The theme of our Fall 2014 issue of the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance is Are U.S. Companies Underinvesting?

In a letter he sent out to CEOs of the 500 largest companies in the U.S., Laurence D. Fink, head of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, argued that too many of them have been returning capital to shareholders via dividends and share repurchases rather than reinvesting in their companies.

Fink blames activist investors for pushing management to pay out cash rather than investing for long-term value creation: “The effects of the short-termist phenomenon are troubling both to those seeking to save for long-term goals such as retirement and for our broader economy.”

Current corporate financial policies come at the expense of “innovation, skilled work forces or essential capital expenditures necessary to sustain long-term growth,” according to Fink.

During my 30-plus years as editor of the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, I can’t think of a time when U.S. public companies were not being widely criticized for “underinvesting,” for failing to devote enough of today’s profits to increasing tomorrow’s earnings and value.

And yet, as Floyd Norris recently pointed out in his New York Times column, Misreading the Lessons From Financial Crises the stock returns of U.S. companies during the 36-year period since 1978 have been the best in American history.

In 2013 the average corporate return on invested capital for the largest 1,500 U.S. non-financial public companies reached its highest level in the last 60 years.

In our Fall 2014 issue you will find a roundtable discussion, “Capital Deployment Roundtable,” which reports that in 2013 the average corporate return on invested capital for the largest 1,500 U.S. non-financial public companies reached its highest level in the last 60 years.

For these and other discussions on U.S. corporate underinvesting, click here to purchase and download articles from our Fall 2014 issue. Don Chew, Editor.

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