Ellison introduces bill to curb stock buybacks
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Tuesday offered a bill in the House to curb stock buybacks, as companies’ share repurchases have increased following passage of the GOP tax law in December.
The introduction of the bill by Ellison — who serves as deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee and is running for attorney general of Minnesota — comes as Democrats have been drawing attention to the boom in stock buybacks as they make their case against the tax law.
“Large corporations have used their recent tax break to close plants and offshore jobs, all while spending record billions on buybacks to enrich their own executives,” Ellison said in a statement. “Workers deserve a larger share of the profits they produce and a seat at the table, and this law will make sure they get it.”
Ellison’s bill would bar companies from offering stock buybacks on the open markets. Instead, buybacks would have to be done through tender offers, which face more disclosure requirements.
The bill also would require public companies to have their workers chose one-third of their boards.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) offered a version of the measure in the Senate in March. On Tuesday, Baldwin sent a letter to Wells Fargo, urging the bank to stop its stock buyback program and reverse a decision to shutter a call center in Wisconsin.
Stock buybacks have also gotten attention outside of Congress. One of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Democratic members, Robert Jackson, on Monday called for the agency to update its rules on stock buybacks in order to curb the practice of executives selling their own shares following their companies’ buyback announcements.
While Democrats argue that buybacks show that the tax law is largely helping the wealthy, Republicans say that buybacks aren’t a bad thing. They argue that middle-class taxpayers who hold stocks in retirement accounts can benefit from buybacks, and that buybacks improve the efficiency of capital investments.