VEA Vice Chair Nell Minow is quoted in this WSJ article about buybacks:
Apple Inc. has lost more than $9 billion this year on an underperforming investment—its own stock.Like many large companies, Apple has used much of its windfall from the 2017 tax overhaul to buy back shares. But the recent plunge in stock prices has made that look like a bad idea. Apple and companies including Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Applied Materials Inc. repurchased their own shares at rich prices, only to see their value decline sharply.
In effect, the market has told them they overpaid by billions of dollars. While Wednesday’s rebound mitigated the damage, the S&P 500 has fallen 15.2% from its September high through Wednesday’s close. The index is down 7.7% for all of 2018.
Companies contend that buybacks are a good way to return excess capital to shareholders and that the paper losses can reverse themselves if their stocks rebound. But the sharp declines call into question their decision to devote so much of their tax savings to buybacks, rather than using it to invest in their businesses, raise employee pay or pay higher dividends.
“If they made an acquisition that decreased in value this much, people would be up in arms,” said Nell Minow, vice chairwoman of ValueEdge Advisors, a corporate-governance consulting firm. “They have one job, and that is to make good use of capital.”