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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Private equity investors have historically taken a dim view of peers that renege on signed merger agreements, believing that an honorable reputation can be the difference between winning and losing the next deal or next fund.

What's new: Not only have stigma worries dissipated, but some buyers now feel honoring their pre-pandemic word would diminish their reputation.

Driving the news: Broken buyouts are becoming nearly as prevalent as new ones. Just within the past 48 hours, we've learned that:

  • Carlyle bailed on its $900 million deal for a 20% stake in American Express Global Business Travel.
  • Kohlberg & Co. walked away from its $550 million deal for cake decorations company Decopac, owned by Snow Phipps.

"It's one thing to buy a company that eventually loses value," says a private equity investor whose firm is largely sitting on the sidelines.

  • "It's quite another to buy a company that you need to write down by 50% the minute you close. That's a tougher sell to limited partners."

Both Carlyle and Kohlberg will need to defend their cold feet in court, and are no locks to succeed.

  • So will many non-PE acquirers. Wex (NYSE: WEX), for example, was sued yesterday by Travelport for trying to abandon its $1.7 billion deal for a pair of travel payments businesses.

But no judge can rule on reputation. That will be up to the markets. And, for now, indications are that absconders will get mulligans. Or even rewarded.

  • "This is the first time I can remember that companies aren't being criticized too much for doing layoffs, because everyone understands the extreme circumstances," says a fund-of-funds manager. "I think it'll be the same for private equity. You're not being held to the regular standard."

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New or expanded climate initiatives are popping up at several universities, a sign of the topic's rising prominence and recognition of the threats and opportunities it creates.

Why it matters: Climate and clean energy initiatives at colleges and universities are nothing new, but it shows expanded an campus focus as the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, and the world is nowhere near the steep emissions cuts that scientists say are needed to hold future warming in check.

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The pandemic isn't slowing tech

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Thursday's deluge of Big Tech earnings reports showed one thing pretty clearly: COVID-19 may be bad in all sorts of ways, but it's not slowing down the largest tech companies. If anything, it's helping some companies, like Amazon and Apple.

Yes, but: With the pandemic once again worsening in the U.S. and Europe, it's not clear how long the tech industry's winning streak can last.

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Early voting in Austin earlier this month. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Texas' early and mail-in voting totals for the 2020 election have surpassed the state's total voter turnout in 2016, with 9,009,850 ballots already cast compared to 8,969,226 in the last presidential cycle.

Why it matters: The state's 38 Electoral College votes are in play — and could deliver a knockout blow for Joe Biden over President Trump — despite the fact that it hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976.