Report on the use of public aid: “The CAC40 prefers to dig into its treasury to remunerate shareholders”

Payment of dividends for shareholders, job cuts, increase in remuneration, lack of transparency … The new report from the Multinationals Observatory, written by journalist Olivier Petitjean and economist Maxime Combes, points to a number of inconsistencies in the use made by the CAC40 groups of aid granted by the public authorities during the health crisis.

100% of its members receive public aid related to Covid-19, and yet they have paid nearly 51 billion euros to their shareholders, the equivalent of 140% of the profits they made in 2020, explains the report.

“Rather than seeking to invest in the economy of tomorrow, for more equality or ecology for example, the CAC40 prefers to draw from its cash flow to remunerate shareholders”, deplores Maxime Combes to the “Obs”. This preference is due to the fact that the short-termist logic satisfies the markets more, according to him.

Aid paid by the State without conditions

Dividends were paid even when the health of the companies looked bad. Thus, more than 80% of groups having recourse to short-time work during the crisis have nevertheless paid dividends over the past two years. Even though the CAC40 plans to cut more than 60,000 jobs worldwide, and almost 30,000 in France. “Large groups do what they want”, protests the economist.

“The public authorities would have had to condition the aid. From a certain amount received, for example, no longer pay dividends. In case of profits, necessarily invest for the world of tomorrow. It was doable. “Public aid: who are the “corona-profiteers” of the CAC 40?

But if the government did not do it, according to Maxime Combes, it is because it “Wants to save the French productive apparatus as it existed before the crisis”.

The only condition, suggested by AFEP (the French Association of Private Companies), was that managers reduce their remuneration by 25%, “Out of solidarity”. In fact, according to the report, they only lowered it by 8.1% on average. Ten of them took no initiative on this subject and seven even increased their salaries in 2020 despite the pandemic (CEOs of Atos, Teleperformance, Renault, Kering, Publicis, Vivendi, Crédit agricole and Saint-Gobain) .

Lack of transparency

The 155 billion euros released to support businesses between March and December 2020, “Without social, ecological and fiscal conditionality worthy of the name” according to the report, were not detailed, regrets Maxime Combes.

“How many went straight to big business? We do not know. “Total, Sanofi, Axa… In the midst of the crisis, CAC 40 dividends are doing very well

“There is no transparency on this, any more than there is concerning the lobbying activities of these groups with the public authorities”, he explains.

“What we have managed to find out is that a third of these activities concern obtaining public aid or reducing constraints. “

Large groups “Have the means to achieve their ambition”, finally believes Maxime Combes, for whom this situation is all the less surprising as the great leaders are often quite close to the members of the high administration and the power. For example, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is a member of the Board of Directors of the Atos company.

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