Elizabeth Warren made a big announcement this week in introducing her new bill called the “Accountable Capitalism Act.” Her bill aims to “eliminate skewed market objectives” and return America to an era in which “American corporations and American workers did well together.” It’s unclear when the utopia like conditions were according to Warren; however her website lists the 1980’s as the time period in which corporations shifted focus to maximizing shareholder returns. In any business college, it is taught that the job of a CEO is to maximize shareholder wealth. Senator Warren wants to shift this mentality with her new bill. In the statement on her website, she asserts that the “shift” has led to booming profits and less reinvestment into the companies themselves. She claims that wages have not increased despite booming corporate profits. Elizabeth Warren then moves to make the argument that the top 10% owns 84% of American stock and only 50% of households own stock. Thus, she claims, that this reinforces a cycle of the rich getting richer. This is a growing socialist sentiment that poor people, and even middle class, are incapable of affording stock. The main bullet points are outlined below. Read the text of the bill here.
Office of United State Corporations (more government!)
The bill creates a new administration within the Department of Commerce. Corporations earning more than $1 billion in revenue are required to obtain a charter from the federal government, per this new created office. The charter obligates these large corporations to consider the interests of all stakeholders. Failure to obtain this permit to exist results in loss of corporation, which in business terms mean, it would no longer be treated as a separate entity. Therefore there would be no liability protection. The Director of this office would be a Presidential appointee and requires Senate confirmation. The term last four years. Warren seeks to create a new and powerful tentacle of the Federal government.
Employee Chosen Board of Director
Employees, not shareholders, will have the ability to choose no less than 40% of a company’s board of director. This bullet point is perhaps the most ridiculous and anti-capitalist. Company boards serve to set goals for the company. The board is usually chosen by investors. In the world of private investment, the board of directors is a bargaining chip for control of the company, as opposed to just percentage of stock. Warren’s bill doesn’t outright say it, but she wants unions to control company boards. Meaning instead of the company’s interest, the board will be powerful weapon of the union. Boards start out as founding members, investors and their appointees, and neutral parties because entrepreneurs and investors craft such interesting deals. Insisting that 40% must be elected by employees renders a board relatively useless for small investment worthy companies or inflates company boards well beyond what they should be for their size (ie small company with GM size board.) This will possibly lead to more empowered officers and weakened boards so that CEOs can perform their fiduciary responsibilities without a labor union threatening their disposal. This could also make companies more risk adverse because undoing mistakes, laying off workers, and other rainy day measures are now more difficult to undo. Ultimately this would empower worse CEOs, ones who aren’t as interested in shareholder wealth. The Securities and Exchange Commission along with the National Labor Relations Board are responsible for enforcing this part of the act, as further indication that this applies to all corporations. Stiff daily fines are to be imposed for failing to comply.
Government control of stock options
Elizabeth Warren claims top executives are compensated mostly with stock options. Her bill restricts these executives ability to sell their shares for five years so that they can focus on long term company success. Basically these executive will be given stock, but will have no real ownership of that stock. This would be the government restricting private property. These types of issues are best left to corporations and shareholders who already impose vesting periods to ensure the same exact goal.
Supermajority for political expenditures (not for unions)
This is a jab at Citizens United because Elizabeth Warren and others are butthurt about the outcome of a critical first amendment case Supreme Court case. It forces company shareholders to vote in order for a corporation to make any political expenditures. It imposes a 75% supermajority threshold. Conspicuously absent from this requirement are labor unions.
Revoking of charter
The corporate charter resembles a “rule of club” for large companies. If they don’t meet the requirements of their charter or have a history of illegal activity, they will have their corporation status removed in time. The question is how political will the enforcement of these charters be? Will there be a separate set of rules for democrats and republicans? If the rest of government is any indication, the answer is clearly foreshadowed.
The socialist movement wants to fundamentally change the purpose of starting a business and running a company. This would most certainly lead to lower caliber CEOs. The bill makes no mention of labor unions yet it’s intentions are clearly to empower them in companies that still allow them and to create politics in organizations that do not. This ideas pressed fourth in this bill are sure to gain traction, just as “Medicare For All” became a socialist rallying point. It brings about questions of how business literate politicians like Senator Warren are? Do they fundamentally misunderstand what a corporation is, or do they not care? The bill aims to reduce a shareholder’s power and return on investment which will only hurt our economic growth. While Elizabeth Warren’s bill isn’t socialist, it is heavily anti-capitalist.
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