Author: Tiziana Barghini

Despite a pause in February, when the number of share purchase authorizations declined by 32% over the same period a year ago, share buybacks are still very popular on Wall Street.

According to Birinyi Associates, a research firm in Westport Connecticut, in 2013, corporations that made up the Russell 3000 Index bought back stock shares for $576 billion—the second-highest amount since the record high of $761.8 billion in 2007. The total value of share buybacks in 2013 was 22% higher than the amount recorded in 2012.M

Share buybacks are the darling of companies and shareholders because they help support earnings per share by limiting the number of outstanding shares. Some companies actually use share buybacks to balance, at least in part, new shares that are issued as remuneration packages for top managers.

According to academic studies and real-world analysts, share buybacks support the value of a stock for several years. “A major study of the stock market over a 20-year time period found that in each four-year period, value buyback stocks—buyback stocks with high book-to-market ratios—generated returns 388% higher than other stocks,” states the Buyback Letter, a Wall-Street publication devoted to investing in companies that buy back their own stock.

Skeptics, however, point out that share buybacks deprive firms of funds that might be better used investing in research and development or acquisitions.

For Richard Naso, founder and chief executive officer of Caritas Partners, share buybacks are such a permanent fixture of Wall Street that companies should leverage them as a way to boost charity donations. With its “Buy Back to Give Back” program, Caritas, a unit of broker-dealer Du Pasquier, proposes that companies consider giving part of the commission from share repurchases to a charity of their choice.

Any company buying its own shares will decide to pay between .02 cents per share to .05 cents per share in commission with a share between 15% to 50% going to the charity of its own choice, mostly to the group foundation. The larger the commission, the more is paid to the charity and the more is cashed by Caritas. In addition, the first time a company works with Caritas on share buybacks, the full commission is donated to charity.