Discussion Post

1. Identify all the stakeholders of a corporation. A stakeholder is a person or a group who has an interest (that is, a stake) in the success of the organization.

By the definition of a stakeholder above or this definition of a stakeholder: “Stakeholders are individuals or groups who have an interest in an organization’s ability to deliver intended results and maintain the viability of its products and services.” It would be fair to say that a stakeholder would be an engaged party, this could be an owner, manager, government agency, supplier, contractor, competitor, customer, etc….
It would seem that the key difference between a stakeholder and a non-stakeholder is that the stakeholder has to be interested in the success of the organization. Not all stakeholders are created equal; they differ in importance and influence.

2. Do you believe that some entities are “too important to fail”? Should the federal government help certain businesses to stay afloat during economic recessions and allow others to fail?

This is a complicated question which delves deeply into many aspects of an individual’s belief system from a political, social and economic perspective. Given the complex nature of the question, I think that before postulating a response some background is required regarding who I am which likely provides a critical perspective on my opinion. With that said I think my answer is “I don’t know”, and I would never proclaim to know what the correct answer to this incredibly complex question for which I lack many of the variables required to solve the equation. I consider myself a fiscal conservative; thus it makes sense that I would believe in free market capitalism, the opportunities created via failures within the capitalistic system should self-heal as competition, and the free market economy does what it was intended to do. So where does this all get so complicated? Well, we live in a hybrid system where capitalism, socialism, and nepotism all coexist, very complex indeed. Anyone who followed the financial crisis in 2007 and who is five weeks into this course probably realizes at this point that if banks were highering nuclear physicists to build financial products that something was probably awry. I find LIFO shady, so it should come as no surprise that I think credit default swaps (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/creditdefaultswap.asp) represent absolute insanity. With this said, as a fiscal conservative, I also believe in consumer responsibility. We all now know that the financial crisis in 2007 was caused in large part by complex financial products like mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, and credit default swaps.

The banking industry constructed these financial products, and in most cases, these products were not crafted by “bankers” but by mathematicians and physicists who made the products so complex that it obscured what was very risky and illogical. Why any consumer would think that a financial product called a “Power Option Arm” mortgage was a good idea baffles me, how any person can signup for a mortgage where your LTV can balloon to 120% (or anywhere past 100%) just seems crazy.

Here is the problem, we let all these financial products be created, the products were so complex that most didn’t understand them and greed took over. Greed manifested itself as what became known as the predatory lender. The question is who suffers when a corporation which is “too big/important to fail” is allowed to fail? I always think about Enron and the massive impact the failure of Enron had on so many people (social empathy kicks in here, I’m a capitalist not heartless). Personally, I don’t understand why any individual would rely on one company, the government or anyone else to protect their retirement but the reality is we all rely on and trust the monetary system. Maybe even this is changing with the emergence of crypto-currencies, but for now, we have the known, government regulated financial system that we need to place our faith in.

I’d like to say the government should have let AIG, Lehman Brothers. Merill Lynch and others fail, but the answer is I just don’t know what the right decision was. I happen to like Henry Paulson, and I think the financial sector and country were lucky to have such a well-connected operator as the Secretary of the Treasury during a time when deals seemingly needed to be made. In the case of the financial crisis of 2007, it was even more complicated given the involvement and burden of government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Maybe the government, who should be focused on the social good, should focus more on consumer education and consumer regulation and protection because it’s unlikely over the long-term that they will outwit large corporations who have objectives which are not focused on the social good. I’ll avoid lobbyists, campaign donors, super PACs, special interest groups, etc… but let’s face it the government is indirectly involved in the largest corporations in the world, and maybe the government is more accountable as a shareholder, who knows. I believe that we need to begin building a society where the educated consumers are the rule, the control of poorly architected financial products was in the hands of the masses, the masses could have created zero demand, but instead, the masses created massive demand.

3. Identify several measures by which a company may be considered deficient and in need of downsizing. How can downsizing help to solve this problem?

Declining market value or market capitalization. Declining market value may be caused by a lack of revenue or shrinking gross profits due to market commoditization, new entrants, increased competition, higher raw material cost, etc…, etc… A company may need to refocus, shedding commoditized businesses which rely on volume and focusing on niche high-value high gross profit businesses. A downsizing event will likely accompany this sort of pivot.

Declining sales and shrinking backlog which forecasts an impending cash flow problem. A company may be forced to downsize due to reduced sales volumes which and predicted cash flow issues.

Net losses where expenses exceed revenues. Downsizing may be one variable a company adjusts to rightsize expenses.

Antitrust issues and government involvement. E.g. – Standard Oil.
https://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/15/may-15-1911-supreme-court-orders-standard-oil-to-be-broken-up/?_r=0

Increasing labor costs. A shift in market requirements may require a different labor cost structure; this may cause a company to exit markets where lower cost labor was required to enter markets which have a higher labor cost. Downsizing an area of the business which is less profitable to reinvest in areas of the business which are more profitable and address market demand is advantageous.

Return on equity (ROE) which is the relationship between net income and common stockholders’ equity. A company has a fiduciary duty to deliver shareholder value. Return on equity is calculated as (Net income / Shareholder equity). To maximize ROE, a company may need to reduce costs to increase net income.

4. Debate the bailout issue. One group of students takes the perspective of the company and its stockholders, and another group of students takes the perspective of the other stakeholders of the company (the community in which the company operates and society at large).

This is an interesting one. Let’s look at TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), the backbone of the financial bailout which was constructed by the United States government to allow the US government to purchase toxic assets and equities from financial institutions. For institutions that needed TARP to stay alive, it’s hard to argue against TARP from the perspective of the company, the shareholders or the stakeholders. I believe that the TARP program was looked at favorably by companies, shareholders, and individual stakeholders of organizations (e.g. AIG). This view may not have been shared by all stakeholders, for instance, if we assume that a competitor is a stakeholder the competitor may have a perspective that the United States government, via TARP removed the opportunity that should have been created by a free market economy.

AIG, Citigroup, and Bank of America all took TARP funds; they needed the funds to stay afloat. The Department of Treasury seemingly wanted all banks to take some level of TARP. TARP aimed at providing necessary liquidity but also aimed to restore confidence, the idea that all institutions took TARP funds would help to obscure the institutions who needed TARP funds to survive. Many institutions did not accept TARP funds, sighting a desire not to be beholden to the United States government. The questions here are as follows:
1) Did the bailout kill the free market economy?
2) Were organization who mismanaged their business rewarded while those who managed prudently had the spoils of a
free market economy taken from them because of government involvement?
3) What would have been the result of no bailout? Would the remaining institutions have been able to pick up the pieces? Or would a gaping hole now exist in the monetary system?

IMO the bailout was necessary.
1) Organizations who managed responsibly did so by not accruing toxic assets. Thus there was no reason to believe they would have picked up these assets after the institutions who held them collapsed.
2) Toxic assets (mortgages) would be abandoned by the consumer and the lender thus offering no incentive for remaining lenders to absorb these assets. This would devalue of all surrounding assets. This did happen, but TARP did help to stabilize the decline.

5. What is the problem with the government taking an equity position such as preferred stock in a private enterprise?

IMO the biggest issue with the government taking an equity position in a private enterprise is the apparent conflict of interest. How do you regulate that which you own? 🙂 Now, I am not an idealist, so I don’t get too wrapped around the axle here and I am also acutely aware that covert quid pro quo probably a bigger issue the government taking an overt equity position in a private enterprise. In 1916 Congress created the first government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) with the creation of the Farm Credit System, my point is that 2007 does not mark the dawn of evil government involvement in private enterprise. Congress established the idea of the GSE as a means to overcome “market imperfections.” There are a million different perspectives from which to argue government involvement in private enterprise but IMO the more government provides for the social good (e.g. national health care), the more government involvement we will see in private enterprise.

References

Blumberg, A. (2008, October 30). How Credit Default Swaps Spread Financial Rot. Retrieved June 01, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96333239

Fontinelle, A. (2014, March 19). Troubled Asset Relief Program – TARP. Retrieved June 01, 2017, from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/troubled-asset-relief-program-tarp.asp

Harber, K. (2015, October 27). Principles of Management. Retrieved June 01, 2017, from https://open.lib.umn.edu/principlesmanagement/chapter/4-6-stakeholders/

Nielsen, B. (2008, April 08). Payment Option ARMs: A Ticking Time Bomb? Retrieved June 01, 2017, from http://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/08/payment-option-arm.asp?lgl=myfinance-layout-no-ads

What comes after those ellipses? (n.d.). Retrieved June 01, 2017, from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/stakeholder.html

 

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