The Happy Life: How a Low Profile Wall Streeter Does His Philanthropy

I've written before about billionaire Bruce Kovner, founder of Caxton Associates, a New York-based trading and investment firm. Kovner's philanthropy is marked by interests in the arts, particularly music, as well as education reform and right-of-center policy outfits. Kovner was recently profiled in Philanthropy Roundtable, providing more insight into a man who has generally not been particularly outspoken about his philanthropy.

We recently stumbled on another wealthy individual associated with Caxton—Aaron M. Sosnick, who flies even more under the radar than Kovner, but is engaged a philanthropy at a significant level.

Sosnick, who's in his late 40s, attended Wagner High School, where his father was a teacher. Wagner High, by the way, was on the now-defunct Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Sosnick graduated from the school in 1984 and attended MIT, graduating in 1988. Sosnick later joined Caxton Associates, and is at the helm A.R.T. Advisors, a statistical arbitrage fund that operates from Caxton's office. Sosnick has ties to both the East and West Coasts and his philanthropy is also bicoastal largely focused on Los Angeles and New York City.

It's not exactly clear how much Sosnick is worth, but his foundation, La Vida Feliz Foundation ("The Happy Life" Foundation), held some $433 million in assets in a recent year and gave away more than $18 million. That number may well now be higher now, as the foundation has really grown since its inception in 2007. Much like the Kovner Foundation, La Vida Feliz doesn't have much of a web presence or a clear way to get in touch. In addition, Sosnick is the only trustee on the books. Here's what else we know:

1. Sosnick Supports Arts & Culture

Sosnick, through the La Vida Feliz Foundation, has recently supported outfits such as dance company Esse Aficionado, FIGMENT Project, "a forum for the creation and display of participatory and interactive art by emerging artists across disciplines," Howl Arts, "a nonprofit organization dedicating to preserving the past and celebrating the contemporary culture of the East Village and Lower East Side," Municipal Art Society of New York, Make Music New York, Third Street Music School Settlement and Coney Island USA, "a not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the cultural and economic revitalization of the Coney Island neighborhood."

2. Sosnick Also Funds Human Services

Recent grants have gone to Robin Hood Foundation, Centurion Ministries, "a secular nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to free and vindicate from prison those who are completely innocent of the crimes for which they have been wrongly convicted," Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters, Catholic Charities, Lower East Side Girls Club, Grace Outreach, which "serves low-income women of all ages who seek to enhance their academic skills, pursue higher education and find employment," Project Renewal, "a New York City nonprofit organization that helps homeless and low-income men and women who often have a drug addiction [or] mental illness," and Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, "founded in 1994 in response to the growing financial disenfranchisement of Upper Manhattan." Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners used to be called Credit Where Credit Is Due, and is the first outfit that La Vida Feliz Foundation funded; steady money has gone to the outfit ever since.

3. Education Is Another Cause

Large amounts of money have gone to University of Southern California, including $1 million in each of the past three tax years we have available. Much of this money supports Math for America Los Angeles. Sosnick has been supportive of Math for America on the national level as well, and he has played in poker tournaments to raise money for the outfit. Sums have also gone to CollegeSpring which "partners with schools and community organizations to help students from low-income background," Corpus Christi School, Inner City Scholarship Fund, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, Children's Storefront, and Urban Assembly, "a non-profit organization that creates and serves a family of New York City public secondary schools."

4. Sosnick Has Backed Community Projects in New York and Los Angeles

Sosnick is an avid biker who appears to be particularly interested in tapping into urban issues such as alternative transportation, civic space, and the environment. In the Big Apple, $1 million has flowed to New York Landmarks Conservancy in each of the last three tax years available. Support has also recently gone to Fund for the City of New York, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Outstanding Renewal Enterprises, Recycle-A-Bicycle, Historic District Council, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and Transportation Alternatives.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, recent grantees include Friends of Griffith Park, Friends of the Los Angeles River, Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition, Southern California Streets Initiative, and Longbeachize an outfit founded by Long Beach State students to "promote biking as an ecologically health conscious and invigorating alternative to local commuting." Money has also gone to Community Partners, whose vision is a "vibrant society in which individuals and institutions use knowledge, resources, and relationships to build equitable, democratic and thriving communities." One grant to Community Partners supported Multicultural Communities for Mobility, which "advocates for safe, alternative transportation access in underserved communities of color within greater Los Angeles."

The full scope of Sosnick's philanthropy is difficult to get a handle on because large sums of money have flowed to a donor-advised fund he's set up at Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund. In the 2013 fiscal year, for instance, out of some $18 million dispersed, close to $11 million went to Fidelity Charitable.

While Sosnick hasn't said much of anything about his philanthropy as far as we know, nor does he even appear to be big on racking up board memberships, he's running a robust philanthropic operation and should be watched for greater giving down the line.

Related: Aaron M. Sosnick