Shareholder Primacy and Deontology

Business and Society Review 120 (3):465-490 (2015)
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Abstract
This article argues that shareholder primacy cannot be defended on the grounds that there is something special about the position of shareholders that grounds a right to preferential treatment on part of management. The notions of property and contract, traditionally thought to ground such a right, are now widely recognized as incapable of playing that role. This leaves shareholder theorists with two options. They can either abandon the project of arguing for their view on broadly deontological grounds and try to advance consequentialist arguments instead, or they can search for other morally relevant properties that could ground shareholder rights. The most sustained argument in the latter vein is Marcoux’s attempt to show that the vulnerability of shareholders mandates that managers are their fiduciaries. I show that this argument leads to the unacceptable conclusion that it would be unethical for corporations to make incomplete contracts with nonshareholding stakeholders.
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Archival date: 2017-03-27
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2015-10-21

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