Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Shareholders in Clover

What we see around the world is mostly good and decent with great acts of kindness and solidarity, and people yearning for something better. It is that which gives the Socialist Party hope. But all that business cares about is the primacy of the shareholders.

361 of the 421 S&P 500 companies that pay dividends have shelled out dividend dollars to shareholders “since the onset of the virus.” Ninety-eight of these corporations have actually increasedtheir dividend payout since the coronavirus hit. Only 35 have decreased their payout to shareholders.

On March 26, Caterpillar CEO D. James Umpleby the third— who took home $34.5 million in 2019 — announced a shutdown of two major plants. Just two weeks later, Caterpillar began paying shareholders half a billion dollars in dividends. Caterpillar’s Umpleby has assured Wall Street that his company remains “committed to returning substantially all our free cash flow to shareholders.” And that commitment will mean plenty of cash for Umpleby, both as a major shareholder himself and as a Caterpillar exec whose personal compensation will remain lofty only so long as he keeps Caterpillar shares attractive to investors. Dividends, particularly in times of economic crisis, make shares attractive.

James Loree, the CEO of Stanley Black and Decker on April 2 announced plans to furlough and lay off workers and shorten the work-weeks of many of the employees still working. Loree, who last year pocketed $18.7 million in executive compensation, justified these job and hour cuts as “necessary actions” that would “protect our employees” and position “the company to thrive into the future.”
Stanley Black and Decker shareholders, in the meantime, will thrive right now. Two weeks after the worker squeeze announcement, Stanley issued these shareholders nearly $106 million in dividends.

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