The ESOP Association Blog

Covering ESOPs and employee ownership

Legislative Update: H.R. 2096 & S. 1212

ESOP Association President, J. Michael Keeling, provides a legislative update to members regarding new pro-ESOP bills introduced in the  House of Representatives and the Senate, H.R. 2096 and S. 1212.

More information can be found in the ESOP Bulletin.


Filed under: Employee Ownership Message, Government Affairs, , ,

ESOPs in the Air

Please note, the following article originally ran as the Washington Report column in the April 2015 issue of the ESOP Report, the newsletter of The ESOP Association.

If you would like additional information about newly introduced pro-ESOP legislation, read the ESOP bulletin.

This past month a set of inquires came in to The ESOP Association that the office has never really seen before.

Traditionally, when a committee, or committees, of the Congress, usually tax committees, work on revising law, or adding law pertaining to ERISA plans in general, and ESOP law in particular, it is not uncommon to have a Congressional office reach out to the Association’s office with questions. Not as frequent, but not unusual, the reach out is from a Congressional office of a member of the Congressional committees with jurisdiction over Title I of ERISA, which has the fiduciary provisions of law, along with some provisions on diversifying ERISA plan’s assets — these committees are often loosely referred to as the education and labor committees.

And we must cite one other example of why the Association might hear from a Congressional office — the member has openly and publicly co-sponsored a pro-ESOP legislative proposal, and the Association has that member listed publicly on its website as an ESOP “advocate.” Most often, and it is almost without fail, these members of Congress jumped on the pro-ESOP bandwagon due to direct visits with an ESOP company, or companies in her/his district or state.

But, here is the new development that triggered Association staff direct involvement with government relations responsibilities to sit back and wonder, “How come?”

How come over the past two months Congressional offices whose elected leader is not listed as an ESOP advocate, and who is not on the tax or labor committees of Congress, have unilaterally reached out to the Association’s DC office desiring to have a briefing on ESOP law, and to talk about new proposals the Representative or Senator is pondering to encourage ESOP creation?

While it would be dumb to set forth concrete reasons, there is reasonable speculation as to why are these not heard from before members of Congress reach out to the Association for ESOP information.

Interestingly, all of these inquiries came from a Congressional office of a Democrat.

So, what is it that has Democrats who have not been ESOP advocates, and who do not serve on a tax or labor committee, interested in promoting ESOPs?

It is a series of developments: One, the book The Citizen’s Share by respected academics Drs. Joseph Blasi and Douglas Kruse of Rutgers, and Dr. Richard Freeman of Harvard, attracted the attention of a think tank whose reputation among Democrats is very high — the Center for American Progress, or CAP. CAP staff, even before the book’s publication, was reviewing various policies that would increase the wage and wealth of average pay Americans, and broad-based ownership was on its radar screen for review. CAP staff actually had a half day roundtable discussion, with persons knowledgeable about broad-based ownership.

To highlight its work to increase income and wealth of average pay citizens, CAP sponsored a “summit” of top economists and opinion leaders that issued a paper full of recommendations to address income issues. In the paper was a straight forward endorsement of policies to increase “ownership” among more Americans, and ESOPs were specifically cited as an example of a program that did broaden ownership.

In conjunction with the CAP paper, famed economist Peter Orszag, who was President Obama’s first Director of the Office of Management and Budget, a very influential position in our government though not realized by most citizens, wrote a very straight to the point opinion piece for the widely read Bloomberg blog stating that President Obama needed to be forceful in promoting more ownership among Americans, citing ESOPs as did the CAP summit document.

Meanwhile on two recorded occasions — i.e. not a back room unpublished conversation — for the first time since Robert Reich was Secretary of Labor, the current Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, gave a glowing endorsement of ESOPs as good policy.

And, the Employee Ownership Foundation (EOF): You read it right, the Association’s affiliated 501(c)(3) was not directly involved, but…. Research supported by the Foundation and the publicity garnered by data gathered made its way into the discourse, woven into The Citizen’s Share in certain passages and sections — cited not as EOF materials, but citing work that neutral third parties had done on broad-based employee ownership that EOF helped fund, but certainly not controlled; data in a similar vein noted by the CAP staff people working on how to increase more ownership among average pay persons.

So, Democrats that prior to a few months ago did not take note of employee ownership, are beginning to do so.

Let it be said without hesitation; throughout the 90s and first 14 years of the 21st Century, the vocal men and women in Congress for promoting ESOPs were Republicans — much of its stemming from these men and women coming of maturity when their favorite national figure Ronald Reagan was President, and who was the best friend ESOPs ever had in the White House.

Always support for ESOPs in the tax and labor committees have been both Democrats and Republicans; and always the list of advocates is nearly balanced between the two, as when a member of Congress learns about ESOPs up close and personal on a company visit, s/he becomes a supporter.

But recently, it is pleasing to see the interest in ESOPs grow as opinion leaders that have the ear of Democrats in Congress have become more open about the value of employee stock ownership via the ESOP model.

Let us not let the “new” interest falter.

Filed under: Employee Ownership Message, ESOP Report, Publication, ,

Why You Should Attend the 38th Annual Conference

esop-slide-template - 2015 Annual Conference

Thinking of attending the ESOP Association’s Annual Conference in May? Here are a few reasons to join us.


AACE Awards Exhibition

AACE Awards 6

Connect with employee owners and take the opportunity to view the creativity on display


Talk with winners and network with AACE entrants to brainstorm ownership communications ideas


Annual Awards Ceremony — Celebrate Employee Ownership!

Ownership Culture & Technical Education on ESOPs


Take a look at the preliminary agenda

Don’s pass up this opportunity to gain ESOP insight


Learn from your ESOP peers


Support the Employee Ownership Foundation


We’ve got some great prizes lined up for the silent auction!



The Renaissance Washington Hotel

999 9th Street, NW

Washington, DC



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

7:00 PM, Grand Ballroom


May 7 – 8, 2015



Filed under: AACE - Annual Awards for Communications Excellence, Conference Information, Employee Ownership Foundation, Employee Ownership Message,

Been There; Done That. Does It Have to Be?

The following article originally ran as the President’s Page column in the February 2015 issue of the ESOP Report, the newsletter of The ESOP Association.

Human nature is often an enemy of enthusiasm. By this statement I mean it is normal for a mature ESOP company to react with a ‘been there, done that,’ attitude when pondering how to keep the enthusiasm for employee ownership vibrant among the company employees.

In recent years, when I visit ESOP companies, I often find myself talking to company executives, ESOP committee members, or HR professionals of a company that has had an ESOP for 10, 15, 20, 25, or even more years.

Often, here is the story I hear:

“Well, when we finally put the ESOP in place, needless to say, we were somewhat focused on the details of being sure we met the law and regulations. We were somewhat surprised how creating the ESOP tapped our resources, both money and time wise.

We had our ESOP advisors, and felt that they could keep us posted on all we needed to know.

We told the employees we had an ESOP, but most just scratched their heads, wondering what kind of scheme had been cooked up, as no one was seeing any extra money in her or his pocket.

In sum, we were what one might say a “sleepy” ESOP, assuming that employees would be excited about being owners, and would want to do more and be better.

After some employees left vested, and others saw that the person did get real value, interest seemed to perk up, and we could sense the employees wanted to be more attuned to what this ESOP and their role in being a beneficial owner meant.

So in about year five or so, we began to have employees exposed to other men and women like them at Association Chapter meetings, the national Annual Conference, and the Foundation’s Employee Owner Retreat, for example.

Top level executives, and average pay employees saw the AACE entries, heard about winners of AACE, ESOP Company of the Year, Employee Owner of the Year, attended the Annual Awards Banquet. Some employees became the ‘champions’ for making sure others in the company knew we were special, and everyone would benefit the better if we maximized the human side of ESOPs as a company.

So we entered AACE. We put in applications for awards with our Chapter and thus nationally. We created an ESOP communications committee; we made sure average pay employees were at meetings, networking with others in ESOP companies, and going to break out sessions about ownership culture and the human side of ESOPs.

But after five years or more of going, going, entering, entering, it sort of became old hat all of this intangible ‘love’ of being ESOP.

We need a revival so to speak. We are a good company, don’t get me wrong; but we just wonder if all of this ‘going, participating, entering’ stuff is worth it as we have been down that road, and we do not regret it; but the enthusiasm is gone.”

Well, after hearing this story, I do not jump up and down preaching that persistence is the key to an ESOP company maximizing their ownership structure; persistence is in keeping the enthusiasm alive. But the truth is each company, for many different reasons — growth, or new employees, or new business initiatives — needs to be engaged with the ESOP community year in and year out.

Accepting that the ‘old’ stuff has no more intrinsic value can diminish the subjective impact that being employee-owned has on a better performing company, with a more dedicated, and a more experienced work force, that builds wealth for all.

So, exposing ESOP people to the various tactics used to build a good company, learning about new tactics not used before, is a major way to end ennui that can arise in a mature ESOP company.

Filed under: Employee Ownership Message, Member Services, Publication, , , ,

New Study Shows Big Returns for S ESOPs

A new study by the Employee-Owned S Corporations of America (ESCA) shows that S ESOPs outperformed the S&P 500 Total Returns Index in terms of total return per participant by an impressively large margin (62%), net assets increased over 300%, and distributions to participants totaled nearly $30 billion from 2002 to 2012. The data was compiled by EY’s Quantitative Economics and Statistics (QUEST) practice.

Take a look at the press release here.

Filed under: Employee Ownership Message,

An ESOP Question Answered

At a March 18, 2015 Education & the Workforce Hearing with Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) asked the Secretary about ESOPs. Below is Secretary Perez’s response.

Watch the video.

We plan to share this clip with our Kentucky members, but given the recent, and ongoing, discussions with the Department of Labor regarding ESOPs, we thought we’d share with our readers here.

Filed under: Employee Ownership Message, ,

February 2015 Wrap-Up

Miss something? We’ve got you covered.

We shared a list of upcoming Chapter events for March.

Don’t forget — the Edmunson Scholarship deadline is March 6!

Find your ESOP Chapter.

ESOP Association President, J. Michael Keeling, talked about the importance of inviting your member of Congress to visit your ESOP company.

The ESOP Association submitted comments to the Senate Committee on Finance Tax Reform Working Group regarding tax reform.

Déjà Vu? Tax Reform in the Senate?

Download your copy of the February 2015 ESOP Report.

Edmunson Scholarships are open for applications.

We shared some ESOP company news.

Updated publication –> Your ESOP: It’s for all of us.

A thank you to Chapter leader, Gale Marett

The Employee Ownership Month Poster Contest opened for submissions.

The ESOP Association submitted comments to the House Ways and Means Committee regarding the state of the U.S. economy and policies that can promote job creation and economic growth.

We shared some tips for winning AACE.

The ESOP Association expressed disappointment once more over a provision in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget that pertains to ESOPs.

Filed under: Chapter News, Employee Ownership Foundation, Employee Ownership Message, Employee Ownership Month (EOM), Government Affairs, Publication, TEA Members,

January 2015 Monthly Wrap-up

As it turns out, January was a busy month…

We noted some upcoming events for February

We reported that the Department of Labor will not mandate ESOP appraisers be ERISA fiduciaries

The ESOP Association filed an amicus in Supreme Court case Tibble V. Edison Int’l

ESOP Association members were named Great Places to Work!

The January 2015 ESOP Report was published

We shared a guest post from AACE Awards Volunteer Coordinator, Paul Horn – 2015 AACE Awards

We highlighted a new report from the Center for American Progress that discusses inclusive prosperity

2015 conference sponsorship were announced

We mentioned a few ways to keep up with Association updates

2015 AACE Awards category information was shared

The Two Day Professional ESOP Forum was announced

The ESOP Administration Handbook was highlighted

ESOP Experts 2015 – If you’re interested, more info here

2015 AACE Awards — we told you what you need to know to enter this year

Filed under: AACE - Annual Awards for Communications Excellence, Chapter News, Conference Information, DOL Proposed Fiduciary Regulation, Employee Ownership Message, Government Affairs, Member Services, Publication, Retirement Issues, TEA Members,

Employee Ownership Month 2014 Re-Cap (Part 2)

The ESOP Association and its members celebrated Employee Ownership Month (EOM), a tribute to the tremendous spirit of employee ownership, throughout the month of October. Following is a re-cap of events shared with the Association and events shared via social media. We’ll be posting additional stories and photos on The ESOP Association Blog this week. Have EOM info to share? Email:

Harpoon Brewery in Boston, Massachusetts, a new ESOP and new member of The ESOP Association, shared a custom-etched glass with employee owners — cheers to employee ownership! — and talked EOM on the company website.

What Employee Ownership Means to Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon Brewery EOM glasses

M. Griffith Investment Services, Inc. in New Hartford, New York might be a new ESOP but went all out this year. From COO Cathy Cucharale: As a fairly new ESOP company (formed June 2012), we held our very first, month-long national Employee Ownership Month! It was a huge success. Our ESOP Ambassadors put together a great program and we had one of our talented employees draw up all of the icons for each event. The employees enjoyed it so much they are already talking about next year!

M. Griffith Investments Employee Ownership Month 2014

Murray Securus in Lancaster, Pennsylvania invited 2014 Employee Owner of the Year, Steve Earle of MidSouth Building Supply in Springfield, Virginia, to speak to Murray employee owners. Steve also presented Matt Pfeiffenberger of the Pennsylvania/Delaware Chapter with the Chapter Employee Owner of the Year Award.

Murray Securus EOM

Newton Manufacturing Company in Newton, Iowa welcomed employee owners with an Appreciation Breakfast and each employee owner was given a mug in celebration of Employee Ownership Month.

Newton Manufacturing EOM 2014 Facebook Post

Recology of San Francisco, California, shared a blog post about their Employee Ownership Month events which include an annual raffle to build employee ownership pride and honoring outstanding employee owners with Employee of the Year Awards.

Recology EOM Blog post

Restek Corporation in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania invited a few local ESOP companies to share their ownership ideas and talk about their companies. Greg Myers and Andy Ferrari of C.S. Davidson Company in York, Pennsylvania shared their company history, history of the company’s ESOP, and how their ESOP Committees are structured. Restek also received a Certificate of Special Recognition from Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) commemorating October as ESOP Month.

Restek CS Davidson EOM Event 2014 - 2 Restek CS Davidson EOM Event 2014 Restek Toomey Certificate for EOM

Rex-Cut Abrasives in Fall River, Massachusetts, hosted the company’s annual TEAM Day on October 7th to celebrate Employee Ownership Month. James Lamond, the New England Chapter’s Employee Owner of the Year, also received his Chapter Award at the celebration.


TEAM Software in Omaha, Nebraska talked about employee ownership on the company blog.

Team Software EOM 2014

Transitions Group in Wichita, Kansas celebrated Employee Ownership Month with Tailgate Parties in all 10 of the company’s locations. They also held an ESOP 101 course for 30 employee owners at the company’s Wichita location which was videotaped and shared with the other locations.

 Transistions Group EOM

Wiley|Wilson in Lynchburg, Virginia sent out a release announcing the company’s celebration of employee ownership and talked about planned activities.

Wiley Wilson EOM

This is only a glimpse of the celebrations held by members over the last few weeks, and by all accounts, it was a successful EOM 2014! If you have a story to share, we’d love to hear it. Email us:

Filed under: Employee Ownership Message,

Employee Ownership Foundation Lunch Video

We wanted to share with our readers a video that debuted at The ESOP Association’s Las Vegas Conference & Trade Show last week. The following video aired at the Employee Ownership Foundation Luncheon held on Thursday, November 13, 2014 and highlights a few of the Foundation’s projects in 2014 as well as media coverage of the book, The Citizen’s Share by Dr. Joseph Blasi, Dr. Richard Freeman, and Dr. Douglas Kruse.


Filed under: Employee Ownership Foundation, Employee Ownership Message, , ,

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