Wall Street CEO tells Penn president: Resign or I'll pull $100 million

The University of Pennsylvania could lose a $100 million gift if its president, Elizabeth Magill, does not step down.

Ross Stevens, the founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, detailed his decision to potentially pull the gift in a letter to his staff. He said that, given the structure of his deal with the elite university, he has the ability to pull the funding.

The threat comes after Magill's testimony to Congress earlier this week, in which she evaded questions on antisemitism and failed to answer if calling for a Jewish genocide was against the school's code of conduct.

Her answer, along with similar answers from the presidents of Harvard and MIT, were met with intense criticism. Billionaire Bill Ackman called for the three presidents to "resign in disgrace" following the hearing.

Magill later released a video around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, after an online uproar called the university's policies on free speech and harassment into question.

"In that moment, I was focused on our university's longstanding policies aligned with the US Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable," Magill said in the video. "I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It's evil — plain and simple."

Read the full letter Stevens sent to his staff at Stone Ridge:

Team,
I want to briefly discuss three topics that may seem unrelated: 1) discrimination and harassment, 2) philanthropy, and 3) institutional neutrality.
First, every year we hold New York State-required firmwide discrimination and harassment training. At the end of those sessions, many of you will remember that my closing remarks are always a version of "there is almost nothing that will get you walked out of Stone Ridge on a first offense, but discrimination or harassment is one of those things and I will do it myself. Zero exceptions, zero tolerance." Instead, as you know, treating each other with kindness has been a foundational principle, and a non-negotiable, since the firm began.
Second, as I've privately shared at several firmwide meetings, my personal approach to philanthropy focuses on how the multiplier effect of educational excellence, economic liberty, and free markets can transform lives. In addition, my wife Deb and I have chosen to donate anonymously, except for educational causes.
You almost certainly do not know that the University of Pennsylvania ("Penn") currently holds shares in Stone Ridge Holdings Group worth approximately $100 million. Given the bedrock importance of firm culture, I inserted a provision in the founding documents of our partnership agreement that permits me to rescind the shares – i.e., simply cancel them – of any shareholder that violates our firm's rules in a way that injures our business, reputation, character, or standing. I have never had to invoke these provisions before and never thought I would. Until now.
Over the past months, Penn President Liz Magill has enabled and encouraged antisemitism and a climate of fear and harassment at Penn. Further, at a congressional hearing earlier this week, Ms. Magill made clear her personal view that any Penn professors and students who call for genocide against Jews do not violate Penn's Code of Conduct. As a proud Penn alum, as father of a recent Penn grad, also of a current junior, and on behalf of my beloved University, I can state without equivocation that Liz Magill is wrong. Calls for genocide against any group do, in fact, violate Penn's Code of Conduct. More importantly, such calls most definitely violate Stone Ridge's Code of Conduct.
I have clear grounds to rescind Penn's $100 million of Stone Ridge shares due to the conduct of President Magill. Stone Ridge outside counsel at Davis Polk have sent Penn a letter detailing their violations. At risk of stating the absolutely obvious, any employee of Stone Ridge that made equivalently discriminatory statements about any group would be immediately terminated for cause. By me. Absent a change in leadership and values at Penn in the very near future, I plan to rescind Penn's Stone Ridge shares to prevent any further reputational and other damage to Stone Ridge as a result of our relationship with Penn and Liz Magill. I love Penn and it is important to me, but our firm's principles are more important.
Third and finally, at Stone Ridge we manage the firm in accordance with the "Chicago Principles", which include the concept of institutional neutrality. That's a fancy way of saying I never comment on current events in my official capacity as CEO. That approach has aged well for my other beloved alma mater, the University of Chicago, and it has aged well for us at Stone Ridge. In my view, institutional neutrality is vital for firm culture, helps foster a sense of belonging, and facilitates laser focus on our business mission: financial security for all. Beyond its inherent moral value, institutional neutrality is a critical ingredient for groundbreaking innovation in both academia and business. It has certainly worked for us.
Warmly,
Ross

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