I read this article several times, and I'm left with more questions, rather than with an ability to comment. Let's first remember that slightly more than 50% of American households now own common stock (share ownership in corporations) or mutual funds. Many union pension funds own stock shares, as do many university endowments, religious communities, etc. Any obligations regarding a "priority of labor" thus apply to all those shareholders just as much as they apply to Bain.
Finn writes that "ownership entails the duty to serve work" and "a company like Bain should buy up firms when doing so will likely lead to more or better jobs--and should not when it won't."
First, I'm not sure that Bain operates any differently than the trustees of the typical endowment fund, pension fund, etc., in that they use profits from one transaction (buying and selling companies, or shares of companies) to fund their next investment, again in hopes of making a profit. Rarely are all the transactions profitable; there are losses in some deals, even with the best due dilligence. Whether the investor is Bain, or the trustees of a religious community's retirement plan, or of a teachers union plan, the goal is to make a profit from the investment program. That is the only objective that justifies and rationalizes the investment plan, and those who are investing (union members, colleges, families, etc) are counting on the profits to fund their future needs.
Second, just as it is difficult to achieve a profit on every investment (even Warren Buffett has had disappointments) it is difficult in advance to predict the future course of events. Bain, or other investors, including people who are very sensitive to the needs of workers, may invest in a corporation with solid plans for growth, expansion, hiring, etc., only to have serious unforseeable setbacks. For example, a new product emerges that renders yours obsolete.
Third, and perhaps more responsive to Finn's proposition, Bain, or any other investor, may see a company that is just not using its resources efficiently. Consider that in any given industry some companies are more efficient than others. Over time, one company may be readily identifiable as chronically innefficient (simple measures are dollars of sales per employee, sales per square foot of floor space, return on equity, etc). Eventually that company is going to either reform (close some stores, or plants, or discontinue some products) to become more competitive or it will go bankrupt. Is Bain, or any other investor, morally at fault for buying that company, and initiating those needed reforms (which may include laying off workers, etc.)? Is a slow deterioration into eventual bankruptcy (with the layoffs, etc) morally superior to a planned, timely reorganization that keeps some workers employed while laying off others? Or, does Finn argue that neither Bain nor any other investor may morally invest in this company since the need for layoffs (now or later) is obvious?
These are real-life issues that too often are overlooked. They are relevant not only to Bain, or other private equity firms, but to all who invest in comkmon stocks--a broad section of our citizens and institutions.