W. Ben Hunt

Co-Founder and CIO

 @EpsilonTheory

Ben Hunt is the creator of Epsilon Theory and inspiration behind Second Foundation Partners, which he co-founded with Rusty Guinn in June 2018.

Epsilon Theory, Second Foundation’s principal publishing brand, is a newsletter and website that examines markets through the lenses of game theory and history. Over 100,000 professional investors and allocators across 180 countries read Epsilon Theory for its fresh perspective and novel insights into market dynamics. As Chief Investment Officer, Ben bears primary responsibility for determining the Company’s investment views and positioning of model portfolios. He is also the primary author of materials distributed through Epsilon Theory.

Ben taught political science for 10 years: at New York University from 1991 until 1997 and (with tenure) at Southern Methodist University from 1997 until 2000. He also wrote two academic books: Getting to War (Univ. of Michigan Press, 1997) and Policy and Party Competition (Routledge, 1992), which he co-authored with Michael Laver. Ben is the founder of two technology companies and the co-founder of SmartEquip, Inc., a software company for the construction equipment industry that provides intelligent schematics and parts diagrams to facilitate e-commerce in spare parts.

He began his investment career in 2003, first in venture capital and subsequently on two long/short equity hedge funds. He worked at Iridian Asset Management from 2006 until 2011 and TIG Advisors from 2012 until 2013. He joined Rusty at Salient in 2013, where he combined his background as a portfolio manager, risk manager, and entrepreneur with academic experience in game theory and econometrics to work with Salient’s own portfolio managers and its financial advisor clients to improve client outcomes.

Ben is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (1986) and earned his Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University in 1991. He lives in the wilds of Redding, CT on Little River Farm, where he personifies the dilettante farmer that has been a stock comedic character since Cicero's day. Luckily his wife, Jennifer, and four daughters, Harper, Hannah, Haven and Halle, are always there to save the day. Ben's hobbies include comic books, Alabama football, beekeeping, and humoring Rusty in trivia "competitions".

Articles by Ben:

Presented Without Comment

By Ben Hunt | December 4, 2019 | 1 Comment

Regardless of your personal views pro or con, if you don’t see that a powerful narrative backlash is forming against corporate management enrichment, you’re just not paying attention.

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The Sillier Season

By Ben Hunt | December 2, 2019 | 0 Comments

The heart of narrative-world is quivering without a stable rhythm of beat of any sort. It’s an expansion of the Silly Season I wrote about in November, with zero investable narratives to be found.

Last month I asked a question: At what point, if ever, do political narratives about Inflation and Fiscal Policy become market narratives about Inflation and Fiscal Policy?

I’ve got an answer now, but you’re not going to like it.

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The Rent Is Too Damn Low

By Ben Hunt | November 25, 2019 | 8 Comments

It’s so weird that everyone who would throw an unholy temper tantrum at – gasp! – rent-controlled apartments is just fine with rent-controlled money.

“Yay, crumbs!”

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Sneak Preview

By Ben Hunt | November 18, 2019 | 0 Comments

A sneak preview of the FT Markets piece to be published later this week, with my original language and the math on Microsoft’s 10-K.

We’re never going to eliminate the agency problem, and the dealer deserves a proper rake. But we better start making this casino fairer to shareholders and less of a wealth transfer engine to the managerial 1%. Or someone is going to burn the casino down.

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OK, Boomer

By Ben Hunt | November 18, 2019 | 4 Comments

I’m a fan of FedEx the company and Fred Smith the founder. I think they are both crown jewels of Western capitalism.

But if I hear another lecture from Fred Smith and his fellow billionaires on trickle-down tax cuts and the “benefits to the United States economy, especially lower and middle class wage earners”, I’m going to lose it.

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The Rake

By Ben Hunt | November 12, 2019 | 10 Comments

Jamie Dimon is the rake.

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Silly Season

By Ben Hunt | November 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

There’s something weird happening in narrative-world, and I’ve been trying to figure out what it means since we published our monthly Narrative Monitors update last week (attached to this email). I still can’t figure it out, but instead of continuing to wrestle in silence, I’m going to tell you what I find odd and ask what you think it means … if anything.

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The Age of the High-Functioning Sociopath

By Ben Hunt | November 8, 2019 | 5 Comments

I’m old enough to remember when Donald Trump, the President-elect of the United States, and Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank, had an impromptu press conference in the Trump Tower lobby to trumpet the FIFTY THOUSAND JOBS and FIFTY BILLION DOLLAR INVESTMENT that Softbank would be bringing to the US.

All based on a powerpoint deck.

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When Was I Radicalized? (Boeing edition)

By Ben Hunt | November 5, 2019 | 16 Comments

I believe it is impossible to separate the modern management practice of self-enrichment through massive levels of stock-based comp from the modern management practice of investor placation through massive levels of stock buybacks … without regulating one or the other practice.

But I’m all ears for any ideas.

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Yeah, It’s Still Water (follow-up)

By Ben Hunt | November 1, 2019 | 0 Comments

You know, I was a big fan of stock buybacks back when I was running a fund, and I still think that most of the macro reasons to oppose stock buybacks are silly.

But when I look at it from a micro or individual company perspective, there is no doubt in my mind that stock buybacks have been totally hijacked by corporate management and boards over the past few years to sterilize exercised options and restricted stock units.

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