Private equity funds could access government assistance for their portfolio companies while avoiding any responsibility to repay any debt or obligations to the public purse. Private equity firms could also tap government aid to finance leveraged buyout purchases of additional companies, using public money to load target companies with debt and drain their assets while avoiding any responsibility for paying that debt back.
Yesterday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) rejected the proposed private equity takeover of the Public Interest Registry (PIR), the non-profit that manages the non-commercial, charity, and non-profit internet domain registry for all Dot-Org websites. The decision recognized that the private equity debt loads and extractive business model would hinder Dot-Org’s ability to serve its non-profit clients without raising prices, compromising service, creating new revenue streams that comprise users’ data and privacy, or otherwise imposing unfair costs on 10 million organizations.
Now, with 26 million workers unemployed and countless businesses closing indefinitely, private equity firms are salivating at the potential business opportunities that might arise from the expected economic fallout. Unless we take immediate action to prevent it, private equity firms will take advantage of this unprecedented crisis to make even greater asset grabs.
“Coronavirus distress is the ‘opportunity of the century’ for real estate investors,” according to a recent headline in The Real Deal, a New York real estate news publication. The article quotes Meridian Capital Group’s David Schechtman saying “But I will tell you, real-estate investors — when you take the emotion out of it — many of them have been waiting for this for a decade.”
Together, these facilities could deploy up to $2.3 trillion in new credit to the economy during the pandemic crisis period. Without major changes these facilities will not be effective in getting assistance to those most impacted by the crisis, and disclosure and transparency regarding specific borrowers and loan terms is lacking. Our comment provides specific recommendations to address these issues.
Congress needs to resist calls from private equity executives to gain access to pandemic-related bailout programs. Private equity-owned firms are not comparable to ordinary small businesses, who cannot draw on deep-pocketed Wall Street owners who could support them if they chose to do so. Private equity (PE) funds are pooled investment funds managed by Wall Street firms that purchase operating companies. Prominent examples of private equity-owned portfolio companies include Toys ‘R Us, Shopko, and TeamHealth.
The track record of private equity funds demonstrates that these firms will wherever possible seek to divert income streams, including government support, to wealthy private equity executives rather than supporting employment and customer service at portfolio firms.
“PIR LLC will have to generate substantial additional revenue to service the debt which could force PIR LLC to take advantage of its monopoly position to raise prices to unsustainable levels, impose new service charges, reduce technical upkeep that could impair web connectivity or non-profit email traffic, or pursue other business strategies that could undermine the independence of non-profits including suspending or transferring domain names, in effect a censorship-for-profit strategy that has been used by other domain registries and internet companies.”
The private equity industry promotes itself as serving the investing public — including union and other pension funds — by providing reliably superior returns than the stock market. But the reality is that PE investments are not necessarily better performers, their promises too often rely
Private equity has pushed into the high-priced consumer loan industry, offering payday and other consumer loans that profit off trapping borrowers in a cycle of debt. Private equity firms own over 5,000 storefront payday and online lenders that often make loans at 300% annual percentage
Following last month’s explosions at a petrochemical plant near Beaumont, Texas on the Gulf Coast, a new report draws attention to the private equity industry’s growing control of companies in this sector through a business model that may increase health, environmental, and safety risks. This financial engineering often allows private equity firms to extract wealth from the companies they purchase, but can result in intense pressure to cut costs, resulting in layoffs or reduced spending on operations that can lead to substandard products or services.
The day before Thanksgiving, a chemical plant operated by the TPC Group exploded in Port Neches, Texas spewing contaminants, forcing over 50,000 people to evacuate, and leaving the community with the lingering aftereffects of an industrial disaster. The TPC Group is owned by two private equity (PE) firms, SK Capital Partners (SK) and First Reserve. The private equity owned chemical plants in Texas held by SK Capital have a long record of environmental violations — not just the TPC Group factories but other SK Capital portfolio firms.