President Donald Trump weighed in on Wall Street’s focus on quarterly earnings — and sounded a lot like his 2016 opponent.
In a Friday tweet, the president suggested that public companies should move away from quarterly earnings reports and instead report earnings every six months.
“In speaking with some of the world’s top business leaders I asked what it is that would make business (jobs) even better in the U.S. ‘Stop quarterly reporting & go to a six month system,’ said one,” Trump tweeted. “That would allow greater flexibility & save money. I have asked the SEC to study!”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it mirrors rhetoric from former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election cycle.
During the campaign, Clinton denounced “quarterly capitalism” and said that companies were too focused on the next earnings report rather than investing for the long-term.
“I am deeply distressed about quarterly capitalism because I think it is causing businesses to make decisions that are not helping the long-term profitability of American corporations or the success of our economy,” Clinton told Business Insider’s Henry Blodget in 2016.
Clinton also attacked the short-term focus of Wall Street and companies in a speech in July 2015.
“Now, I understand that most CEOs are simply responding to very real pressures from shareholders and the market to turn in good quarterly numbers. And investors are always looking for strong, reliable returns” Clinton said. “But it is clear that the system is out of balance — the deck is stacked in too many ways — and powerful pressures and incentives are pushing it even further out of balance.”
Additionally, Clinton liked to point to an anecdote about a survey of corporate executives that found not one would invest in a five- to 10-year plan that would make their company more profitable if it took a cent off their share price.
So while Trump is bringing a renewed focus to the pressure on companies to hit quarterly targets, the idea was also championed by his one-time political rival.
Trump’s idea is also similar to the proposal put forth by JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and investing legend Warren Buffett. The two business giants urged companies to continue reporting earnings on a quarterly basis, but do away with forward guidance, or official forecasts about earnings for the quarter ahead.
Given Trump’s desire to reform the quarterly earnings process, the idea may have hit a critical mass and changes could really be on the way. But as with many Trump plans, it’s probably best to wait for the full plan before declaring the war on short-termism complete.