Oakland, Calif. — The National Center for Employee Ownership, a private non-profit organization, released the Employee Ownership 100, the largest 100 companies (by employment) owned by employee stock ownership plan (ESOPs) or other arrangements in which at least 50 percent of the stock is owned by 50 percent or more of the workforce.

Eight of the companies on the list are in the engineering industry, collectively employing about 65,000 people. They are (with rank):

  • Parsons (9)
  • Black & Veatch (10)
  • HDR (11)
  • MWH (16)
  • Burns & McDonnell Engineering (23)
  • CDM Smith (24)
  • Schweitzer Engineering (29)
  • Terracon (37)
  • Kleinfelder (63)
  • Enercon Services (76)
  • Brown and Caldwell (78)
  • American Systems Corp. (83)
  • S&ME (99)

All but CDM are owned by an ESOP

Collectively, the companies on the Employee Ownership 100 employ more than 650,000 people. The largest company on the list is Publix Supermarkets with 182,000 employees; the smallest companies on the list have at least 1,100 employees. Ninety-one of the companies are ESOPs, plans that provide employees ownership through a company funded trust.

Extensive research has shown that employee ownership companies outperform non-employee ownership companies by a wide margin. ESOP companies, in particular, grow about 2.5 percent per year faster in sales, employment, and productivity than would otherwise have been expected; provide 2.2 times the total retirement assets as non-ESOP companies; and lay people off at one-third to one-fifth the rate. Employee ownership is widely supported by both parties and the plans have a variety of significant tax benefits.

NCEOP executive director Loren Rodgers noted that “the Employee Ownership 100 shows just how important this concept is in the U.S. economy. The companies on the list represent a broad range of industries and include many of the most awarded, innovative companies in the country. It is a model the economy would do well to follow.”

The data below provide basic facts about ESOPs, the dominant form of broad-based ownership in the U.S.:

The ESOP Landscape

  • There are approximately 7,000 ESOPs covering almost 14 million participants
  • ESOP participants have about $1 trillion in assets
  • ESOPs are used primarily, but not exclusively, to provide for business transition in successful closely held companies.

How ESOPs Work

  • ESOPs are funded by the company, not the employee.
  • Employees are beneficiaries for an ESOP trust designed to acquire and hold company stock
  • In a typical ESOP, the plan borrows money to buy shares from an owner who wants to sell and the company repays the loan through the ESOP. ESOPs are also just used as an added benefit plan.
  • ESOPs include at least all full-time employees who have worked for one year or more. They get allocations of company contributions every year and when they leave, they can cash in their shares at an appraised fair market value.

Do ESOPs Help Companies and Employees Prosper?

  • ESOP companies grow about 2.5 percent per year faster in sales, employment, and productivity than would be expected if they did not have an ESOP.
  • ESOP participants accumulate about 2.5 times the retirement assets that employees in non-ESOP companies do.
  • Only two in 1,000 ESOP companies default on the loans used to buy shares annually.
  • Employee owners are one-third to one-fourth as likely to have been laid off in the prior years as non-employee owners.