Virtual Event: Brendan Ballou


Private Equity's Plan to Pillage America

in conversation with SIMON JOHNSON


May 3, 2023
6:00 PM ET


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.


Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store welcomes BRENDAN BALLOU—federal prosecutor who also served as Special Counsel for Private Equity in the Justice Department's Antitrust Division—for a discussion of his new book Plunder: Private Equity's Plan to Pillage America. He will be joined in conversation by Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Sloan School at MIT, SIMON JOHNSON.

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About Plunder

Private equity surrounds us. Firms like Blackstone, Carlyle, and KKR are among the largest employers in America and hold assets that rival those of small countries. Yet few understand what these firms are or how they work.

In Plunder, Brendan Ballou explains how private equity has reshaped American business by raising prices, reducing quality, cutting jobs, and shifting resources from productive to unproductive parts of the economy. Ballou vividly illustrates how many private equity firms buy up retailers, medical practices, prison services, nursing-home chains, and mobile-home parks, among other businesses, using little of their own money to do it and avoiding debt and liability for their actions. Forced to take on huge debts and pay extractive fees, companies purchased by private equity firms are often left bankrupt, or shells of their former selves, with consequences to communities that long depended on them.

Perhaps most startling is Ballou’s insight into how this is happening with the active support of various arms of the government. But, as Ballou reveals in an agenda for reigning in the industry, private equity can be stopped from wreaking further havoc.

Praise forPlunder

“As shorthand for the crazy unfairness of financialized modern capitalism, more accurate than Wall Street or hedge fund is private equity—the state-of-the-art corporate-takeover mode that has brought predatory greed and ruthlessness to new levels, wrecking companies and workers’ lives as a matter of course. Plunder is the right word, as Brendan Ballou lucidly explains in his infuriating, illuminating, essential book. And his practical plan for reining in this monstrous new centerpiece of our system makes total sense.” —Kurt Andersen, author of Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America

“As private equity has risen to seize everything from nursing homes to clothing retailers to private prisons to our retirement savings, Ballou has written a cogent and indispensable book on this strange financial world. Ballou shows how these modern-day robber barons not only target the poor and serve themselves, but also bore into the foundations of our economy and society, weakening it for everyone. He ends with a stirring roadmap for reform.” —Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica, author of The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives

“Private equity might be the biggest economic story of the century, and yet, so few people understand what it is or how it’s crippling our economy and our democracy. In Plunder, Ballou tells a complicated story clearly and explains how private equity shapes your life and importantly, how it can be stopped. For anyone who wants to understand why our economy has become so broken and so unjust—and for anyone who wants to fix it—Plunder is required reading.” —Zephyr Teachout, professor of law, Fordham Law School, and author of Break 'em Up: Recovering our Freedom from Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money

“Plunder offers a clear and critical analysis of the private-equity industry. Ballou shows how some private-equity firms have ruined retail businesses, made housing more expensive, reduced the quality of health care and nursing homes, and wreaked havoc on families. If you’re interested in understanding the hidden sources of our economic problems—and in fixing them—read this book.” —Ganesh Sitaraman, professor of law, Vanderbilt University, and author of The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution

Brendan Ballou
Brendan Ballou

Brendan Ballou

Brendan Ballou is a federal prosecutor and served as Special Counsel for Private Equity in the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. Previously, he worked in private practice, and before that, in the  National Security Division of the Justice Department, where he advised the White House on counterterrorism and other policies.  He graduated from Columbia University and Stanford Law School.

Photo credit: Cynthia Barmore

Simon Johnson
Simon Johnson

Simon Johnson

Simon Johnson is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Sloan School at MIT, where he is also head of the Global Economics and Management group. Previously chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, he has worked on global economic crises and recoveries for thirty years. Johnson has published more than 300 high-impact pieces in leading publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Financial Times. He is author (with Jon Gruber) of Jump-Starting America, and (with James Kwak) of White House Burning and the national bestseller 13 Bankers. He works with entrepreneurs, elected officials, and civil society organizations around the world.

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