This is Lever Weekly, a recap of our work from the past week. If you only read one email from us all week, this should be it.
Below you will find a breakdown of our reporting, podcasts, videos, and live events — a feature open to all subscribers. Following that, we are providing paid subscribers with an original column, written by a member of The Lever, connecting the dots on our coverage to deliver important takeaways.
In this week’s column, exclusively for paid subscribers, Andrew Perez breaks down how two of the darkest stories in recent news reveal who is being exploited to help private equity executives line their pockets.
Stuff The Lever Reported This Week:
• SVB Chief Pressed Lawmakers To Weaken Bank Risk Regs — The collapsed bank’s president told Congress “enhanced prudential standards” should be lifted “given the low risk profile of our activities.”
• Rail-Lobbyist-Turned-Senator Could Block Safety Bill — John Thune embodies the rail industry’s Washington influence machine that could now kill bipartisan safety legislation.
• Workers Are Funding Private Equity’s Child Labor Exploitation — Public employees’ retirement savings have funded the private equity takeovers of companies that used child labor in dangerous factories.
• DeSantis Lets Electric Companies Hide Their Dirty Work — After industry cash flooded their war chests, Florida Republicans stopped requiring utilities from disclosing who they are punishing with power shutoffs.
Stuff To Watch & Listen To:
• LEVER TIME: Nina Turner On Dems' Working-Class Voter Problem — David sits down with the progressive powerhouse to discuss the Norfolk Southern derailment and Democrats’ “neo-liberal cult of self-righteousness.”
• MOVIES VS. CAPITALISM: Modern Times (w/ Pedro Ángel Rivera Muñoz) — Rivka and Frank are joined by Pedro Ángel Rivera Muñoz to discuss Charlie Chaplin’s anti-capitalist masterpiece Modern Times.
• WATCH NOW: How The Lever Changed The Response To East Palestine — The Lever’s new video reveals how our coverage shifted the national dialogue around rail safety.
• THE INSURGENTS: Movies vs. Capitalism ft. Frank Cappello — Frank joins Rob Rousseau and Jordan Uhl to discuss analyzing film through an anti-capitalist lens, and why You’ve Got Mail is actually a psychological thriller.
Thank You To Our Newest Lever Leaders:
Lever Leaders provide us with our highest level of support and score additional perks in return. Each week, we highlight folks who’ve taken that step, and the reasons they say they’ve done so.
• Kalaadevi Ananda: We need to question and see beyond the scene. You are doing the digging and seeing for all of us. I am grateful for the opportunity to support your work. Life is for others!
• John Hollingsworth: Independent media is essential and The Lever’s reporting is incisive and unapologetic, especially on American politics.
• Gary Steelman: It's worth it.
Who Cleans The Billionaire Factory
By Andrew Perez
We often make the point at The Lever that private equity has been a bad deal for public pension funds managing the retirement savings for unionized teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other government workers. State and local retirement systems have plowed fortunes into private equity, chasing higher returns that haven’t materialized, with high-fee investments that could soon blow up.
At the end of the day, the fees have primarily served to help make a small number of Wall Street executives exorbitantly rich — leading French economist Ludovic Phalippou to name the private equity industry “the Billionaire Factory.”
But then there’s the issue of what public pension officials are actually investing in when they hand government workers’ retirement savings over to private equity firms. What companies are private equity funds buying with workers’ money? Whose work supports the Billionaire Factory?
The answers to these questions are disturbing.