2007年堡垒投资集团（Fortress Investment Group）上市时，（公司投资总监）迈克•诺沃格拉茨和这家对冲基金的其他负责人立即成为了亿万富翁。和华尔街众多超级富豪一样，他们的财富(部分源于宽松的货币政策)已成为政客和活动人士的批评目标。
最近的统计数据再次在美国引发了一场关于收入不平等的讨论。正如最近《纽约时报》(New York Times)所指，2012年某个时候，有1,760万户家庭吃不饱。美国人口调查局(The Census Bureau)最近报告，有15%或4,650万美国人生活贫困。而《经济学家》(Economist)的报道显示，富人在美国国民收入中的占比已达到创纪录的19.3%，超过了2007年和1929年。
Mike Novogratz and the other principals of hedge fund Fortress Investment Group (FIG) became instant billionaires when the company went public in 2007. Like many other uber-rich on Wall Street, their wealth, some of it created by loose monetary policy, has become the target of criticism from politicians and activists.
Recent statistics have renewed the debate about income inequality in the U.S. As referenced recently in the New York Times, 17.6 million households did not have enough to eat at some point in 2012. The Census Bureau recently reported that 15% of Americans, or 46.5 million people, live in poverty. But, according to the Economist, the share of national income flowing to the rich is at a record high of 19.3%, ahead of both 2007 and 1929.
Breaking from typical canned responses given by many on Wall Street, Novogratz offers a candid interview with Fortune about how policy can change to close the income gap, how CEOs need to have a "moral revolution" when thinking about their businesses, and how making oodles of money isn't always considered capitalism.
Many people at the country's biggest employer -- Wal-Mart -- are on some sort of government support. In your opinion, how did this country get to where it is now?
It's the powerful combination of globalization and technology. In 1989, there were roughly 500 million people who constituted the developed world. Then the Berlin wall fell, and China opened up. Over the next 25 years, the developed world would go from 500 million to 3 billion.
Labor supply increased, driving down wages, and the cost of intellectual capital went way up. So you look at a guy like Mark Zuckerberg. He developed a scalable idea that can go to the entire world. His single idea was very valuable.
In a lot of ways, this divergence of wealth was going to happen no matter who was at the watch. The Gini index [a measure of a country's inequality] has been on a one-way trend since the '80s through both Republican and Democratic regimes. Change is happening so fast, many people and maybe our political system just can't keep up. What the government has a responsibility to do -- and has the possibility of doing -- is looking at these mega-trends and looking at what this does to our communities. Is this the environment that we want to live in? Is this the country we want to live in?
Many would argue that Wal-Mart is the quintessential company that exploited global trends over the last 25 years. Do you blame the likes of Wal-Mart for what is happening? Do you think they are being greedy?
Yes and yes. Wal-Mart (WMT) will make $15 billion this year. 49% is owned by the heirs and trusts of Sam Walton. They have 1.3 million workers who on average make around $12 an hour. So a full time employee, someone who works 40 hours a week doesn't make a living wage. And the U.S. taxpayer subsidizes that wage bill with an estimated $1.5 billion a year. The family has net worth of over $130 billion. Something doesn't feel right there, does it?
If I looked at only those last two sentences, and replaced Wal-Mart with Fortress, I'd think that you were talking about yourself and your partners. You might not have $130 billion, but you're all billionaires. How is this different?
My issue isn't with people making money. I really think our first priority is to focus less on inequality and more on making sure the working class can support themselves. Wall Street employees, including ours, are in an industry with large margins and a very inflated pay scale. Our industry sits at the crossroads of globalization. We have a huge competitive advantage here in the U.S. which has a long history of being at the center of global finance. We have the training grounds of investing and risk taking. I am sure in time, that advantage will disappear but not in the near future. So we are in a position to pay all our employees extremely well.