Today, private equity controls some 8,000 companies in the United States, more than twice as many companies as are publicly traded on U.S. stock markets. Private equity firms manage more than $4 trillion in U.S. assets and now own companies that collectively employ nearly 9 million American workers.
Like many PE firms, Sun Capital Partners often buys up existing businesses, loots their assets, squeezes workers, decimates jobs through layoffs and bankruptcy, and threatens workers’ retirement benefits.
The private equity industry, seeing a window of opportunity following the onset of the pandemic, has taken it upon itself to have the companies that it owns issue at least $10 billion in debt solely for the purpose of paying itself. This is yet another example of private equity looting.
In many ways, the private equity industry embodies some of the worst impulses of Wall Street, squeezing profits at the expense of workers and consumers, and insulating bad actors from risks. But these abuses are not inevitable. On the contrary, they are the result of laws and regulations that can and should be changed.
The problems the SEC identified include fund managers’ failure to make full and fair disclosure of conflicts of interest, charging improper fees, and failure to implement policies to prevent staff from trading on material non-public information. In other words, the SEC’s examinations have shown that private equity and hedge fund managers are consistently engaged in self-dealing and overcharging investors, like pension funds that provide for the retirement security of millions of Americans.
Private equity firms often profit from mass incarceration and they expand inherently racists business practices in communities of color. Private equity is behind manufacturers of weapons used against people protesting police brutality against the Black community.
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.