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March 28, 2016

In Interview, Gates CEO Addresses 'Big Philanthropy' Barbs

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, addresses criticism that the world's largest grant maker wields tremendous global influence without accountability in a Financial Times profile. Questions about "big philanthropy" have become part of the remit for the oncologist and former University of California at San Francisco chancellor, who oversees about $4 billion in annual giving to causes that range from fighting malaria in the developing world to reforming U.S. public education, the newspaper writes.

Ms. Desmond-Hellman, who joined the foundation in 2014, discussed criticism that the $40 billion philanthropy is essentially accountable only to its wealthy founders. “The way that people can hold us accountable is to look at what we achieved as a foundation through our collaborations,” she said, adding the foundation is in a position, by virtue of its scale and ambition, to make long-term investments that could yield significant payoffs in areas like public health.

“A government may need to be responsive to their citizens more quickly,” Ms. Desmond-Hellmann said. “But we can take a 10-year bet, we can take a 20-year bet because we don’t need to answer to citizens or shareholders. We try to focus on long-term bets and taking risks that others can’t.”