Bill Hwang nonprofit saw assets soar by over $100 million 2 years before trades from his office led to market sell-off

Bill Hwang in 2012
Emile Warnsteker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A charity founded by Bill Hwang, a longtime financial executive under scrutiny for a round of trades that sent the market into a tailspin, saw its assets soar by over $100 million just two years prior to the meltdown on Wall Street.

The new 990 tax returns of Hwang’s Grace and Mercy Foundation from 2019, which have gone unreported since they were only made public recently by the Internal Revenue Service, gives the most current glimpse into Hwang’s financial resources. His family investment fund, Archegos Capital Management, is reportedly under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its recent round of trades that tanked the market earlier this year.

Archegos Capital’s leveraged bets in ViacomCBS blew up and, in late March, ignited what would turn out to be a wave of forced liquidations of Hwang’s stock positions at a slew of Wall Street banks that ended up being worth at least $20 billion. Discovery’s stock also took a major hit.

The banks involved with the transactions have reportedly been under investigation by the Department of Justice. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the chairman of the powerful Senate Banking Committee previously requested the financial institutions linked to the Archegos meltdown of Goldman Sachs, Nomura Holdings America, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, to give details on their relationships with the Hwang family office.

CNBC had asked Hwang’s public relations team in April if the charity could provide a copy of its 2019 disclosure form which, at that time, had not been made public. Hwang’s charity declined to provide the documents.

The Hwang press team did not return a request for comment to CNBC before publication of this story.

The new documents show that in 2019 the nonprofit had net assets of just over $580 million, while by the end of the prior year they were worth north of $470 million. The disclosure says that by the end of 2019 the fair market value of all of the nonprofits assets was at over $630 million. The 501(c)(3)’s noncharitable assets also jumped significantly to just under $570 million from a little over $500 million a year prior.

Though using stock shares to fund nonprofits is not illegal, 2019 did mark yet another year of Hwang appearing to use his financial acumen to help boost his charity’s finances.

Hwang, who is listed as a director of the foundation, contributed $14 million in Amazon stock that year to the nonprofit. Hwang contributed just over $27 million worth of Amazon shares to the nonprofit in 2018. There is also a list of sales of offshore funds in 2019, just like there was a year prior. Amazon’s stock price is currently worth over $3,500 with a market cap of just above $1.8 trillion.

Forbes reported that since 2006 and through the end of 2018, Hwang has given $591 million to his foundation. In 2019, the foundation itself contributed over $22 million to a variety of outside groups, including $1 million to the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Also notable is the uptick in legal fees that the charity paid in 2019. That year, the charity paid over $200,000 in legal fees compared to 2018 when they spent around $40,000 on legal services.

Two of the firms listed on the most recent financial disclosure reports have advisors that help charities, according to their websites. The Hwang foundation that year, however, paid over $3,000 to what’s titled on the new disclosure as the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security Legal.”

In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security had multiple leaders come and go under then President Donald Trump. Though it’s unclear why the foundation paid legal fees to the Department of Homeland Security, it came the same year Trump and his administration were stepping up their strict immigration policies.

According to Newsweek, there were over 900,000 people apprehended or deemed inadmissible at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2019. The outlet reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] was responsible for deporting over 265,000 that year alone.

Hwang, who according to the Wall Street Journal immigrated from South Korea after high school, saw his charity also pay an immigration law firm just over $14,000 two years ago. The firm, Judy Chang Law Firm, says on its website that its services include helping clients obtain green cards, student visas and EB-1’s, also known as first preference employment based visa.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Judy Chang Law Firm did not respond to requests for comment on how they specifically helped Hwang’s nonprofit.

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