Buybacks show ‘growing strain of incompetence’ among CEOs


Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya on Wednesday doubled down on his comments that the government shouldn’t bail out billionaires or allow buybacks amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Buybacks are the primary example of a growing strain of incompetence amongst CEOs and amongst boards,” Palihapitiya said on CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report.”  “And it’s where we need to start thinking about how the rules need to change.”

Palihapitiya was defending his comments from two weeks ago, when he said poor-performing CEO’s deserve to be “wiped out” rather than bailed out from coronavirus-related economic issues. 

“I think why I was frustrated is that I just think that that kind of behavior makes no sense and instead of being punished, it has been rewarded,” Palihapitiya said Wednesday. 

“Since 2009, the 500 companies in the S&P 500, they bought back $7 trillion of stock and or issued dividends that turned out to be more than 90 cents of every dollar of profit that they made over the last 11-plus years. The federal government, as well as the Fed, between monetary and fiscal stimulus combined, have essentially transferred around $7 trillion now back to those said companies as well as companies slightly smaller than them,” he added.

Palihapitiya has been critical of the United States’ economic reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that stimulus money should go directly to consumers and workers rather than businesses. The Federal Reserve has announced a slew of new moves aimed at getting trillions of dollars into businesses and governments, including its Main Street business lending program and market interventions, as part of an aggressive strategy to keep markets functioning and support the economy. 

However, Palihapitiya said that impact the public long-term. He predicted that companies will have a slew of layoffs in the fourth quarter of 2020 after they spend the money received and continue to be impacted by the pandemic.

“I think that a lot of companies that got support will still be struggling when the terms of those grants and loans fall off, which is September. And unfortunately, I think we may see large waves of layoffs that just happen in Q4 heading into Christmas time of 2020,” he said.

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