CEPR

For Immediate Release: July 18, 2019
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

Washington, DC ― New legislation introduced today by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “would address the worst abuses” of private equity (PE) by ensuring accountability; limiting PE firms’ ability “to loot the companies they take over”; helping investors fully understand PE and other private funds; and protecting workers, customers, and other stakeholders and businesses, Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Eileen Appelbaum wrote in a public letter today.

Noting that private equity investments are “exploding,” even though the median private equity fund launched since 2006 is doing no better than the stock market, Appelbaum wrote to Senator Warren: “The Stop Wall Street Looting Act will, for the first time, create sensible rules for the private equity industry that will allow productive investment to continue while halting the kinds of abusive practices that wipe out jobs and cripple strong companies.”

Appelbaum notes: “Americans in every community are affected by the industry — today, more than 11 million people are employed by private equity-owned businesses and millions more have their pensions invested in private funds.”

According to Appelbaum, Warren’s legislation would:

  • Align the PE firm’s incentives with the target company by requiring shared liability for debt, ending the most abusive practices of the industry while preserving economically valuable transactions.

  • Address the negative consequences of transfers of resources from the portfolio company to its PE owners, protecting the interests of the company, its workers and its creditors.

  • Require PE firms to share liability for target firm obligations.

  • Confront “the most egregious looting” by prohibiting dividend payments in the first two years post-acquisition, taxing private equity firms for the full value of the monitoring fees they charge, allowing creditors to claw back other transfers to the firm in bankruptcy, and ending the tax code’s favorable treatment of debt in highly leveraged companies.

  • Require private equity firms to focus on what they claim to prioritize in the first place: making improvements to the target firm’s business model to better position it for medium- and long-term growth.

  • End federal policy that currently encourages companies to load up on risky, unsustainable levels of debt by allowing them to deduct interest on that debt from their taxes.

  • Protect the interests of workers and creditors in bankruptcy, while also reducing the incentives for PE owners to drive companies into bankruptcy in the first place.

  • Ensure that workers receive legally required compensation owed to them such as pension obligations or severance payments by making the PE firm jointly liable for those obligations.

  • Empower investors by increasing transparency around the true return of private equity investments.

  • Require marketing materials for new funds to include information about historic performance, past bankruptcies of portfolio companies, workers hired and laid off by those companies, and past exit strategies from portfolio companies.

  • End the increasingly prominent practice among private investment firms of forcing limited partners to waive fiduciary duties that require the investment firms to work in the best interest of their investors.
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