The state Department of Economic and Community Development has responded with reassurances to a recent news report that a major Fairfield County hedge fund — to which Connecticut just pledged $52 million in economic assistance — is slowing its hiring.

DECD spokesman Jim Watson said that Bridgewater Associates still must comply with several job retention and creation benchmarks over the next five years, or risk the loss of as much as $17 million.

“All companies in all industries are subject to business fluctuations,” Watson wrote in a statement. “All experience periods of acceleration and slowdowns in hiring. DECD recognizes that fact and takes a longer-term approach in its agreements with companies.”

The state committed $22 million in bonding on May 27 to help the fund – which manages about $150 billion in assets – expand facilities in Westport, Wilton and Norwalk.

That $22 million includes a $17 million loan, a $3 million alternative energy installation grant, and a $2 million job training grant. Watson said that for the entire loan to be forgiven, the company must retain 1,402 existing jobs and create 750 new jobs by the end of 2021, and retain them for two years.

Failure to meet this threshold would mean the company would have to repay at least a portion of the $17 million loan.

The debt would gradually be forgiven if more jobs are created within five years and maintained for at least two.

Connecticut also pledged a total of $30 million in tax credits over the next 10 years to Bridgewater.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Watson’s statement “is just hocus-pocus for, ‘We don’t know whether we made a good investment or a bad investment.’”

Fasano said the Bridgewater Associates incentives, as well as other business assistance packages developed as part of the Democratic governor’s “First Five” economic development program, are both expensive and unproven.

“They do these great headlines, and then we never hear whether they met these [job] goals,” he said. “That frustrates me unbelievably.”

Under the First Five program, Bridgewater was required to create 200 new jobs by the end of this year, of which 177 have been created so far, Watson said.

Another slow-down reported

A New York Times article published July 17 reported that the hedge fund run by billionaire Ray Dalio appears to be slowing its hiring.

The newspaper, citing sources briefed on Bridgewater’s recruiting practices, reported that the company has told some external recruiters they won’t be needed for now and is canceling interviews with prospective employees.

A receptionist at Bridgewater Associates’ Westport headquarters directed media inquires to an email address. The company did not respond to a Thursday inquiry from The Mirror.

But Bridgewater did fire back at the New York Times publicly over a July 28 article about one Bridgewater employee’s allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation in a complaint filed before — and then later withdrawn from — the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

In a statement posted on LinkedIn, the company wrote that, “We again find ourselves in the position of being left with no choice but to respond to sensationalistic and inaccurate stories, both to make clear what is true and to do our part in fighting against the growing trend of media distortion.”

The company added that it could not let “such significant mischaracterizations of our business stand” and that, “We are confident that our management handled the case consistently with the law.”

The state also previously had committed another $16 million in bonding to a developer preparing a Stamford waterfront site for a Bridgewater Associates expansion. Bridgewater abandoned plans for that site in 2014 but the state could not recoup those funds.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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