November 7, 2016; Investopedia

Investopedia reports on disgraced hedge fund manager Steve Cohen’s initiative to establish the Cohen Veterans Network, free mental health centers for veterans and their families, to which he pledged $325 million over five years. Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is chairing the Cohen Veterans Network’s board of directors.

Cohen’s family foundation, The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, managed by Cohen’s wife, Alex, is “committed to inspiring philanthropy and community service by creating awareness, offering guidance, and leading by example to show the world what giving can do.” The foundation gives about $50 million a year to the arts, education, children’s health, Lyme disease, “Neighbors,” and veterans.

The foundation website is quite friendly and even philosophical for a hedge-fund king famous for fiercely guarding his privacy, his voracious art collecting, and his sprawling Greenwich, Connecticut estate. This openness is likely inspired by Alex Cohen, who in this website essay discusses “The Masks We Wear.”

Several months ago, the foundation conducted the Giving Tour 2016, a six-day tour by bus starting in Chicago and ending in Las Vegas, “stopping to do acts of kindness, engaging local communities, inspiring action and raising awareness for organizations that are making a positive difference in their community.”

Steven A. Cohen, net worth of $13 billion, is ranked by Forbes as the 72nd wealthiest person in the world and 31st in the U.S. He serves on the board of Brown University and served on the Robin Hood Foundation board for ten years until 2014. He is one of the nation’s most prominent art collectors.

Cohen founded Point72 Asset Management in 2014 as the successor to his hedge fund SAC Capital, after the firm pled guilty to federal insider trading charges and paid a $1.8 billion fine. Point72 is a family office (albeit with 1,000 employees) that manages Cohen’s assets.

The Cohen Veterans Network is a standalone project, apart from Cohen’s family foundation. Investopedia reports that Cohen’s “efforts can be seen as an attempt to right the wrongs of his past in some way, or to improve his reputation among those who feel that he cheated investors.” But the article notes that Cohen’s support of veterans began in 2013, with his gift of $17 million to the New York University Langone Medical Center for research into PTSD. NPQ also observed Cohen’s challenges and philanthropy in 2013.

The charitable view of Cohen’s intent is likely the more accurate one to hold. One of his sons (Cohen has seven children) served in the Marines from 2009 to 2012, including a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Eventually, most billionaires turn to philanthropy in some manner for any number of reasons. You can be sure that veterans suffering from PTSD are simply grateful for the needed help to be provided by the Cohen Veterans Network, as should we all be.

In an interview with the New York Times several days ago, this is how Cohen describes his motives for founding the Cohen Veterans Network.

“You know what I think it is, I was looking for something unique, special, something that I could own,” said Mr. Cohen, the billionaire investor, in an interview at his family office, Point72 Asset Management. It is in the same building as his former hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, which in 2013 paid $1.8 billion in fines to federal prosecutors and securities regulators.

“I wanted to do something big,” he added. “I wanted to do something that was all mine.”

—James Schaffer