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NCEO Data Sources on Employee Ownership

The National Center for Employee Ownership has a number of data sources for scholars on employee ownership. Contact Research Director, Nancy Wiefek, with any questions about your research.

Comprehensive Database of all ESOPs

The NCEO maintains the Database of All ESOPs in the US, a database of ESOPs and their plan characteristics compiled from data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor. The database is available for purchase either for the entire United States or for a specific region. Data is provided as a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel format and includes a brief codebook describing the data and how to use it.

The Employee Ownership 100

We have been compiling a list of the largest 100 majority employee owned companies since the 1990s. The large majority of these companies are ESOPs, but some are owned directly by most employees of a company or are owned through some other kind of employee benefit trust. While we believe that each year's list includes the large majority of companies that meet this definition, we can only compile it based on personal knowledge of the company and press clippings. Government data do not indicate how much of a company an ESOP or other plan owns.

The list includes the company name, business, type of plan, location, and number of employees based either on direct contact with the company or, if they do not respond, the latest data from public sources such as Dun & Bradstreet. Every year the list appears on our newsletter for members, and the current list is always provided in The Employee Ownership 100: America's Largest Majority Employee-Owned Companies (at no charge). Past lists, dating back to 1997, are available at no charge to NCEO members by accessing the newsletter archive in the members-only area of this site. The list could be used to track employment changes at these companies over time as well as to generate names for further research. Virtually all of the companies on the lists are closely held.

The Best Places to Work Employee Ownership List

Since 2006, the March/April or May/June issue of the NCEO newsletter has listed the companies on the annual Fortune magazine "Best 100 Companies to Work For" list that have some kind of broad-based stock plan (ESOP, stock options or other individual equity, or employee stock purchase plan). Generally, about 40 of the organizations on the list (or about 55% of the organizations on the list that are not nonprofits or professional partnerships) have some kind of plan. Companies must have at least 1,000 employees to be on the list. A majority of public, but many are not.

Members can access the list, which indicates the company and the kind of plan, through the newsletter archive in the members-only area.

What We Don't Know

Corporate Performance

While the studies on corporate performance have left most researchers fairly convinced that employee ownership and employee participation result in improved performance, we do not know a great deal about the texture of these results. What kinds of employee involvement work best? How durable are the changes? Do they plateau over time, for instance? In public companies, do ESOPs that are essentially just substitutes for 401(k) contributions, as many are, make any difference in performance, pro or con? In the equity plan area, we know even less. Do equity plans improve employee tenure or motivation? Do these companies have significantly different management cultures than comparable companies, and does that affect performance? Is there a threshold level for benefits from these plans to engage employees?

Characteristics of Employee Ownership Companies

While we know a lot about the demographic characteristics of ESOP companies, we do not know much about whether these companies are more or less participative in their management styles than non-ESOP companies, a critical question given the thrust of the research to date.

We also know very little about the typical financial structure of ESOP companies, nor are there any recent national data on plan characteristics such as voting rights, board representation, leveraging, annual contributions to the plan.

Getting the Data and Other Problems

Data on the economic performance of public companies are available from a variety of sources, but data on private companies, other than sales and employment (available from Dun and Bradstreet), are not. Few private companies will provide financial data, making studies that rely on productivity, profits, stock prices, return on assets, or other measures, essentially impossible. "Date of plan announcement" data (for public company studies on market reactions to the stock price) can be obtained from annual reports. Because most broad-based equity plans are in public companies, good economic analyses would be possible if reasonable lists of companies and were available and information on plan start dates was included. Unfortunately, such lists do not exist and must be tediously compiled looking at one company at a time and hoping they reveal something about their plans.

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