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The Weird World of Ray Dalio's Bridgewater Hedge Fund

Ray Dalio, Founder, President & CIO at Bridgewater
Source: bwater.com
Ray Dalio, Founder, President & CIO at Bridgewater

The stories coming out of Bridgewater Capital, the largest hedge fund in the United States, keep getting more bizarre.

Last spring, reports surfaced that Ray Dalio, the fund's manager, ran Bridgewater based on an esoteric management philosophy called "The Principles".

(An example, from an article by Bess Levin that appeared in Dealbreaker last May: "Chapter 1: For example, when a pack of hyenas takes down a young wildebeest, is that good or evil? At face value, that might not be “good” because it seems cruel, and the poor wildebeest suffers and dies. Some people might even say that the hyenas are evil. Yet this type of apparently “cruel” behavior exists throughout the animal kingdom. Like death itself it is integral to the enormously complex and efficient system that has worked for as long as there has been life. It is good for both the hyenas who are operating in their self-interest and the interest of the greater system, including those of the wildebeest, because killing and eating the wildebeest fosters evolution (i.e., the natural process of improvement). In fact, if you changed anything about the way that dynamic works, the overall outcome would be worse.")

In addition to being very bad prose, The Principles may leave something else to be desired: The fund apparently suffers from a 30 percent turnover rate.

Yesterday, Courtney Comstock of Business Insider reported another bizarre revelation: Bridgewater Capital seems to be requesting dental records from its prospective employs.

If you're wondering what kind of information a prospective employer might get from your dental records, so was Comstock.

So she consulted the American Dental association's guide to dental records.

Here's a brief sampling of what she found:

  • conversations about the nature of any proposed treatment, the potential benefits and risks associated with that treatment, any alternatives to the treatment proposed, and the potential risks and benefits of alternative treatment, including no treatment
  • diagnostic records, including charts and study models
  • medication prescriptions, including types, dose, amount, directions for use and number of refills
  • radiographs
  • mold and shade of teeth used in bridgework and dentures and shade of synthetics and plastics
  • patient noncompliance and missed appointment notes

Another Business Insider article on Bridgewater mentions a series of legal complaints against the fund. The article observes:

"And there's another alarming detail about working at the firm. The management principles seem so unorthodox (former employees call them "demoralizing" because they're meant to strip you of your ego by constantly criticizing what's wrong with you in front of everyone else—talking behind employees' backs is not allowed) that some have even questioned whether or not they're legal."

Another article, released yesterday and co-authored by Michelle Celarier and Lawrence Delevingne for Absolute Return + Alpha, lists some other rather eccentric practices at the firm.

For example: Asking prospective employees about their views on abortion and about the existence of god during job interviews.

Moreover, Absolute Return + Alpha seems to further question the toll such practices take on employees: "'A turnover rate of 30% is highly unusual for large hedge fund firms like Bridgewater,' says Adam Herz, president of Hunter Advisors, an executive search firm specializing in alternatives. 'Most other large managers only see employee turnover in the neighborhood of 10% of people leaving in the first year or two.”

What's the firm's defense against such charges?

According to Celarier and Delevingne, Bridgewater's response is to point to the scoreboard: "Bridgewater says that asking former employees of a company what the place is like is a bit like asking divorcees what their spouse is like. The firm suggests people judge for themselves by looking at its 36-year track record—at how much it has gotten done and how creative it has been."

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