Non-profit

Simons Foundation

Website:

www.simonsfoundation.org

Location:

NEW YORK, NY

Tax ID:

13-3794889

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)-PF

Budget (2015):

Revenue: $225,077,146
Expenses: $436,495,136
Assets: $2,632,378,076

Formation:

ca. 1990s

Type:

Private Grantmaking Foundation

Main Funders:

James and Marilyn Simon

The Simons Foundation is a private foundation founded by left-leaning Renaissance Technologies hedge fund founder James Simons and his wife, Marilyn. The Foundation funds research in four broad areas: mathematics and physical sciences, life sciences, autism research, and “Outreach & Education.” The Foundation conducts its own research through the Flatiron Institute, but is partnered with a long-list of organizations, many of which tend to lean politically left-of-center. [1] With an endowment of over $2 billion, the Simons Foundation is among the top 40 wealthiest foundations in the country. [2]

History

James Simons founded the Simons Foundation in the 1990s along with his wife, Marilyn. The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative was founded in 2003 to better understand autism disorders and make progress toward a cure. [3]

In 2016, the Foundation made a major investment in computational science by opening its own research center, the Flatiron Institute. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) joined Jim and Marilyn Simons to dedicate the new institute. [4]

Founder

James Simons, founder of the hedge fund firm Renaissance Technologies, is a mainstay on Forbes annual listing of the richest people in the world and a well-known supporter of liberal political causes. [5] The Foundation reflects his values and plays a key role in his charitable giving. In 2012, the Foundation directed a $60 million grant to the University of California, Berkeley. [6] In 2008, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-N.Y.) announced the Foundation’s gift of $60 million to Stony Brook University, the largest gift to a public university in the history of the state. [7]

Toward the end of President Barack Obama’s administration, Jim and Marilyn Simons attended a fundraising dinner at the White House. They gave $340,000 to the Obama Foundation in 2014 and $330,000 in 2015. Simons is reliably one of the Democratic Party’s heftiest donors. [8]

Financial Controversies

In November, 2017, The Guardian reported that James Simons had stashed more than $8 billion in a tax-free offshore account. He was one of the many people named in the so-called Paradise Papers. Simons’s alleged tax sheltering arrangements existed while he was one of the Democratic Party’s heftiest donors, responsible for $27 million during the 2016 election. [9]

In 2015, the New York Times reported that the IRS was reviewing whether Simons’s hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, had withheld $6.8 billion in taxes. [10] Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) alleged, “Renaissance Technologies was able to avoid paying more than $6 billion in taxes by disguising its day-to-day stock trades as long term investments,” in his opening statement during a 2014 Senate investigation. [11]

The Lord Jim Trust was dissolved in 2010. Lawyers told Simons donating the money to charity was the best way to avoid taxes. The pile was split up among the charities started by Simons and each of his three children, including the Simons Foundation. [12]

During the Obama administration, Opensecrets.org showed a correlation between the President’s legislative priorities and the pet causes of his super-PAC’s largest donors. Simons donated $5 million to Priorities USA Action in 2012, and Obama signed a $1.3 billion bill for autism research in 2014. [13]

Grantmaking

The Simons Foundation’s principal grantmaking efforts fund a number of scientific research programs through various universities.

The Simons Foundation funds two online publications, Quanta Magazine and Spectrum. Despite the fact that Spectrum considers itself the “leading source of news and expert opinion on autism research,” the site has engaged in advocacy against Republican policies. [14]

References

  1. “Simons Foundation 2017 Annual Report.” Simons Foundation. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.simonsfoundation.org/report2017/stories/.
  2. Foundation Stats: Guide to the Foundation Center’s Research Database – Foundation Center. Accessed February 25, 2019. http://data.foundationcenter.org/#/foundations/all/nationwide/top:giving/list/2014.
  3. Callahan, David. “Inside the Simons Foundation: Big Philanthropy on the Frontiers of Science.” Inside Philanthropy. August 15, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2016/5/17/inside-the-simons-foundation-big-philanthropy-on-the-frontie.html.

    “About SFARI.” SFARI. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.sfari.org/about-sfari.

  4. “Gov. Andrew Cuomo Joins Jim and Marilyn Simons to Dedicate Flatiron Institute.” Simons Foundation. April 24, 2018. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.simonsfoundation.org/2017/09/07/flatiron-institute-dedication/.
  5. “Jim Simons.” Forbes. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/profile/jim-simons/#17c99b683b6a.

    Bowers, John. “A Hedge Fund House Divided: Renaissance Technologies.” OpenSecrets.org. November 11, 2018. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2016/06/a-hedge-fund-house-divided-renaissance-technologies/.

  6. Markoff, John. “Simons Foundation Chooses U.C. Berkeley for Computing Center.” The New York Times. April 30, 2012. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/science/simons-foundation-chooses-uc-berkeley-for-computing-center.html.
  7. Arenson, Karen W. “$60 Million Gift for Stony Brook.” The New York Times. February 27, 2008. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/27/nyregion/27cnd-stonybrook.html.
  8. Wilson, Megan R. “Donors to Obama Foundation Have Had Private Dinners at White House.” TheHill. May 19, 2016. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/280448-donors-to-obama-foundation-had-private-dinners-at-white-house.
  9. Swaine, Jon, and Hilary Osborne. “Democratic Donor Built up Vast $8bn Private Wealth Fund in Bermuda.” The Guardian. November 07, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/07/democratic-donor-james-simons-private-wealth-fund-tax-haven-paradise-papers.
  10. Scheiber, Noam, and Patricia Cohen. “For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions.” The New York Times. December 29, 2015. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/business/economy/for-the-wealthiest-private-tax-system-saves-them-billions.html.
  11. “Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits.” Jurisdiction | Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/subcommittees/investigations/hearings/abuse-of-structured-financial-products_misusing-basket-options-to-avoid-taxes-and-leverage-limits.
  12. Swaine, Jon, and Hilary Osborne. “Democratic Donor Built up Vast $8bn Private Wealth Fund in Bermuda.” The Guardian. November 07, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/07/democratic-donor-james-simons-private-wealth-fund-tax-haven-paradise-papers.
  13. Tucker, Will. “A “big Ideas” State of the Union Speech – but Which Ideas?” OpenSecrets.org. January 11, 2016. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2016/01/a-big-ideas-state-of-the-union-speech-but-which-ideas/.
  14. Yuhas, Daisy. “New Administration Stirs Angst, Activism among Autism Scientists.” Spectrum | Autism Research News. February 01, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2019. https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/new-administration-stirs-angst-activism-among-autism-scientists/.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. James Simons
    Board Chair, Primary Funder
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 1995

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2015 Dec Form PF $225,077,146 $436,495,136 $2,632,378,076 $556,735,859 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $223,504,360 $315,661,789 $2,358,866,359 $410,705,283 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $149,848,605 $165,791,573 $2,181,745,036 $371,584,372 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $221,854,007 $255,820,356 $2,086,396,261 $444,847,812 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Simons Foundation

    160 FIFTH AVENUE 7TH FLOOR
    NEW YORK, NY 10010-7037