Visible Hands: 2020 Wrap-Up 🎁
Let’s review this past year and some of our favorite topics.
As the year draws to a close (Visible Hands will be back after the New Year), we wanted to pull out a few of our favorite Visible Hands and the topics that are closest to our heart. We’ll see you in 2021 -- thanks for being a subscriber and supporter!
Diverse representation on corporate boards (January 27): In a throwback to a bygone era where banks had a bigger role to play in underwriting, Goldman Sachs’ CEO, announced that the bank wouldn’t underwrite some IPOs if they had an undiverse board. We looked at how Goldman’s bigger business is asset management, where they had not promised to make diversity a priority. (Note: this issue was released during our beta launch.)
Parental leave and the lack thereof (May 7): Although child care is crucial to understanding diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the U.S. is the only high-income country without any paid parental leave policy. We shared the latest research and survey data on maternity, paternity, and family leave. These considerations have only gotten worse with the pandemic.
Bankruptcy and debt (May 14): We looked at rising debt in the economy and how companies like J. Crew, Hertz and Avianca had become teetering companies on the verge of bankruptcy. The Fed made a historic move, taking on some corporate debt this year as part of their COVID-19 programs. Still, many of these companies’ predicaments were far from a shock given their financial decisions -- even before the pandemic.
Banking regulations (June 9): We interviewed New York Times editor David Enrich about how banks work, how much banks should profit, what regulations could improve banks and about the inequality of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Immigration and workforce equity (June 25): In response to the suspension of certain work visas over the summer, we discussed the impact of immigrants on the US economy. We also examined how companies use their leverage over employees’ immigration status to unfairly treat these employees.
Palantir goes public (September 10): Palantir went public this year, with a unique governance structure that worries investors about transparency and accountability. We covered their role in policing algorithms and the company’s stance on government defense contracts.
Private equity and pensions (October 8): Private market assets are exceeding $4 trillion and the number of US private equity owned companies increased by 60% over the past decade. We looked at how pensions are increasingly investing their money in private equity funds and if private equity is worth the fees (and risk of corporate bankruptcy).
A primer on SPACs (October 22): Gross proceeds from SPAC IPOs exceeded more than the combined amount for the prior nine years. How did an investment vehicle previously associated with fraud and subpar returns become so popular this year?
CEOs: If you really believe in stakeholder capitalism, now is your chance to make it real: “CEOs should take advantage of this opportunity to advance a stakeholder capitalism agenda with three priorities: removing obstacles for purpose-driven business, measuring for accountability, and empowering the most essential stakeholders in any company—workers.”
How Amazon wins: by steamrolling rivals and partners: “In targeting competitors, Amazon’s private-label team has access to a powerful tool: Amazon’s database of search terms customers frequently use. The team can add those terms to their product descriptions and detail pages to gain a boost on Amazon’s search engine, some former Amazon private-label employees said.”
Ripple says it will be sued by the SEC, in what the company calls a parting shot at the crypto industry: “The action will follow years of debate between the company and the agency about whether XRP, a digital currency associated with Ripple, is a security, like a share of stock—which must be registered with the agency—or is instead a currency and thus beyond the SEC’s purview.”
This is the Stanford vaccine algorithm that left out frontline doctors: “Algorithms are commonly used in health care to rank patients by risk level in an effort to distribute care and resources more equitably. But the more variables used, the harder it is to assess whether the calculations might be flawed. For example, in 2019, a study published in Science showed that 10 widely used algorithms for distributing care in the US ended up favoring white patients over Black ones. The problem, it turned out, was that the algorithms’ designers assumed that patients who spent more on health care were more sickly and needed more help. In reality, higher spenders are also richer, and more likely to be white.”
3 circular economy trends that defined 2020: (1) Reuse is on the rise (2) Metrics begin to materialize (3) It’s (still) all about plastic
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That’s all for 2020. See ya next year!