Shareholder values, not shareholder value : the role of 'ethical funds' and 'ethical entrepreneurs' in connecting shareholders' values with their investments

Sampford, Charles & Berry, Virginia (2004) Shareholder values, not shareholder value : the role of 'ethical funds' and 'ethical entrepreneurs' in connecting shareholders' values with their investments. Griffith Law Review, 13(1), pp. 115-123.


This article rebuts the still-common assumption that managers of capitalist entities have a duty, principally or even exclusively, to maximise the monetary return to investors on their investments. It argues that this view is based on a misleadingly simplistic conception of human values and motivation. Not only is acting solely to maximise long-term shareholder value difficult, it displays, at best, banal single-mindedness and, at worst, sociopathy. In fact, real investors and managers have rich constellations of values that should be taken account of in all their decisions, including their business decisions. Awareness of our values, and public expression of our commitment to exemplify them, make for healthier investment and, in the long term, a healthier corporate world. Individuals and funds investing on the basis of such values, in companies that express their own, display humanity rather than pathology. Preamble I always enjoyed the discussions that Michael Whincop and I had about the interaction of ethics and economics. Each of us could see an important role for these disciplines, as well as our common discipline of law. We also shared an appreciation of the institutional context within which much of the drama of life is played out. In understanding the behaviour of individuals and the choices they make, it seemed axiomatic to each of us that ethics and economics have a lot to say. This was also true of the institutions in which they operate. Michael ·had a strong interest in 'the new institutional economics' I and I had a strong interest in 'institutionalising ethics' right through the 1990s.' This formed the basis of some fascinating and fruitful discussions. Professor Charles Sampford is Director, Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance, Foundation Professor of Law at Griffith University and President, International Institute for Public Ethics.DrVirginia Berry is a Research Fellow at theKey Centre for Ethics, Law,Justice andGovernance, Griffith University. Oliver Williamson, one of the leading proponents of the 'new institutional economics', published a number of influential works - see Williamson (1975, 1995,1996). Sampford (1991),' pp 185-222. The primary focus of discussions on institutionalising ethics has been in public sectorethics: see, for example, Preston and Sampford (2002); Sampford (1994), pp 114-38. Some discussion has, however, moved beyond the public sector to include business - see Sampford 200408299

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ID Code: 31065
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1038-3441
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Deposited On: 26 Feb 2010 01:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:25

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