Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Private equity firms will rush the exits if they believe that a Democrat is likely to defeat President Trump, investors tell me.

The state of play: Each of the four leading Democratic candidates have pledged to eliminate beneficial tax treatment for capital gains among top earners.

Elizabeth Warren has proposed the most dramatic change, raising capital gains rates to all earners and requiring annual, mark-to-market taxes (i.e., not just when an asset is sold).

  • Bernie Sanders would eliminate the rate differential for households making $250,000 or more. Joe Biden would do it for those making $1 million or more. Pete Buttigieg also has proposed a cap gains rate hike and mark-to-market taxation for the top 1% of earners.
  • All four also plan to raise ordinary income rates on top earners so, for many private equity investors, this would be a double whammy.

What's happening: The result is that private equity investors are talking about clearing the portfolio decks this year, locking in profits under the current taxation scheme.

The big picture: This is different than the decades-long debate over carried interest, which was about if PE investment profits should be taxed as capital gains or as ordinary income. If you no longer have a difference between the two rates, it no longer matters how carried interest is classified.

  • But, but, but: Exits are a double-sided door., requiring both sellers and buyers. There could be a slowdown in sponsor-to-sponsor opportunities due to both the tax issue and a growing PE consensus that portfolio companies are overvalued.
  • On the other hand, many strategic buyers are flush with cash.
  • Private equity funds also must be careful not to run afoul of their fiduciary responsibilities, as most of its limited partners are nonprofits that don't pay federal taxes at all. If LPs believe that their general partners are selling for personal tax benefits, it could turn into a legal liability.

The bottom line: Pay greater attention this year to why a private equity firm says it sold a company, particularly if it's been a short hold period.

Go deeper: How private equity could disrupt the 2020 election

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

SPACs are the new IPOs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Churchill Capital Corp. III has agreed to acquire health-cost management services provider Multiplan at an initial enterprise value of $11 billion, as such deals continue to proliferate as alternatives to IPOs.

Why it matters: This is the largest special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger, and also includes the largest private investment in public equity (PIPE) associated with a SPAC. Existing Multiplan owners like Hellman & Friedman and General Atlantic will roll over more than 75% of their collective stake, and own over 60% of the public company.

Washington Redskins will change team name

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins announced Monday that the NFL team plans to change its name.

Why it matters: It brings an end to decades of debate around the name — considered by many to be racist toward Native Americans. The change was jumpstarted by nationwide protests against systemic racism in the U.S. this summer.

3 hours ago - Health

Houston public health system CEO says coronavirus situation is "dire"

Houston's coronavirus situation is "dire, and it's getting worse, seems like, every day," Harris Health System CEO and President Dr. Esmail Porsa said Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

The big picture: Porsa said the region is seeing numbers related to the spread of the virus that are "disproportionately higher than anything we have experienced in the past." He noted that Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital's ICU is at 113% capacity, and 75% of its beds are coronavirus patients.