, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, the federal agency known as HRSA that oversees the program.

What the hospitals do with their valuable discounts isn’t always clear.

The program doesn’t require participating hospitals to pass on drug discounts to patients, insurers or Medicare. There is no rule limiting how much they can charge for the drugs. They don’t have to report how much they make from such sales, nor do they have to spend any profits to benefit low-income patients.

. . .

The 2010 Affordable Care Act brought a big expansion of 340B, adding new categories including critical access hospitals, which are small, typically rural facilities, and rural referral centers, which are supposed to be rural hospitals that treat a large volume of patients, including many complicated cases.

Under the federal definition of rural referral centers, hospitals that aren’t in rural locations could still qualify if they meet other criteria—minimally, having at least 275 beds. There is no requirement to serve rural patients.

. . .

“We were trying to help rural hospitals,” said Robert Kocher, an Obama White House health adviser involved in crafting the ACA who is now at venture-capital firm Venrock. “It would not be our intention to have a medical center in Cleveland, Boston or Chicago be included.”

For the full story, see:

Anna Wilde Mathews, Paul Overberg, Joseph Walker and Tom McGinty. “Drug Discounts Aimed at Needy Boost Hospitals.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 20, 2022, and has the title “Many Hospitals Get Big Drug Discounts. That Doesn’t Mean Markdowns for Patients.”)