NEWS: Senate Budget Committee to Hold Hearing on Wall Street Greed and Growing Oligarchy in America
Committee will hear testimony from panelists, including a Warrior Met miner on strike for nearly a year and the International President of the United Mine Workers of America
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, announced Monday that the committee will hold a hearing Thursday, February 17, titled “Warrior Met and Wall Street Greed: What Corporate Raiders are Doing to Workers and Consumers” to examine growing oligarchy on Wall Street through the case study of Warrior Met Coal in Alabama where workers have spent the last 11 months on strike.
The three largest asset management firms on Wall Street – BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street – manage a combined $21 trillion in assets, which surpasses the GDP of the U.S. and is more than five times the GDP of Germany. One of these “Big Three” companies is the largest shareholder in over 85 percent of S&P 500 companies and, as of 2019, BlackRock and Vanguard owned at least five percent of stock in more than 96 percent of S&P 500 companies. Though these companies often argue their investments are passive, they control nearly 25 percent of shareholder votes cast at annual meetings, giving them great power over executive compensation, climate commitments, share buyback proposals, mergers and acquisitions, and other advisory topics.
Chairman Sanders invited the CEOs of BlackRock, Blackstone, Apollo Global Management and Warrior Met to appear at Thursday’s hearing. All declined to testify.
In examining the effect of concentration of ownership on the U.S. economy and predatory tactics used by Wall Street firms that put workers and consumers at risk, the Budget Committee hearing will focus on the example of Warrior Met Coal, of which BlackRock is the largest owner and which was purchased by a group of private equity firms led by Blackstone and Apollo in 2016. Workers at the mines have been on strike for nearly a year. When the company faced bankruptcy in 2016, the miners at Warrior Met agreed to an across-the-board wage cut of 20 percent, and substantial reductions in their health care and retirement benefits as part of a restructuring deal made by the private equity firms. The sacrifices made by the miners saved the company an estimated $1.1 billion over the past five years. Meanwhile, since 2017, Warrior Met has rewarded over $1.5 billion in dividends to its wealthy shareholders while paying its CEO over $4 million per year.
Yet, now that the company has returned to profitability and has seen its stock price skyrocket by 250 percent during the pandemic, Warrior Met has offered its workers an insulting $1.50 raise over five years and has refused to restore the health care and pension benefits that were taken away from them five years ago. Outrageously and unacceptably, the company has also demanded the power to fire workers who engage in their constitutional right to strike and give seniority to new hires, rather than miners who have given their adult lives to Warrior Met.
In the U.S., private equity firms or hedge funds own half of all daily newspapers, have invested over $800 billion in fossil fuels over the last decade, and control over 8,000 U.S. companies that employ more than 12 million Americans, including household names such as Hilton, Dollar General, Dunkin Donuts, Fender, Toys ‘R’ Us, K-Mart, J. Crew, and Payless Shoes. However, the industry’s overreliance on debt-finance buyouts leave Americans paying the price while huge Wall Street firms walk away with exorbitant profits.
What: Hearing of the Committee on the Budget to consider: “Warrior Met and Wall Street Greed: What Corporate Raiders are Doing to Workers and Consumers”
When: Thursday, February 17, 2022, 11:00 a.m. ET
Where: Room SH-216. The hearing will also be livestreamed on the Budget Committee’s website and Sanders’ social media pages.
Mr. Cecil Roberts, International President, United Mine Workers of America
Mr. Braxton Wright, Mine Employee, Warrior Met Coal and Member, UMWA Local 2368
Dr. Nomi Prins, Economist, Author, Former Managing Director, Goldman Sachs
Mr. James Kwak, Research Fellow, University of Connecticut School of Law, and Author of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown
Additional Witnesses to be Determined.
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