Shareholder Value Maximization: The World’s Dumbest Idea?
If you agree with the economist John Maynard Keynes that “ideas shape the course of history,” then you ought to agree that the history of modern business and finance has been shaped by one influential idea: that the job of a company’s management is to maximize shareholder value. But according to James Montier, a distinguished investment professional and behavioral finance writer, shareholder value maximization is “a bad idea.” He believes it has not added any value for shareholders and has contributed to such major economic and social problems as short-termism and rising inequality.
Montier made his case against shareholder value maximization when delivering the closing keynote address at the 2014 European Investment Conference in London. In his characteristic iconoclastic style with a generous use of ironic humor, Montier labeled shareholder value maximization the way Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, had once described it in 2009, as “the dumbest idea in the world.”
An Academic Opinion without Much Evidence
Montier said that the idea of shareholder value maximization didn’t come from businesses but rather originated as an opinion in academia and was unsupported by much evidence. It is most directly traced to an op-ed written by economist Milton Friedman in 1970. . . .
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