Tensions flare at Two Sigma over donations after Hamas attack

  • Two Sigma approved five charities for double matching, including the Red Cross, following the Hamas attacks.
  • Some Two Sigma staffers believe the firm didn’t immediately do enough to support Israel.
  • The quant giant replaced the original list of charities after employee outcry.

The increased sensitivity surrounding Israel and Palestine hit home last week at Two Sigma, a $60 billion quant fund manager based in New York.

According to sources familiar with the situation, the firm’s leadership faced internal criticism last week following its regular companywide Wednesday email. Employees were directed to five international organizations, including the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, to donate to support humanitarian efforts in the region following Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7.

A third party pre-approved these organizations for employees to receive a double match of any donations they made, meaning a $100 employee donation would result in a $200 company donation.

The email also encouraged employees to submit their own organizations to be considered for the double match after approval by Two Sigma’s third-party reviewer, and the original five organizations were listed on a companywide Google doc labeled “Israel/Gaza.”

Several employees at the 2,000-person firm told Insider that the lack of Israel-specific charities and the heading on the Google doc sparked internal complaints. Frustrated employees believed the company was not being supportive enough of Israeli needs, so they formed a Slack channel with dozens of members to discuss it. In response, the company removed the original list of five companies a day later and then shared a new list of approved charities that were all employee-submitted late Friday afternoon.

The new list of 15 charities includes 14 Israeli aid organizations as well as the UNRWA USA National Committee, a nonprofit that collaborates with the UN to support Palestinian refugees. The list can grow based on newly approved employee submissions, including the original five if an employee requests them, and the charities are no longer listed under “Israel/Gaza.”

Donations to these organizations will also be backdated to October 7, the date of the deadly attacks. Employees who have previously donated to a now-approved organization are eligible for a company match.

“The recent terrorist attacks in Israel have horrified us, and the loss of innocent civilian lives in the region has devastated us.” In response, we launched a 2:1 company match for employee donations to organizations providing critical support and humanitarian relief last week,” a Two Sigma spokesperson said in a statement.

Finance ministers discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict

The terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas a little more than a week ago have focused attention on business leaders, university presidents, and politicians. The long-running conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has been a hot-button issue on which leaders frequently avoid publicly commenting, but the severity of the recent attacks has forced executives to make internal remarks to employees and occasionally make them public.

Pershing Square founder Bill Ackman and Apollo CEO Marc Rowan, for example, have chastised their alma maters, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, for failing to condemn antisemitism.

In the hedge fund industry, where most firms are not publicly traded, founders rarely make public statements. Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, however, told The New York Times in an interview that he was pressuring Harvard, to which he has donated more than $500 million, to come out strongly in support of Israel.

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