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Private equity’s default silence

Oct 16, 2013

FORTUNE -- As the debt ceiling and government shutdown talks stalled yesterday, I reached out to several top private equity executives for their thoughts on what would (or wouldn't) happen if there was no deal by Thursday. Did they believe it would be catastrophic? Did they believe continued implementation of Obamacare would be worse? What were they telling their portfolio company CEOs?

No comment.

That's what I heard from representatives for people like Leon Black of Apollo Global Management (apo), Henry Kravis of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (kkr), David Rubenstein of The Carlyle Group (cg) and Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group (bx).

It was an embarrassing lack of leadership for those who fancy themselves masters of the financial universe.

To be clear, this wasn't about providing me or Fortune with pageviews. To my knowledge, none of these individuals* have made any public statements about the impasse since it began (outside of some generic hopes for eventual resolution).

Private equity execs like to tout their job creation skills, economic know-how, charitable work and importance to the broader economy. They host fundraisers for presidential candidates, and sometimes attend private strategy retreats. But when an extremely important – albeit politically thorny – financial subject arises, they stay conspicuously silent.

I’m not presupposing individual opinions on this matter, particularly given that some of the aforementioned executives are steadfast Democrats and some are steadfast Republicans. Instead, I’m asserting that these folks have risen to a position in America’s economy where they should be making their influential voices heard.

You’re on the level of bank CEOs now guys. Time to act like it.

* The one exception here would be Blackstone Group president Tony James, who wrote an op-ed for the WSJ and appeared on CBS News. Kudos to him.

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