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MONEY, MEET MORALS

Can private equity firms have a purpose other than making money?

Bank notes on a clothesline
Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino
Cleaner cash?
  • Cassie Werber
By Cassie Werber

Reporter

Finance isn’t the first place most people would look for a strong sense of moral purpose—certainly not historically, or in popular culture, and certainly not since the 2008 financial crisis, which was the first time many people realized a badly designed investment product sold in one place could mean a person losing their home somewhere else.

But financiers have also, traditionally, managed to hold themselves aloof from discussion of the morality of what they’re funding: They are not producers, miners, extractors, or explorers, after all, just conduits that allow money to flow.

This is changing, though—for example with the voluble assertions by some money managers, like BlackRock’s Larry Fink, that there’s more to business than a single bottom line. Now banks, asset managers, and even private equity firms are beginning to certify as B Corporations, setting themselves up for judgment as companies that care not just about shareholders, but about governance, customers, employees, communities, and the planet.

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