By Haddon Libby

Over the last year, the US Dollar strengthened against virtually every currency in the world. If you hold investments in foreign stocks or bonds, you have probably noticed that those offshore investments underperformed relative to domestic investments.

You are not alone. Billionaires around the world felt that same pain – some more than others.

According to Forbes magazine, Aliko Dangote, 57, of Nigeria saw his net worth fall by $10.3 billion to $14.7 billion. This self-made man is the richest person in Africa. He makes most of his money by producing cement, flour and sugar. Dangote controls one-third of his country’s Gross Domestic Product. In a country where the average wage is $600 per year, Dangote’s net worth still equates to $85 per Nigerian.


Stefan Persson, 67, of Sweden saw his net worth fall by $9.9 billion to $24.5 billion. Persson is Chairman for the cheap-chic clothing chain H&M – a company started in 1947 by his father. Persson made his fortune in the notoriously exploitive garment industry. Many factories producing H&M clothing employ children. In Bangledesh where 25% of H&M products are made, most workers earn $1.25 a day.

Lui Che Woo, 85, of Hong Kong, China, is the second richest man in Asia. Woo lost $8.5 billion in net worth in 2014 and now has an estimated $13.5 billion. Much of his net worth comes from casinos on the island of Macau. A sizable chunk of his net worth is at risk as China cracks down on Woo and allegations of widespread corruption and money-laundering.

Miuccia Prada, 65, of Italy is a fashion designer best known for Prada and Miu Miu. Prada’s net worth fell by $7 billion to $11 billion. Prada and her husband, Patrizio Bertelli run this garment business founded by her grandfather. As with H&M, many of the products that they sell are made by people earning virtually nothing.

Sheldon Adelson, 81, of Las Vegas saw his fortune fall by $6.6 billion to a coupon-clipping $31.4 billion in 2014. This self-made man is the owner of casinos in Las Vegas, Macao and most recently, Singapore. A passionate supporter of Israel, Adelson is well known for his financial support of the Republican Party. A self-professed “liberal,” Adelson supports the GOP because of his disdain for unions and tax rates on the rich. Like Woo, the Chinese government is looking into corruption and money laundering allegations related to Adelson’s Macao casinos. As a side note, unions do not seem to have been much of a speed bump in the amassing of his fortune.

Vladimir Yevtushenkov, 66, of Russia saw his $9 billion fortune dwindle to $2.8 billion. While the ruble was in free fall, the Russian government arrested him on charges of money laundering after which the government seized most of his business interests. He continues to own one of the largest cell phone providers in Russia.

As each of these billionaires prove in different ways, many of the ultra-affluent amass their fortunes through the exploitation of a world order that allows for the exploitation of people without the means to defend themselves. While many call this is free enterprise in action, just because one can pay a worker $1.25 a day and employ children does not make it right or humane.

For reference, it was only in 1938 and after sixteen years of court challenges that Congress banned child labor in America yet companies that we frequent still employ that wage control tactic albeit through third parties around the world.

Whether legal or illegal, indentured servitude and inhumane work conditions are rampant worldwide. If each of us did our best to avoid the people and businesses that profit from an unfair system and made our voices heard in government affairs, things might change.

Haddon Libby is Managing Partner of Winslow Drake, an Investment Advisory firm and co-founder of local food business incubator, ShareKitchen. He can be reached at