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WaPo and SEC Commissioner Wake Up to Looming Crisis from Stock Buybacks

Courtesy of Pam Martens

Robert J. Jackson Jr., SEC Commissioner

Robert J. Jackson Jr., SEC Commissioner

Last Friday, Steven Pearlstein, a Pulitzer Prize-winning business and economics columnist at the Washington Post, penned an in-depth article on the hubris of stock buybacks and the role they are playing in retarding future growth of the U.S. economy as well as fueling the next debt implosion. That dire warning was followed yesterday by equally ominous remarks delivered at the progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress, by newly appointed SEC Commissioner Robert J. Jackson, Jr. (Jackson was appointed by President Trump to fill a Democratic seat on the SEC.)

Pearlstein outlined the looming problem as follows:

“Last year, public companies spent more than $800 billion buying back their own shares and, thanks to all the cash freed up by the recent tax bill, Goldman Sachs estimates that share buybacks will surge to $1.2 trillion this year. That comes at a time when share prices are at an all-time high — so companies are buying at the top — and when a growing global economy offers the best opportunity to expand into new products and new markets. This is nothing short of corporate malpractice…

“The most significant and troubling aspect of this buyback boom, however, is that despite record corporate profits and cash flow, at least a third of the shares are being repurchased with borrowed money, bringing the corporate debt to an all-time high, not only in an absolute sense but also in relation to profits, assets and the overall size of the economy…

“A decade ago, in 2008, there was $2.8 trillion in outstanding bonds from U.S. corporations. Today, it’s $5.3 trillion, after the record $1.7 trillion of new bonds issued last year, according to Dealogic, and $500 billion more issued this year.”

Steven Pearlstein, Columnist for the Washington Post

Steven Pearlstein, Columnist for the Washington Post

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