Ray Dalio, the founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, sat down for a conversation with Fortune CEO Alan Murray at the Fortune Global Forum in Abu Dhabi Wednesday. As usual, the billionaire investing legend held forth on macroeconomics, geopolitics and the business climate. But he also talked about that book.
Despite stepping down from his role leading Bridgewater late last year, where he remains a CIO mentor and board member, Dalio has been even more in the public eye of late after the release of a scathing, unauthorized expose by New York Times reporter Rob Copeland, called The Fund: Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates, and the Unraveling of a Wall Street Legend.
The book paints a less-than-rosy picture of Dalio and his path to success at Bridgewater, although it largely focuses on internal staffing and management disputes rather than Dalio’s decades-long record as one of the greats of the hedge fund world. Dalio has been critical of the book since before it came out, and in fact has criticized Copeland’s coverage of him for years, going back to when the reporter worked at the Wall Street Journal. But on Wednesday, in Abu Dhabi, he didn’t hold back. The billionaire said the book is all just “fiction, created as fact” by a reporter with a vendetta. It’s a black eye for all journalists, Dalio continued: “When truth gets mixed with fiction by journalists, the country has a problem.”
Making stuff up?
The story of The Fund starts more than a decade ago, Dalio said Wednesday, when Copeland applied for a job at Bridgewater and was rejected before beginning his career in journalism. Dalio claimed that this experience led Copeland to “make stuff up” and “exaggerate” when writing about the hedge fund. (Copeland disclosed his interview experiences with Bridgewater in his book, which included extensive comments from Bridgewater and Dalio’s legal representatives.)
Dalio, who initially responded to the book on LinkedIn by accusing Copeland of making a career out of “writing distorted stories about me and Bridgewater,” argued in conversation with Fortune that this book goes beyond distortion: “He will make up the conversation between two people, and there are only two people in the room and both of them said the conversation never happened.”
Dalio even said there were “over 400” instances where a fact checker found that key points were “made up” by Copeland, although he did not mention from the stage that Bridgewater’s comments were reflected throughout Copeland’s book, indicating that he followed a thorough fact-checking process.
Dalio then seemed to criticize American media culture and media law. “In the name of journalistic freedom,” he told Murray, “reporters can actually make up things and lie intentionally … in the United States.” He urged listeners to “forget about my case, people know me or don’t know me, what is interesting is the system” that allows reporters to mix fact and fiction.
If Copeland is not fabricating stories, the claims are indeed salacious. The Fund describes Bridgewater as a toxic workplace, mainly having to do with the weaponization of Dalio’s famed “Principles,” which describe the billionaire’s approach to life and investing and are a feature of Bridgewater’s corporate culture.
Numerous excerpts of the book, including in Fortune, have portrayed a climate where, for instance, former Attorney General James Comey would investigate, including through several mock trials, the violated principle of an employee not bringing in bagels as promised. When Comey sent his infamous email about investigating Hillary Clinton’s email server ahead of the 2016 election, what he learned from the culture of “radical transparency” at Bridgewater was highlighted by his former colleagues at the hedge fund.
Dalio has written multiple books on these principles and said that they are critical to his success—Bridgewater is even still spending money advertising them today. But they created a culture of fear and time wasting at Bridgewater where arguments over “wrinkled” peas at the cafeteria or the use of a dry-erase board became common, according to Copeland’s book.
Pushback, but no lawsuit
When Dalio previously addressed The Fund in his November Linkedin post, he called the book a “sensational and inaccurate tabloid” and argued Copeland has a vendetta against him after his job application to Bridgewater was rejected.
“Bridgewater obviously is not and was not as he describes it. If it were, it wouldn’t have had so many happy employees who have stayed so long (about one-third have been there for over 10 years),” he wrote.
Bridgewater has also independently rebutted claims made by Copeland in his book, arguing it was a “false and misleading depiction of our past.”
Copeland and his publisher, Macmillan, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Still, neither Dalio nor Bridgewater has indicated their intention to bring a lawsuit of any kind against Copeland or his publisher. They have issued vociferous complaints about the book, but Dalio’s comments in Abu Dhabi seem to go further, suggesting outright fabrication, rather than the “false narrative” critique he and his fund have been airing.
Dalio seemed to indicate his approach to the book going forward when he first addressed it: “I suggest that you take this book for what it is and not get distracted by it, but do what you like with it. From this point on, I’m not going to give it more attention.”