David Kotok: Champion of Public Health through Philanthropy and Ethical Leadership

In my opinion, philanthropy is the key to overcoming the shortcomings of our system of governance.

David Kotok, Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer, Cumberland Advisors

Throughout his career, which has included time in the United States military, as the founder of an investment management firm, as an author and as a philanthropist supporting the CDC Foundation, David Kotok has recognized and supported the advancement of urgent public health initiatives and ethical service.

David grew up in southern New Jersey and earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he joined the U.S. military in 1966. “I was assigned as a second lieutenant to a preventive medicine unit for my first assignment,” David said. “At the time, the United States army only had two of [these units], so it was probably one-in-one-thousand odds that I would be assigned to one.”

It was while serving in this unit that David grew to appreciate the critical nature of public health. “This unit was very special. We reported by chain-of command to a two-star general. I remember he said, ‘You guys are more important than anybody. Your job is to keep my soldiers from getting sick because I need them in battle, not in the hospital.’”

After his time in the military, David returned to the University of Pennsylvania for a master’s degree in organizational dynamics and a second master’s degree in philosophy. In 1973, he and Sheldon “Shep” Goldberg co-founded Cumberland Advisors, an investment management firm that prides itself on integrity and accountability.

Camp Kotok 2019 - Dr. Judy Monroe from the CDC Foundation discusses her role, Zika, Ebola, viruses and viral outbreaks with David Kotok.

David Kotok

Camp Kotok 2021 - David R. Kotok & Pierce Nelson convene during a lunch break at Camp Kotok to discuss the CDC Foundation and its unique 501(c)(3) non-profit status and mission.

At the time, Kotok and Goldberg found that the financial services industry lacked truly independent advising. “I observed too many transactions where there were conflicts of interest,” David said. “I was uncomfortable with the ethics of commission incentives and what was known as double-dipping.” In response, Kotok and Goldberg founded Cumberland Advisors as a fully independent service, where advisors are paid only for their advice, with no personal gain or commission incentive from the outcome of the investment.

As well as inspiring the ethical foundations of Cumberland Advisors, David’s diverse interests and background in philosophy has informed his writing on a broad range of topics. His financial market commentaries have been published and quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s, and he has contributed to Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio, Yahoo Finance TV and other media outlets.

Though having authored or co-authored four books primarily on global financial market trends, David has written on a few other topics as well, including public health. While writing a pamphlet on the threat of the Zika virus and its impact on American life and politics, David first began to work with the CDC Foundation. His close work with Dr. Judy Monroe, CDC Foundation president and CEO, sparked his appreciation for the mission and work of the CDC Foundation to advance global public health.

“It’s a magical gift for the instruments of our American political system to create the CDC Foundation for a very special purpose and recognize the critical importance of philanthropy. That’s what makes the CDC Foundation so desirable and so important,” he said. “It’s a global gem and made in the USA.”

David’s expertise in financial management has also influenced his preference to donate to the Foundation through a donor-advised fund (DAF), an investment account specifically created for philanthropy. “I like to think of myself as one who has a list of various charities and I try to support them,” David said. “A DAF is perfect. They are simple and exist everywhere. They are legitimate and transparent; one can do diligence very quickly.”

“I don’t have to do diligence every year for the CDC Foundation,” David added. “I can say to somebody else: ‘Put them into your list. They’re good folks doing good work.’”

Today, David resides in Sarasota, Florida. In addition to his work at Cumberland Advisors, he contributes to various charitable organizations. He is working on his fifth book, The Fed and the Flu, which will focus on the interactions between pandemics and economics. David’s main public health-related interest is climate change. “Global warming is happening,” he said. The climate change-climate warming related work of the CDC Foundation seeks to answer his question, “What are its implications for public health as our planet gets hotter?”

If you’re interested in public health, the CDC Foundation is an organization that belongs on your list.

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