Laura and John Arnold Foundation

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The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is a philanthropic organization that seeks to “address our nation’s most pressing and persistent challenges.”[1] It was founded by former Enron trader and hedge fund manager John Arnold. It has been strongly criticized for its aggressive, behind-the-scenes funding of efforts to dismantle public pensions and limit patients’ access to prescription drugs.

John Arnold's financial background and career at Enron

John Arnold was a top trader at Enron, which collapsed in 2001, and received an $8 million bonus after the company filed for bankruptcy. [1]. Following his Enron tenure, he ran the hedge fund Centaurus Energy in Houston and became the second youngest self-made billionaire[2], and is still worth a reported $2.6 billion in 2015 in the country.

Public policy activism

As of August 2014, the Arnold Foundation had four areas of focus: criminal justice, K-12 education, public accountability, and research integrity.

According to the AFL-CIO funded website[3], “Today, Arnold is leveraging his fortune to bend public policy to his will. According to his own disclosures, he has spent up to $50 million on a nationwide campaign to gut public pension benefits. He has financed every facet of anti-pension movement, including tainted research, political advocacy organizations, ballot initiatives, journalism, and the campaign coffers of anti-pension politicians.”

One investigative report on the Huffington Post stated that “Some detractors go further and assert that the Arnold Foundation is using Pew’s[[4]] sterling reputation for academic integrity as a fig leaf to hide its own free-market agenda.” [2]

In 2015, the Arnold Foundation entered the area of pharmaceutical drug pricing as well. A $5.2 million grant[3] was sent from the Arnold Foundation to the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER)[[5]], a self-declared “trusted non-profit,” which has been widely criticized for enabling insurance companies and pharmacy benefits managers to restrict patients’ access to medications. Since receiving the grant, ICER has more than doubled its staff.[4]

According to Jordan Marks, executive director of the AFL-CIO[[6]] backed National Public Pension Coalition, non-profits that took money from the Arnold Foundation have “rented their credibility to a right-wing ideologue…” [5] The Foundation tactically exploits public policy areas with “big opportunities for any funder that does move aggressively into this niche.”[6]

Dr. Peter Bach

In February 2016, the Arnold Foundation announced a $4.7 million grant to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center support a three-year initiative, led by industry consultant Dr. Peter Bach[[7]], to "research, pilot, and evaluate alternative value-based payment structures for specialty drugs that link a drug’s price to evidence of how well it works and for which patients."[7] The project has been criticized as a means to "enrich PBMs and insurers"[8] at the cost of worsened health outcomes for patients.

  1. "[8]," Laid off Enron workers file lawsuit over bonuses to executives, July 24, 2003.
  2. [9], Huffington Post, accessed May 12, 2016.
  3. Rising U.S. Drug Prices Are Focus of Research Grant, Wall Street Journal, accessed April 20, 2016.
  4. The Boston Globe, accessed April 20, 2016.
  5. Wall Street Journal, Nonprofits Caught in Pension Crossfire Between Foundation, Unions, accessed April 20, 2016.
  6. Niche Control: How This Funder Dominates the Pension Reform Debate,, accessed April 20, 2016.
  7. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation, accessed May 24, 2016.
  8. Robert Goldberg,], accessed May 24, 2016.