FORTUNE -- Just over a year ago, in May 2009, word leaked to the press that the two richest men in America, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, had organized and presided over a confidential dinner meeting of billionaires in New York City. David Rockefeller was said to have been a host, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Oprah Winfrey to have been among those attending, and philanthropy to have been the main subject.
Pushed by the press to explain, Buffett and Gates declined.
And so it was. But that discussion -- to be fully described for the first time in this article -- has the potential to dramatically change the philanthropic behavior of these Americans, inducing them to step up the amounts they give.
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