KEY POINTS

  • A portfolio manager with SFM made a private early-stage investment in Palantir in 2012
  • Would not make an investment in Palantir today: SFM
  • Palantir has been critiqued for its secretive methods 

Billionaire investor George Soros’ asset management company announced plans to pull out of big data firm Palantir, saying it “does not approve of Palantir’s business practices”.

Data analytics firm Palantir is infamous for its software which is used by government surveillance agencies across the world. It went public without an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in September. Palantir’s market valuation has touched $32 billion, more than double what it was when it went public, as per CNBC.

Soros Fund Management’s investment in Palantir is not a recent one. In a statement, the company clarified that a portfolio manager, who no longer works with SFM, bought a stake in Palantir in 2012 as a private early-stage investment.

“SFM has sold all shares in the company that it is not legally or contractually obliged to hold and will continue to sell shares as permitted. SFM made this investment at a time when negative social consequences of big data were less understood. It would not make an investment in Palantir today,” the statement read.

The fund now holds approximately 1% of Palantir’s Class A (limited voting) shares.

Soros has a history of attacking big tech companies. In 2018, he had called Google and Facebook a “menace to society” and “obstacles to innovation”.

Founded in 2003 by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, Palantir has been critiqued by citizens in the U.S. and lawmakers for its secretive methods and lack of transparency in its operations. The company worked with U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with its intelligence services and now operates in more than 150 countries, working with public and corporate agencies.

The company’s practices are frowned upon by some lawmakers as well. Two weeks before Palantir went public, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission, warning about the omitted details in the company’s disclosures. Ocasio-Cortez identified it as a ‘material risk to investors’ that the company does not clarify the nature of its work for foreign or domestic intelligence agencies.

Palantir Technologies' headquarters in Denver, Colorado -- the data analytics company has begun trading on the New York Stock Exchange Palantir Technologies' headquarters in Denver, Colorado -- the data analytics company has begun trading on the New York Stock Exchange Photo: AFP / Jason Connolly