Sanders unveils plan to ‘democratize’ corporations and financial markets

PROVIDENCE – Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., last week unveiled proposals to “democratize” corporations and financial markets, a move applauded by advocates for Wall Street regulatory reforms.

Under his plan, unveiled on Sanders’ campaign website, he would require corporations with at least $100 million in annual revenue, corporations with at least $100 million in balance sheet total and all publicly traded companies to provide at least 2% of their stock to their workers each year until each company is at least 20% owned by employees.

Sanders also would require that 45% of the board of directors of all such corporations be directly elected by their workers.

In addition, Sanders would ban stock buybacks, calling for large-scale stock repurchases to be treated as stock manipulation.

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Moreover, he would require firms that move production to “low-wage countries” or eliminate jobs through automation to convey shares of stock to employees laid off as a result.

His plan also would set up a $500 million “U.S. Employee Ownership Bank” to provide low-interest loans, loan guarantees and technical assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses through employee stock ownership plans and eligible worker-owned cooperatives.

“Instead of using their massive profits to benefit workers and our society as a whole, corporate America has pumped over $1 trillion into stock buybacks to reward already wealthy shareholders and executives since the Trump tax plan was signed into law,” Sanders said in a statement. “Meanwhile, as the very rich become ever richer, the average hourly wage of the American worker has gone up by just 1% from where it was 46 years ago, after adjusting for inflation.”

The Open Markets Institute, a New York-based nonprofit of journalists, researchers, lawyers and advocates working to “reverse the stranglehold that corporate monopolies have on our country,” applauded the Sanders plan.

“We strongly applaud these common-sense rules for ending dangerous concentrations of power in our economy,” said Barry Lynn, the institute’s executive director. “Bernie Sanders has a simple rule. If a company is too big, it should be made smaller.”

“These antitrust priorities would restore true market democracy in America,” Lynn said. “In addition, Sanders’ plan includes the critical anti-corruption measure of closing the revolving door that allows [Federal Trade Commission] commissioners to go to work for the corporations they regulate.”

Sandeep Vaheesan, the institute’s legal director, added: “Sen. Sanders also proposes to ban abusive contracts, such as mandatory arbitration and noncompete clauses, that prevent us from taking corporate wrongdoers to court and working where we want.”

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at