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Since these guys are renowned as wicked smaaht, they get the floor here.
Dear Members of Congress:
We write in support of a stimulus package that focuses on combating the Coronavirus pandemic directly as well as helping economically vulnerable households and small businesses which are most affected by the pandemic. Unrestricted cash injection into large corporations, however, would be a grave mistake.
Bailouts of large firms mainly benefit large investors who are not as economically vulnerable and should understand the risks of investing in stocks and other corporate securities in the first place. The fact that the 2017 corporate tax cut has led to a dramatic increase in share buybacks suggests that any similar cash injection into large corporations would mostly benefit large investors. In addition, large firms are much stronger financially. The Federal Reserve’s recent announcement to purchase corporate bonds provides yet another backstop for their financing. By opening the door to funding the losses of large private-sector enterprises, we risk creating a feeding frenzy where any failing business, if sufficiently large and politically well-connected enough, will be asking for a handout.
The one group of stakeholders that will not be at the trough—and the ones who can put large amounts of capital to work immediately to save patients’ lives—is the scientists, clinicians, and healthcare professionals who are currently working round the clock to develop COVID-19 therapies and to deal with the growing number of patients flooding their clinics. Congress has the authority to direct these funds to reducing the spread of the virus, increasing medical capacity to help sick people, and getting people safely back to work once it is possible. These steps include, but are not limited to:
Equally important, the stimulus package should address the negative economic consequences of COVID-19, in particular households and small businesses most affected by the pandemic. The funds could be used for:
Any funds lent to businesses should contain three features that protected the taxpayer interests: only firms that are solvent without support should receive government funds; the terms offered and eligibility should be rule-based, not discretionary; the funds should be given as safe collateralized lending or as preferred stock at reasonable interest rates and require that the government receive a non-voting ownership share or warrants so that the taxpayer who provides assistance in this crisis can share in the profits in the recovery.
In sum, we believe a strong and effective stimulus package should focus on the combat of the pandemic itself as well as its negative impact on the most vulnerable households, workers and small businesses. Large firms—or rather, their investors—can take care of themselves. It would be a terrible waste to spend so much money but not fund the things that are most likely to end the crisis.
Professor Andrew Lo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor Jonathan Parker, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor Antoinette Schoar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor David Thesmar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor Haoxiang Zhu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology