News Updates

SCOTUS ‘billionaire’ access

July 24, 2023
Welcome back! And if you’re mulling what to wear to work today, apparently shorts are totally fine.


But if you’re going to an event with some VIPs, you’ll likely want to dress up. In today’s big story, we’re discussing one event back in 2017 that attracted some of the country’s most powerful judges.


In today’s edition:

But first, I hear there are going to be some high-profile people here.
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Exclusive access

Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh. Alex Wong/Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/Insider
Money can buy you lots of things. But, when it comes to the uber-wealthy, what’s more valuable than fancy cars or massive homes is access. 

With enough zeros in your bank account, no one is off limits.

A secret guest list obtained by Insider for a 2017 event held by the Aspen Institute on “Billionaire Mountain” shows just that. Donors who shelled out at least $10,000 a year to its Justice Circle were able to rub shoulders with a current and soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice.

The Aspen Institute touts itself as offering “exclusive access to high-level gatherings,” and boy did it deliver back in 2017.

The “speakers dinner” featured Justice Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh, who would join Kagan on the nation’s highest court the following year. Among the attendees who RSVP’d, according to two guest lists obtained by Insider’s Mattathias Schwartz, Jack Newsham, and Katherine Long, were corporate execs and lawyers with business before the Supreme Court.

To be sure, the event isn’t in the same stratosphere as the undisclosed gifts and financial ties between Justice Clarence Thomas and billionaire Harlan Crow. Both Kagan and Kavanaugh disclosed the travel and lodging they received from the Aspen Institute.

But what the guest list does show is the legal ways in which the wealthy are able to garner face-to-face access to the nation’s most important judges.

“It may not violate those rules as the rules have been narrowly interpreted, but nonetheless, there still is a problem with it,” Kathleen Clark, an expert in government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, told Insider. “How can you call this event anything but a reward for having given money to the organization? A bonus awarded to those who have already generously contributed?”


Attack dogs, OceanGate, & Morgan Stanley

Matt Rota for Insider


  • Patrol dogs are still being used on US prisoners. The use of dogs to attack and terrify detainees at Abu Ghraib drew global outrage nearly 20 years ago. But an Insider investigation identified 23 prisons across eight states that have deployed attack-trained dogs in recent years, leading to hundreds of incarcerated people being bitten or mauled.
  • Dozens of former Aritzia staffers described a high-pressure, exploitative workplace. Some said managers made them rate each others’ appearances, asked them to work while sick or injured, and put extreme pressure on them. Many felt this culture stemmed from longtime CEO Brian Hill, who led the company to incredible success, but who some employees say threw things and berated staff. An Aritzia spokesperson said Hill is committed to fostering the growth of his employees and that the allegations in this story are not representative of Aritzia’s culture.
  • Inside the OceanGate CEO’s aspirations to be the Elon Musk of the deep. Stockton Rush, who was among five people who died on board the Titan submersible, had dreams of creating “Space X for the oceans,” according to his cofounder.
  • How Morgan Stanley courts its tech partners. Sean Manahan detailed how his team identifies tech vendors the bank wants to work with. He also outlined the three-part framework it uses to evaluate every vendor and the areas he’s most keen to explore.
  • What Gen Z wants from work. From compensation to flexibility to growth opportunities, Insider’s Alexandra York shares advice for corporate leaders on what the generation is looking for.
  • A San Francisco Uber driver saved more than $1,000 a month switching to a Tesla. The 64-year-old said he’s saved money on gas and maintenance by swapping a Mercedes S550 for a long-range Tesla.
  • Leaked messages: Amazon will force “voluntary resignation” on employees unwilling to relocate. The e-commerce giant asked employees to move to the “hub” where their team is located. If employees don’t follow the policy, they can find a new team or take “voluntary resignation,” according to internal messages.

Dow, stocks, PE recruiting

  • Dow continued its 10-day win streak. It’s the longest climb since 2017. Though a few things could shake it up this week: Microsoft earnings, a Federal Reserve meeting, and Meta earnings.
  • The stocks to keep an eye on during a busy week of earnings. These nine companies, from Aflac to Meta, have a chance to beat analyst expectations and enjoy a big bump as a result, according to Bank of America.
  • Wall Street’s “Hunger Games” are approaching. Private-equity recruiting among junior bankers — a highly competitive annual event — is rumored to be starting soon.

FTX, ‘X’, & Texas

  • Elon Musk announced plans to ditch Twitter’s bird logo for an “X.” It appears to be a reference to the CEO’s vision to create an all-encompassing “everything app.”
  • FTX allegedly wanted to buy a Pacific island nation to build an apocalypse bunker. A new lawsuit alleges the non-profit arm of the crypto exchange targeted Nauru, a tiny island that’s northeast of Australia.
  • You could save A LOT by moving from New York to Texas. Thanks to cheaper living costs and lower taxes, a New Yorker making between $150,000 to $650,000 could save as much as 43% by living in Austin, according to a new study.
  • The AI wars have brought a Google cofounder back to the office. Sergey Brin has reportedly been showing up at the tech giant’s headquarters to work on its ChatGPT rival, Gemini. 
  • “Sexist” and “racist” anonymous posts on “4Chan for economists” have been linked to IP addresses at Harvard, Yale, and other top schools. Posters are terrified their identities will be exposed.

3D-printed horse barn

Printed Farms
Photos show inside the world’s largest 3D-printed structure. And it’s not a home or office — the $3.3 million structure is a luxury horse barn.

How to get a million views

The first three to five seconds of a video is vitally important, so Insider invited the comedian, writer and producer Kareem Rahma to talk about the tactics that successful creators use to produce the best opening shots. Join us on July 27 at 1 p.m. ET for the next session in Insider’s training series on short-form vertical video. Register here.
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