Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Hedge fund managers play Robin Hood

Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock Investments.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

With Halloween nearing, Wall Street put on its best Robin Hood costume this week, raising millions of dollars to fight poverty and lamenting the rise of economic inequality.

One of the financial community's most prominent members wondered whether it was doing enough.

"The financial community has done well, but a lot of people have been left behind," Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock, said at the Robin Hood Investors Conference on Tuesday in Manhattan. "We should be asking the bigger question, 'Are the investments we're making good for society?' "

Fink was one of many bold-faced investment names at the event, which raised $6 million for Robin Hood, the hedge fund-heavy charity that fights poverty in the New York City area. Attendees paid $7,500 per ticket to attend; sponsorship packages ranged from $50,000 to $500,000 and were snapped up by J.P.Morgan, JetBlue, Hyatt Hotels, Sentient Jet and others.

The wealthy crowd was pushed to keep helping the less fortunate by fellow millionaires and billionaires.

"It's a great thing and a great cause you are here for," David Tepper, who earned $3.5 billion in 2013 alone, of Appaloosa Management, told the crowd.

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told attendees that much more was needed to fight poverty than just increasing worker pay.

"Minimum wage is like using a BB gun against Stalin; you're clearly on the right side, but way, way insufficient," Summer said during his remarks.

Fund managers and their presentation of investment ideas were the big draw.

They included Dan Loeb of Third Point, who recommended Amgen with the hope of structural improvements at the pharmaceutical company. David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital again touted solar company SunEdison, while sporting custom green Nike sneakers that matched Robin Hood's logo color. And Larry Robbins of Glenview Capital Management pushed Community Health Systems, continuing a long-term theme of his on bullish healthcare bets.

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Tepper also recommended shorting the euro, and Carl Icahn of Icahn Enterprises warned of a bubble in high-yield debt.

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The investment conference was organized by Robin Hood board members Einhorn, John Griffin of Blue Ridge Capital, Philippe Laffont of Coatue Management, and Barry Sternlicht of Starwood Capital Group.

Robin Hood got plenty of praise for its work.

"Robin Hood is the most efficient and effective nonprofit in America today," Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, said Tuesday at the event.

"Robin Hood's efforts to fight poverty in New York City are unparalleled in both their scope and their effectiveness," added Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

The group was founded in 1988 by hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones and has raised more than $1.95 billion in dollars, goods and services.