Dimon and Buffett: Short-Termism is Hurting Economy

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett joined forces to pen a recent Wall Street Journal article that warns against short-termism.

“Every generation of Americans has the responsibility to leave behind a stronger, more prosperous society than the one it found,” they write. “The nation’s greatest achievements have always derived from long-term investments.”

The article argues that, to this end, public companies should consider dispensing with providing quarterly earnings-per-share guidance (a view they share with the Business Roundtable, an association of nearly 200 chief executive officers from major U.S. companies). Dimon and Buffett argue that, in their experience, “quarterly earnings guidance often leads to an unhealthy focus on short-term profits at the expense of long-term strategy, growth and sustainability.”

The article also asserts that pressure to meet short-term earnings estimates has contributed to the decline in the number of U.S. public companies over the past two decades. “Short-term-oriented capital markets have discouraged companies with a longer-term view from going public at all, depriving the economy of innovation and opportunity,” they write, adding that fewer public companies has also meant fewer chances for retail investor to create wealth through 401ks and individual retirement accounts.

Dimon and Buffett emphasize that they are not opposed to quarterly and annual reporting—that communication is critical to shareholders and that companies should be transparent about financial and operating results. But they believe information should be “provided on a timeline deemed appropriate for the needs of each specific company and its investors, whether annual or otherwise.”

The article concludes: “Reducing or even eliminating quarterly earnings guidance won’t, by itself, eliminate all short-term performance pressures that U.S. public companies currently face, but it would be a step in the right direction. Anything America—and America’s public markets—can do to focus on the future and build long-term wealth and opportunity will make the country stronger, more resilient and more competitive.”