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MacKenzie Scott acknowledges what so few rich people are willing to say

December 16, 2020, 1:15 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Meghan and Harry ink a Spotify deal, Paris’s mayor is happy to pay a gender parity fine, and MacKenzie Scott acknowledges an ugly truth. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

– Money talks. In May 2019, when MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, signed the Giving Pledge—a commitment by some of the world’s wealthiest couples and individuals to give away their fortunes—she made an additional vow to swiftly dispense of her billions: “I won’t wait,” she wrote.

Based on the past 18 months, we should take the elusive Scott at her word.

In a Medium post on Tuesday, Scott announced that she’s given away $4.2 billion in the past four months, on top of $1.7 billion in gifts she announced in July.

The latest round of money went to 384 organizations, some of which are focused on meeting basic needs, like food banks, while others target systemic inequalities, such as legal defense funds. Scott’s donations come without earmarks. She says that her team’s due diligence is intended to identify well-run, impactful organizations and to “pave the way for unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached.”

The nature and rapid pace of Scott’s giving are nearly unheard-of in the philanthropic world.

“You think of all these tech fortunes, they’re the great disrupters, but she’s disrupting the norms around billionaire philanthropy by moving quickly, not creating a private foundation for her great-grandchildren to give the money away,” Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, told the New York Times.

Still, Scott is accumulating wealth faster than she can give it away. Her fortune, totaling $60.9 billion, has grown by $23.8 billion this year, making her the world’s 18th richest person. The Amazon shares she received in her divorce from Bezos account for the vast sum, and they’ve been on a tear in 2020 as the pandemic forced more shoppers online.

The COVID-19 crisis, as we well know, has exacerbated inequalities that already existed. The world’s richest people offer the starkest example. An October report found that the 500 wealthiest people had gained $813 billion collectively so far in 2020. On his own, the world’s richest person, Scott’s ex, has accrued $70.5 billion in new wealth this year. Many constituents of the 99%, meanwhile, lost their jobs, lost their homes, and joined food lines.

Scott is one of the few beneficiaries of the pandemic to acknowledge—even indirectly—this ugly truth; that she’s gotten richer because of a crisis that’s devastated so many.

She says as much in her Medium post: “This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

Scott could let her money do all the talking, but even as she shuns media interviews and speaking engagements, she seems determined insert herself into the conversation about mass wealth and inequality—and her commentary promises to be more frank than what’s offered by her (mostly male) peers.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Sussexes go to Spotify. It's been a busy week for Meghan! First, her first startup investment. Now, the Duchess of Sussex and her husband, Prince Harry, signed a multiyear podcasting deal with Spotify, launching Archewell Audio. Their strategy continues to resemble the Obamas', following a similar setup at Netflix. The couple worked with Spotify chief content officer Dawn Ostroff on the deal. Fortune

- She's got Energy. The latest reported addition to President-elect Joe Biden's cabinet is former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. If confirmed, she will join the administration as energy secretary. Granholm is known as an advocate for renewable energy. Former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy, meanwhile, is expected to be named senior White House adviser on climate change. New York Times

- Admin experts. Several veterans of the Obama and Bush White Houses joined Fortune for a virtual event to discuss the issues that the incoming Biden administration will tackle. Former Obama senior aide Valerie Jarrett called on the Biden team to introduce immediate economic aid; Frances Townsend, former assistant to President George W. Bush for homeland security and counterterrorism, emphasized the need for Biden to begin repairing relationships with U.S. allies. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Anna Wintour, already Condé Nast's global content adviser, is now the legacy media giant's first global chief content officer. The company also named Amy Astley global editorial director of Architectural Digest; and Divia Thani global editorial director of Condé Nast Traveler. Christie Smith, Apple's former global VP for inclusion and diversity, joins Accenture's strategy and consulting practice as a senior managing director. Goldman Sachs named Abigail Pohlman, currently U.S. head of institutional client solutions and head of ESG and impact investing for private wealth management, head of the Private Wealth Management Sustainable Solutions Group. Storyblocks hired Brown University executive director of talent and resource management Allison Jno-Baptiste as VP of people. PSAV CFO Becky Sheehan, NakedPoppy CEO Jaleh Bisharat and USA Today publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth join Skillshare's board of directors. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Egalité? Gender parity rules in France are perhaps being taken a bit too literally. The country fined Paris city hall €90,000 for employing too many women in senior roles (there were 11 women and five men in the positions). Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said she was "happy to announce that we have been fined." Guardian

- MPW EastFortune still, of course, can't hold our in-person Most Powerful Women events in the U.S. But Fortune China hosted a Most Powerful Women Summit in Shanghai last week. Wei Sun Christianson, chief executive of Morgan Stanley China, weighed in on China's economy recovery at the gathering. Attendees also heard from British ambassador to China Caroline Wilson. Fortune

- Competition's steep. The European Commission announced major new regulations governing how tech companies operate in Europe. The Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act are both set to undergo long review periods. "With size comes responsibility," says Margrethe Vestager, European commissioner for competition. Time

ON MY RADAR

Your rights at work after a miscarriage Working Mother

How Nicole Kidman's rich white women took over television L.A. Times

America is running out of nurses The New Yorker

PARTING WORDS

"Why shouldn’t I say, 'Actually, you can’t talk to me from 6:30 until 8 p.m. unless it’s an emergency, even on a presidential campaign during a pandemic, because that is the only time I have with my kids. And that is more important.'"

-Jen O'Malley Dillon, Biden presidential campaign manager and incoming deputy chief of staff