Hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman is well known for his sometimes bizarre but always entertaining appearances on CNBC, where he has pontificated about the intemperance of investing in "fads" like crypto, GameStop and Tesla ("it will end in tears", Cooperman recently warned investors during a screed about the GameStop craze) while criticizing progressive tax policies (and praising President Trump's tax cuts).
And as Zero Hedge readers may remember, Cooperman knows a thing or two about tears. But we digress.
Back in March, Cooperman revived his feud with Warren, which dates back to the early days of the Democratic primary, when he again slammed her wealth tax proposal as "foolish", and argued that it would merely inspire the wealthy to hide even more of their money offshore. "The idea has no merit. It's foolish. It probably isn't legal," he said on "Squawk Box". He scoffed that "if a wealth tax passes, go out and buy yourself some gold because people are going to rush to find ways of hiding their wealth."
Warren and her staff are clearly eager for a chance to strike back, because last night CNBC reported that Warren had invited Cooperman to testify next week before a Senate Finance subcommittee on taxes - officially the "Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth".
But Cooperman has declined the invitation to testify and face off against Warren, and in a response given to CNBC, he called it "self-serving and disingenuous." While he said that he personally has no problem paying a 50% income tax, Cooperman worries that those high rates become "confiscatory" for residents who live in high-tax cities and states.
"As I have stated many times before (including in my Open Letter to Senator Warren), I believe in a progressive income tax," Cooperman wrote.
"Personally, I am happy to work six months of the year ‘for the government’ and six months for myself. But many who live in high-tax cities and states already pay even more than the 50 percent combined effective rate that that implies, and at some point, higher effective rates (federal, state, and local combined) become confiscatory, which should never be the ethos of this country."
In her letter inviting him to testify, Warren told Cooperman that she is interested in giving the longtime Wall Street executive "an opportunity to discuss my Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, which would level the economic playing field and narrow the racial wealth gap by asking the wealthiest 100,000 households in America, or the top 0.05%, to pay their fair share." The letter was sent to Cooperman on Monday.
"But as we move expeditiously toward consideration of changes to our rigged tax code so that the wealthy pay their fair share, I believe you should be afforded the chance to present your perspective directly to Congress," Warren wrote to Cooperman.
"The opportunity will allow you to fully air your views, not merely in front of the financial news audience where you often express them, but before the entirety of the American people."
Readers can find the full letter below:
A rivalry between Warren and Cooperman exploded during the Democrat’s campaign for president back in 2019. After Warren sent a condescending tweet urging Cooperman to "pitch in" more, the hedge fund manager and former Goldman exec infamously slammed Warren and her proposal in a letter that went public.
"However much it resonates with your base, your vilification of the rich is misguided," Cooperman wrote in the letter dated Oct. 30, 2019.
"For you to suggest that capitalism is a dirty word and that these people, as a group, are ingrates who didn't earn their riches … and now don't pull their weight societally indicates that you either are grossly uninformed or are knowingly warping the facts," he continued.
Leon, you were able to succeed because of the opportunities this country gave you. Now why don’t you pitch in a bit more so everyone else has a chance at the American dream, too? https://t.co/OODIM7RcRn— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 23, 2019
Readers can find Cooperman's complete letter below:
A month later, Warren’s campaign ran a TV ad on CNBC featuring a viral clip of Cooperman crying about the prospect of Warren taking on Trump in the 2020 race. Her campaign also sold a mug that read "BILLIONAIRE TEARS", further mocking Cooperman.
A show-down between Warren and Cooperman would have made for some gripping political theater. But just because Cooperman won't appear at the otherwise low-profile hearing, doesn't mean he will stop his campaign of interviews bashing Warren and her wealth tax. If anything, we imagine the billionaire, who will turn 78 later this month, might redouble his efforts, while robbing Warren of the opportunity to generate some more sound bites for her campaign advertising.