It’s a great story: corporation shares its Trump tax cut with workers and communities. But dig a little deeper and you’ll often find those big announcements of employee bonuses are dwarfed by even bigger payouts to wealthy shareholders; loudly publicized hikes in company minimum wages are followed by quieter layoff notices; and claimed tax-cut-caused investments ascribed to the new tax law closely resemble investment patterns in place before corporate taxes were slashed. Following are major claims of corporate generosity from tax cuts that are much less than they seem.
- ALTRIA GROUP: Altria has announced $2 billion in corporate share buybacks in 2018. That’s 83 times larger than the company’s $24 million one-time bonus program spread among 7,900 employees. Read more…
- ANTHEM: The big health insurer will get an estimated tax cut of $729 million this year—13 times more than the $58 million it is giving employees in retirement contributions. Read more…
- APPLE: The company pocketed a $40 billion tax break on its offshore profits—that’s 133 times more than the $300 million in one-time bonuses it’s paying employees. Apple’s estimated tax cut of $5.6 billion this year is 19 times more than its bonus payments. Even more alarming, Apple just announced a new $100 billion stock buyback program—333 times more than what it has said it is sharing with employees. Apple is getting credit for $350 billion in new “investments” over the next five years, but a careful read of its January announcement shows that figure is what it will contribute to the economy through normal operations, with little new spending involved. Read more…
- AT&T: It’s no surprise AT&T was among the first companies announcing one-time bonuses after the tax bill became law: it needs to soften the Trump administration’s opposition to its proposed takeover of Time Warner. But AT&T’s estimated $2.1 billion tax cut this year is 10 times the $200 million in one-time bonuses it has announced. That yearly tax cut is on top of the $20 billion one-time tax benefit it got from the new law at the end of 2017. And since the tax cuts took effect, AT&T has laid off about 7,000 employees after its CEO promised that the tax cuts would lead them to create 7,000 jobs. Read more…
- BANK OF AMERICA: The new tax law could hand the bank a $3.5 billion tax cut in 2018. That’s 24 times more than the $145 million in one-time bonuses workers will get. The bank announced it was boosting stock buybacks by $5 billion, raising the value of shares remaining in the hands of its mostly wealthy investors. That’s worth 34 times more than workers’ bonuses. Read more…
- BOEING: The giant plane maker was already paying tiny taxes even before the new law: an average effective federal income tax rate of just 8.4% over the past decade. It will still benefit from the corporate tax cut—to the tune of $1 billion in one year alone—but will be using that windfall to create higher returns for its wealthy investors and top executives, not higher wages or bonuses for employees. A $300 million program of indirect worker benefits tied to the tax cuts does nothing to boost take-home pay and represents less than 10% of the $4 billion Boeing will spend on stock buybacks alone. Read more…
- CENTURYLINK: The same week the GOP corporate tax cut passed Congress, this telecom provider told workers expecting their regular year-end bonuses that none were coming in 2017. Read more…
- CISCO SYSTEMS: The company plans to bring home $67 billion of its untaxed offshore profits, enjoying an almost $10 billion tax cut on that cash from what it previously owed. It plans to spend at least $25 billion on share buybacks and billions more on dividends and corporate mergers. Cisco has so far not announced any plans to share the wealth with its employees. Read more…
- COMCAST: Comcast is giving up to $171 million in one-time bonuses this year. However, its projected tax cut is 9 times as much at $1.5 billion, and it’s spending 29 times more ($5 billion) on stock buybacks in 2018. The company recently claimed it was making $50 billion in new infrastructure investments over the next five years, but at its $9.6 billion level of capital spending in 2017, this is likely what it would have spent without the tax cuts. And despite the new investments, Comcast laid off 500 workers. Read more…
- DISNEY: It’s estimated that Disney will get a tax windfall of $1.5 billion this year, twelve times more than its $125 million in announced employee bonuses. Disney also tried using the payouts as a labor bargaining chip, telling its unionized employees engaged in contract negotiations in February that they must accept its latest offer by August 31 or lose the bonuses. Read more…
- EXXONMOBIL: The oil giant tried to credit the Trump tax cut for its five-year, $50 billion investment plan—but that’s how much Exxon invested the last five years even as oil prices hit rock bottom. Exxon still hasn’t said whether it will share its tax cuts with workers. Read more…
- HEWLETT PACKARD ENTERPRISE: HPE has promised $7 billion to shareholders through stock buybacks and a 50% increase in its dividends. Workers are still waiting to hear what they’ll get. Read more…
- HOME DEPOT: It’s estimated to get a $1.4 billion tax cut this year. That’s nineteen times the $72 million cost of bonuses for the company’s hourly employees, which will range from $200 to $1,000, depending on length of employment.
- KIMBERLY-CLARK: The company is using its tax-cut bonanza not to hire workers, but to cover the costs of laying off as many as 5,500 of them by closing 10 plants. Meanwhile, wealthy investors are benefitting as expected: the company plans $700-900 million in stock buybacks and a 3.1% dividend increase. There has been no announcement that the company’s workers are getting any bonus or pay bump. Read more…
- KOCH INDUSTRIES/KOCH BROTHERS: The Koch brothers are tied for8th richest person in the world, with each worth over $48 billion. It’s estimated the Koch brothers and/or their company, Koch Industries, could save between $1 and $1.4 billion every year from the GOP tax cut. Yet, the firm has not announced any plan to share the wealth with its workers. Read more…
- LOWE’S: The big-box retailer may get a $634 million tax cut this year—two-and-a-half times more than the estimated $260 million it will pay out in worker bonuses. Shareholders will get the biggest windfall, with $5 billion in new stock buybacks slated for 2018, or 19 times the employees’ bonuses. Read more…
- PEPSICO: On the same day PepsiCo announced $100 million in bonuses, it also said it would lay off up to 1,100 workers and distribute $15.7 billion in stock buybacks and higher dividends to shareholders. So, wealthy shareholders will get 157 times as much from the tax cuts as Pepsi’s (remaining) workers will in 2018 alone. The company is also expected to get a $1.4 billion tax windfall this year—14 times more than the bonuses payout. Read more…
- PFIZER: The pharmaceutical giant will get $1 billion in tax cuts this year, about 11 times more than the $100 million it spent on one-time bonuses for its employees. The company will also get a tax cut of $25.5 billion on the profits it has stashed offshore. While rewarding its shareholders with $10 billion in stock buybacks, Pfizer has announced no plans to use its tax savings to ease drug costs for consumers. Instead, it plans to continue raising prices, which have climbed about 30% for many of its drugs since January 2017. Read more…
- VERIZON: The telecom giant, which made $20.6 billion in profits last year, is estimated to be getting a huge $3.5-4 billion tax cut in 2018. That’s up to times larger than the $380 million in one-time bonuses the company has promised to pay workers. Read more…
- WALMART: The company has announced job cuts at least three times since the tax law passed, with more than 10,000 jobs likely on the line. Walmart’s $700 million in one-time bonuses and wage increases in 2018 is dwarfed by a tax cut worth three times as much this year—an estimated $2.2 billion. Few workers will likely receive the highly touted $1,000 bonus because it requires 20 years of service with the company—the typical employee will probably get around $250. Read more…
- WELLS FARGO: It’s estimated to be getting a $3.7 billion tax cut in 2018, which is 14 times more than the $268 million it is spending on minimum wage increases. Its planned $22.6 billion in stock buybacks this year is 84 times bigger than what it’s sharing with employees. Even worse, thousands will likely lose their jobs as the bank begins to close 800 branches. Read more…
DETAILED REPORT ON CORPORATE ACTIONS (2017 Fortune 500 rank in parentheses)
ALTRIA GROUP (Rank #148): SHARE BUYBACKS DWARF BONUSES
The tobacco giant announced a new $1 billion corporate share buyback program in February and expanded it to $2 billion in May. It’s worth 83 times more than the company’s $24 million one-time bonus program, which will be spread among 7,900 employees.
ANTHEM (#29): BIG TAX CUT, RELATIVELY LITTLE FOR WORKERS
In February, Anthem said it would contribute $58 million to employee retirement accounts. The big health insurer will get a tax cut windfall of $729 million, 13 times more than the retirement contributions. It increased its dividend and the company’s CFO assured financial analysts that approximately 50% of the benefits of tax reform would eventually end up in shareholders’ pockets.
APPLE (#3): BIG PAYOUT TO INVESTORS, “NEW INVESTMENTS” NOT LINKED TO TAX PLAN
Apple is sharing little of its tax-cut wealth with its employees or the country. This is especially troubling since just a single part of Trump’s corporate tax cut—the deep discount on accumulated offshore profits—has handed the company a tax cut of over $40 billion on the $78.5 billion it owed. That’s 133 times more than the approximately $300 million Apple is sharing with its employees through a one-time stock grant bonus. Apple’s estimated tax cut of $5.6 billion this year is 19 times more than its bonus payments. Also alarming, Apple announced a new $100 billion stock buyback program—333 times more than what it has said it is sharing with employees in bonuses.
In January, Apple announced accelerated “investment and job creation,” touting a planned “$350 billion contribution” to the U.S. economy and the addition of 20,000 jobs over the next five years. Despite claims made by President Trump and his allies, nowhere in its announcement does Apple link any of its plans to the recently enacted tax law. Nor does it say its $350 billion “contribution” to the economy is a new investment—and for good reason, since it included standard, ongoing business expenses like employee wages and purchases from domestic suppliers. As the New York Times noted, once you subtract a one-time tax payment on its offshore profits (misidentified as a new investment) and the amount the company already planned to invest prior to the new law, any spending that’s actually new comes to a relative pittance for a company approaching a trillion-dollar market value.
Apple’s claim of creating 20,000 jobs should also be taken with a grain of salt. In Apple’s recent announcement, it notes it currently has 84,000 U.S. employees. That number is up from 80,000 at the end of 2016 and 76,000 in 2015. If it were to keep adding jobs at this rate, it would have added 20,000 U.S. jobs over the next five years without the tax cuts.
AT&T (#9): SPOTTY SERVICE TO EMPLOYEES
The first tax-related employee benefit news came from AT&T: President Trump announced at a December ceremony celebrating passage of the GOP tax legislation that the company was offering $1,000 bonuses, worth about $200 million. But just before and after passage of the tax cuts, the telecom giant had announced about 1,300 layoffs, with more to come. In fact, since the tax law took effect in January AT&T has eliminated about 7,000 jobs, thousands of them held by union workers, according to analysis by Communications Workers of America. This is after AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson promised that the tax cuts would allow the company to create 7,000 new jobs. Moreover, AT&T’s estimated $2.1 billion tax cut this year is 10 times the $200 million in one-time bonuses it has announced. That yearly tax cut is on top of the $20 billion one-time tax benefit it got from the new law at the end of 2017. Finally, the union representing its workers claimed the bonuses were a result of labor negotiations, not tax-cut-inspired employer generosity. The company had good reason to curry favor with the White House: the administration sued in November to stop AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner.
BANK OF AMERICA (#26): BULK OF BIG TAX CUT GOES TO SHAREHOLDERS, NOT WORKERS
The new tax law could hand Bank of America a $3.5 billion tax cut this year, which it will mostly share with stockholders, not workers. That’s 24 times more than the $145 million in one-time bonuses workers will get. Another lopsided comparison: the bank announced in December that it was boosting stock buybacks by $5 billion, raising the value of shares remaining in the hands of its mostly wealthy investors. (Though it was only made after the tax bill’s passage seemed likely, the company’s buyback announcement came before final passage of the law, so it’s not included in ATF’s database.) That’s worth 34 times more than workers’ bonuses. Flush with tax-cut savings and not content to just stiff its workers, BofA is also raising costs for its poorest customers by imposing fees on small accounts.
BOEING (#24): PAYING LITTLE EVEN BEFORE TAX CUTS, NO PAYOUTS TO WORKERS
President Trump’s visit to a Boeing factory in March 2018 to talk up his corporate tax giveaway was the wrong place to showcase the need for lower corporate taxes or to argue workers will benefit. Over the past decade, the giant plane maker paid an average effective federal income tax rate of just 8.4%, far below what many working families pay. Thanks to loopholes and special breaks, for half of that decade Boeing actually paid less than zero—gaining tax benefits in five separate years rather than sending a payment to the Treasury.
Nonetheless, the company will still profit from the new tax law: by its own estimate, pocketing a one-time benefit of $1 billion, and by one outside analysis, saving over $220 million every year. But it won’t send any of that money directly to workers in the form of higher wages, as President Trump and his fellow Republican authors of the law had promised corporations would do. Instead, as soon as the Senate approved its version of the tax legislation last December—virtually assuring big corporate tax breaks were on the way—Boeing boosted stock buybacks by $4 billion and hiked its dividend by 20%. Those actions overwhelmingly benefit wealthy shareholders and top executives, not workers. (Because the company’s buyback announcement came before final passage of the law, it’s not included in ATF’s database.)
When Congress passed the final version of the law later that month, the company unveiled a $300 million spending program to indirectly assist employees through charitable giving, workforce development and “infrastructure enhancements.” But that investment will be less than a tenth of what it gives shareholders through buybacks alone, and it does nothing to boost workers’ take-home pay.
CENTURYLINK (#160): CHRISTMAS BONUSES CANCELLED
The very week the GOP corporate tax cut passed Congress, telecom provider CenturyLink told workers expecting their regular year-end bonuses that none were coming in 2017.
CISCO SYSTEMS (#60): WHAT DOESN’T GO TO INVESTORS, GOES TO DEALS
Cisco Systems announced it would return to the U.S. $67 billion in offshore profits held in cash and spend a good chunk of the money on stock buybacks and increased dividends, and apparently use much of the rest buying other companies. Cisco has increased its stock buyback program by $25 billion, the largest of the many corporate-buyback announcements made in the wake of the new tax law. The reason Cisco is so keen to bring home it’s bundle of profits now: it can avoid nearly $10 billion in U.S. taxes it previously owed on that money before the Trump corporate tax giveaway. Cisco has not announced it plans to share the wealth with employees.
COMCAST (#31): TAX CUTS & SHARE BUYBACKS DWARF BONUSES
Comcast reported in an SEC filing that it was giving $171 million in one-time employee bonuses due to the tax cut. But that’s dwarfed by its estimated tax cut of $1.5 billion, which is 9 times larger. And it’s returning billions to its shareholders through $5 billion in stock buybacks in 2018 —29 times more than it will return to workers—plus a 21% dividend hike. Comcast claims it will spend $50 billion for infrastructure investments over five years, in part because of the tax cuts and the repeal of the net neutrality rule. But it was likely to spend that much anyway. In 2017, Comcast spent $9.6 billion in capital expenditures, and at that rate it should easily spend $50 billion over five years once inflation is factored in. Despite this planned investment, Comcast has announced 290 layoffs in Atlanta this year, and last year quietly terminated about 500 employees at sites around the country. (Though the earlier layoffs came after the tax bill’s passage seemed likely, it was before final passage of the law so they’re not included in ATF’s database.)
DISNEY (#52): WANT YOUR BONUS? ACCEPT STINGY WAGE HIKE
Disney announced it would distribute $125 million to its employees this year through one-time $1,000 bonuses and spend $50 million to create a new higher-education benefit program. But Disney’s 2018 tax cut of $1.5 billion is twelve times more than the bonuses. Not satisfied with that windfall, Disney tried using the payouts as a labor bargaining chip, telling its unionized employees negotiating a new contract in February that they must accept its latest offer by August 31 or lose the bonuses.
EXXONMOBIL (#4): NO REAL INVESTMENT BOOST
Giving the new tax law partial credit, in January ExxonMobil announced $50 billion in proposed investments over five years, but acknowledged that almost a third of the figure ($15 billion) was for projects planned before the law was enacted. What’s more, the company’s financial reports reveal it made over $50 billion in domestic investments during the recent 2012-16 five-year period, a time when oil prices hit rock bottom and the company would presumably be most loath to invest. Thus, the new tax law didn’t apparently lead to any higher level of corporate confidence or investment—nor did it prompt the company to share any of its newfound wealth with its workers.
HEWLETT PACKARD ENTERPRISE (#59): STRONG ON BUYBACKS, WEAK ON WORKERS
HPE’s new CEO announced in February that because the tax law made it easier to access off-shore cash (at a deep discount), the company would be “increasing our shareholder return commitment and our investment in employees.” Wealthy shareholders immediately learned the size of their bounty: $7 billion through 2019 from share repurchases and a 50% dividend hike. Workers were promised higher 401(k) matching amounts and tuition assistance for continuing education, but no dollar amounts were announced.
HOME DEPOT (#23): TAX CUTS BEAT BONUSES BY A LOT
Home Depot’s $8 billion profit last year ranked it 26th among the Fortune 500. It may move higher this year from its estimated $1.4 billion tax cut. Its workers won’t make out as well. The company is giving $200 to $1,000 bonuses to hourly workers, depending on length of employment. Home Depot’s 2017 financial report states that the bonuses cost $72 million—so the value of the tax cut is nineteen times more than the bonuses paid to workers.
KIMBERLY-CLARK (#155): TAX CUT WILL FACILITATE LAYOFFS
The consumer products company (maker of Huggies, Kleenex and Kotex) told investors the tax cut will make it easier to cover costs associated with shedding 10 manufacturing facilities and laying off up to 5,500 workers. But it assured Wall Street analysts that there would still be plenty of tax-cut money left over to “allocate significant capital to shareholders.” In its final financial filing for 2017 the company said it planned $700-900 million in stock buybacks during 2018 and a 3.1% increase in its dividend. (Because these buybacks were not the result of a new board authorization, but rather fulfilling an existing one that preceded the new tax law, they are not included in ATF’s database.) There has been no announcement that the company’s remaining workers are getting any bonus or pay increase.
KOCH INDUSTRIES: BIG TAX CUT BUT NO WORKER BENEFITS
The Koch brothers are tied for 8th richest person in the world, with each worth over $48 billion. It’s estimated the Koch brothers and/or their company, Koch Industries, could save between $1 and $1.4 billion every year from the GOP tax cut. Yet, the firm has not announced any plan to share the wealth with its workers.
LOWE’S (#40): SHAREHOLDERS BEFORE WORKERS
The big-box retailer announced in January $5 billion in new stock buybacks. Around the same time, the company announced worker bonuses of between $150 and $1,000, depending on length of service. Assuming the full $1,000 bonus for all the firm’s 260,000 workers, the cost of the stock buybacks would be 19 times greater than the $260 million cost of employee bonuses. (Workers are also receiving improved benefits.) Lowe’s estimated tax cut this year alone is $634 million.
PEPSICO (#44): PLUS OR MINUS FOR WORKERS, ALL PLUS FOR SHAREHOLDERS
On February 13, PepsiCo simultaneously announced layoffs and tax-law-related bonuses, saying up to 1,100 workers would be let go and that the bonuses would total $100 million. It offered no guidance on the number of bonus recipients or how much each would get up to a $1,000 maximum. Announced benefits for shareholders were more precise: a nearly 50-cent, or 15%, hike in the dividend, which will cost the company roughly $700 million a year based on the current number of shares outstanding—and a $15 billion boost to its share buyback program. So, this year Pepsi will give shareholders 157 times more of the tax-cut benefits than it gives workers ($15.7 billion vs. $100 million). Of course, only those workers who haven’t been laid off will get anything. The company is expected to get a $1.4 billion tax windfall in 2018—14 times more than the bonus payouts.
PFIZER (#54): TAXES DOWN, DRUG PRICES UP
The pharmaceutical giant behind Viagra, nerve medication Lyrica, and pneumonia vaccine Prevnar is getting massive benefits from the Trump tax cuts while continuing to raise prices on its prescription drugs. Pfizer will get an estimated $1 billion tax cut this year alone. On top of that, it will save $25.5 billion in taxes over the next eight years on its nearly $200 billion in profits stashed offshore. This is after the company has spent years aggressively shifting profits to offshore tax havens. Despite 40% of its sales being in the U.S., Pfizer has reported negative U.S. profits for the last 10 years. The company responded to the passage of the tax law by announcing $100 million in one-time employee bonuses, an amount that’s dwarfed by the $10 billion in stock buybacks that it announced days before the law’s final passage, when its tax-cut windfall was all but assured. Meanwhile, Pfizer has raised prices for its top-selling drugs by about 30% on average since January 2017, including by about 10% shortly after passage of the tax law. Pfizer announced another round of steep price hikes in July, 2018. After a public outcry, the company delayed this latest round of price gouging until the end of the year to give the Trump administration time to release more details about how it plans to curb prescription drug costs.
VERIZON (#14): TAX CUTS DWARF BONUSES
The telecom giant, which made $13 billion in profits last year, is estimated to be getting a huge $3.5-4 billion tax cut in 2018. That’s up to 11 times larger than the $380 million in one-time bonuses the company has promised to pay workers.
WALMART (#1): BONUSES…AND LAYOFFS
On the same day, January 11, that Walmart announced it was raising its minimum wage to $11 an hour, expanding some parent-related benefits, and giving one-time bonuses to eligible employees, it also announced it was closing 10% of its Sam’s Clubs warehouse stores, wiping out around 9,400 jobs. Tax-cut proponents took credit for the first announcement but refused blame for the second. The Sam’s Club closures were followed swiftly by reports that Walmart was eliminating 3,500 co-manager positions. A few weeks later, the retailer announced another layoff of up to 499 workers at its Arkansas headquarters. In February, Walmart announced it was eliminating department manager positions in many of its stores, while declining to give details on how many employees would be affected.
Walmart says it will spend $700 million on bonuses and raises in 2018. While the bonus figure of $1,000 was widely reported, less publicized was that only workers with 20 years of service at Walmart would get the full amount. Employees working there less than 2 years would get only $200. This is significant because the average American worker has just over 4 years on the job (which would warrant a $250 bonus from Walmart), and the retail industry has a higher-than-average turnover rate, so most Walmart employees will be on the lower end of the bonus range. As for the minimum wage increase, it is likely that this was more related to competition for workers with other retailers and pressure from unions and advocates than to the tax cuts.
Meanwhile, Walmart could get three times as much as the $700 million in bonuses and wage increases from a 2018 tax cut of around $2.2 billion, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Where will the rest of that money go? Likely to shareholders, executives, and into the pockets of the Waltons, descendants of the company’s founder and America’s richest family.
WELLS FARGO (#25): THE TRUTH ACCIDENTALLY REVEALED?
It’s estimated the tax law will save Wells Fargo $3.7 billion annually, 14 times the $268 million it will spend on minimum wage increases this year. The bank apparently has better uses for that money, such as buying back 350 million shares of its own stock—worth about $22.6 billion, or 84 times the value of the wage increases—thus further enriching its shareholders. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo’s customers have suffered so many abuses that the federal government has imposed unprecedented sanctions on the bank. Despite that blatant mismanagement, the bank boosted its CEO’s pay by 36% this year, to a total compensation of $17.4 million.
When Wells Fargo announced in December it would raise its starting salary to $15 an hour, a spokesman explicitly confirmed that the raises were not a result of the tax cuts, but instead part of an ongoing process of raising entry-level salaries. (The spokesman later backtracked and claimed the two were related.) In any case, there will be fewer new employees receiving the higher minimum in coming years, as the bank announced the following month it would be closing 800 branches.