Cooperman Talks Trump, Clinton, Hedge Funds With Abby Cohen

  • Panel at Jewish Theological Seminary benefit discusses markets
  • Pzena says elections don't make a difference to U.S. companies

Maybe it was Milken Conference envy: The Jewish Theological Seminary held its own panel on investing Tuesday night in New York, with Leon Cooperman and Abby Joseph Cohen opining in the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental.

Leon Cooperman and Stephen Weiss
Leon Cooperman and Stephen Weiss
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

"The industry is in a downturn, I wouldn’t be concerned about hysteria, and don’t worry about your hedge-fund friends -- they’re all making a living," said Cooperman, founder of Omega Advisors.

Cohen, of Goldman Sachs, didn’t use the word downturn. "The economy has slowed but it’s still growing," she said.

As for rumors of the hedge-fund industry’s demise: "The notion that the game is over is foolish," Cooperman said.

Richard Pzena and Abby Joseph Cohen
Richard Pzena and Abby Joseph Cohen
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

But Cooperman did express concern about automation replacing jobs. "The implications for the asset-management business are very negative," he said. Passive management versus active management means "a big reduction in the revenues for Wall Street, and it’s also a big reduction in the fees."

On the night Ted Cruz dropped out of the 2016 U.S. presidential race, Cooperman said the consensus view, that he’s "not 100 percent with," is that Hillary Clinton is the "less risky" choice over Donald Trump.

He offered Trump off-color advice on what he might say to Clinton.

"I have the greatest line for Trump, and he’s dumb enough to use it: ‘If you couldn’t satisfy your husband, how could you satisfy the country?’" Cooperman said.

After the panel, during an interview conducted over dessert at her table, Cohen declined to comment on Cooperman’s remark, focusing instead on her support of Clinton. "The way I approach the political campaign is which candidates are speaking seriously about the issues and reasonable solutions," Cohen said. "And I just see that Mrs. Clinton has put forth some very interesting suggestions in terms of jobs, very interesting suggestions in terms of improving education, K-12, including affordability at the college level and so on."

In the course of the panel, Richard Pzena, who was honored at the benefit, also addressed the 2016 race.

"If you’re really worrying about how the election will impact the market, you really shouldn’t be in the stock market," Pzena said. "I’m not sure it makes that much difference who’s elected president to the long-term health of American companies."

Joel and Julie Greenblatt
Joel and Julie Greenblatt
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The panel also featured Gotham Asset Management’s Joel Greenblatt, who described his philosophy of investing in groups of companies with similar traits to reduce risk. Scott Wapner of CNBC moderated.

The Jewish Theological Seminary educates leaders in Conservative Judaism. Since becoming Chancellor, Arnold Eisen has changed the rabbinical curriculum to better prepare rabbis for pastoral work. Cohen is a former chairman and current member of the board of trustees.

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