Under Armour and Alphabet have similar stock structures.
Activist investors are fundamentally changing the investment market. They accumulate enough stock in publicly traded companies to influence who sits on the board, then pressure the management and board to focus on short-term returns at the expense of long-term investment. Facebook’s introduction of non-voting shares last week is a preemptive move to block this sort of intervention.
Currently, Facebook FB-0.21% has a dual-class stock structure, with Class A shares having one vote per share and Class B shares, which its founder Mark Zuckerberg and company insiders own, conferring 10 votes per share. The company intends to issue two Class C shares as a one-time stock dividend, which will grant economic ownership of Facebook, but no voting rights. This structure will preserve founder control, and enables Zuckerberg to liquidate a large portion of his shares to pursue philanthropic interests, yet still retain majority-voting control—without a majority of shares. It also means that, as Zuckerberg put it, “You don’t have to worry about losing your job over a couple of bad quarters or controversial short-term decisions, and that makes it easier to make the decisions you think are correct.” In short, predatory activist investors can’t take control and push him out.
On October 29, China adopted a policy of two children per family, instead of one. This change is, in large part, intended to mitigate the adverse demographic trend plaguing China’s social security system: the rapidly declining ratio of active to retired workers. The ratio is falling from over 6:1 in 2000 to under 2:1 in 2050.
However, the new two-child policy is not likely to have a big impact on the worker-retiree ratio, so China’s retirement system will remain under stress. To sustain social security, China needs to implement other reforms — moving from a local to a national system and expanding the permissible investments for Chinese pensions.
The one-child policy always had exceptions, such as for rural and ethnic communities. These exceptions were broadened in 2013 to cover couples where both were only children. Yet the birth rate did not take off.
Doug Criscitello, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy
From The Hill
Let’s consider student loans for a moment. Many of the candidates for president have promised relief of some sort from the high cost of college tuition. That’s not surprising considering that 40 million Americans currently hold student loans and that debt incurred for education now lags only mortgage debt as a source of consumer indebtedness—logging in at the astonishing total $1.2 trillion. And, here is the rub, most of that debt has been loaned directly by the government and, as the current policy debate illustrates, students who borrow from the government don’t necessarily have the same expectations and sense of repayment obligation to their lender – as those receiving loans from a private financial institution.
Decisions made in the 1990s to transform the US government’s role in providing student loans, from that of a guarantor to a direct lender, were driven primarily by budgetary rather than policy considerations. Direct lending had a clear advantage because it had a dramatically lower price tag than the guaranty program at the time. And when private lenders became reticent to assist students during the darkest days of the 2008 financial crisis, direct loans from the government became the primary source of student loans in the US and the guaranteed student loan program was abolished.
At a conference last year, I was approached by an audience member after my talk. He thanked me for my observation that it’s unrealistic to expect investors to do nothing in the face of a sharp market-wide selloff, and that pulling out of the market can sometimes be the right thing to do. In fact, this savvy attendee converted all of his equity holdings to cash by the end of October 2008.
He then asked me for some advice: “Is it safe to get back in now?” Seven years after he moved his money into cash, he’s still waiting for just the right time to reinvest; meanwhile, the S&P 500 earned an annualized return of 14% during this period.
Not surprisingly, at least some people at the Securities and Exchange Commission have reacted negatively — this is stepping onto their turf, after all. And the lobbyists are, naturally, out in full force.
But with sufficient White House willpower, the administration can see this through. What is needed is a change in the rules set by the Department of Labor, which has jurisdiction over retirement-related issues.
No doubt industry defenders will claim that current practices benefit small investors — a point disputed directly by the CEA. The broader and more interesting question is: Where are the statesmen in the financial industry? Where are the leaders who push for a race to the top, by better serving their clients’ best interests?