by Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone:
So our new magazine piece, Greed and Debt, about Mitt Romney’s past with Bain and the use of debt to finance takeovers, is online, and already I’m getting some questions that I am anxious to answer. There’s a subtle point about the private equity business that I may not have made clear enough in the piece.
One emailer writes: “You’ve completely misunderstood what private equity does and ignored the many success stories in the industry. There is a reason why many of PE’s biggest investors are unions and pension funds . . . who have benefitted more than once from private equity deals.”
This is a valid point. It is true, many of the biggest investors in private equity deals are pension funds and workers’ unions. I think this is unfortunate, and I know for a fact that many union leaders discourage unions from investing in private equity takeovers. But it’s an undeniable fact that unions and pension funds do sometimes make money on private equity deals.
But what people need to understand about private equity firms like Bain is that they are not in the business of turning around companies and creating jobs. The unions and pension funds that invested in those deals did not do so to rescue companies.