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Private Equity, Hedge Funds Get Unlikely Foe in GOP Think Tank

May 20, 2020

A new conservative think-tank in Washington is launching its first campaign Wednesday with what could be a long-shot goal — persuading pro-business Republicans that they should cast a more skeptical eye on Wall Street’s private equity firms and hedge funds.

American Compass, the brainchild of former Mitt Romney campaign staffer Oren Cass, wants to re-direct Republican policies to support businesses that make things and contribute to the real economy. The finance firms, the group worries, are engaging in “Coin-Flip Capitalism,” where their complicated, high-fee investment strategies gobble up money and business talent while generally performing worse than basic market indexes. That enriches fund managers, but does little to benefit society, American Compass says.

“The buying and selling of companies, the mergers and divestments, the hedging and leveraging, are not themselves valuable activity,” the group warned in a bluntly worded primer laying out its Coin-Flip project. “They invent, create, build and provide nothing.”

Along with its primer, American Compass is releasing a “Return Counter” that will measure the performance of private equity, hedge funds and venture capital against industry benchmarks. “Hedge funds and venture capital have long underperformed public markets,” the group noted, while buyout funds have kept pace with the S&P 500 over the past 10 years.

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