Quoted in the WSJ, Kinda Sorta
| Peter Klein |
Earlier this week AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka wrote a predictable WSJ piece blaming private equity for various economic and social ills. PE firms, you see, are “unregulated and shrouded in secrecy, and they extract big profits while the companies, their employees and many of their investors lose.” Um, OK. A few sentences later he says it again: PE firms “function with virtually no oversight. Despite managing trillions of dollars and employing millions of Americans, they operate as a shadow financial system — in secret, free to take on outsized risks, and make huge bets with no outside supervision.” Hmmmm, one might think the limited partners who provide the funds — usually sophisticated, experienced investors holding substantial equity stakes — would exercise a wee bit of supervision, but never mind. Trumka goes on to demand that PE firms be forced to make all their information public, defeating one of the main purposes of private equity. (Hey, Rich, when will the minutes of that last AFL-CIO board meeting show up on your Twitter feed?)
Today’s paper includes several responses, some supplying actual arguments and evidence on the nature and effects of private equity. One letter notes that “[r]esearchers at the University of Missouri found that private equity-backed companies that exited between 1984 and 2006 grew employment by an average of more than 13% a year over the life of the private-equity investment.” The writer is citing my paper with John Chapman, “Value Creation in Middle-Market Buyouts: A Transaction-Level Analysis,” which came out earlier this year in a Wiley finance handbook series. (You can download an SSRN version here.) We report financial, operating, and employment performance for a sample of 288 middle-market transactions collected, through surveys and interviews, from 13 US PE firms. The results suggest that PE firms create substantial economic value. A shout-out by name would have been nice, but it’s nice to be noticed.