The dying days of the ‘shareholder value’ cult
on October 16, 2008

On Monday, governments announced c$3.5 trillion of recapitalisation and capital injection into the global banking system. One would have then expected the major investment institutions to rally round in support.
But on Wednesday, they conspicuously failed to do this. Instead they argued that the taxpayer should provide yet more money, in the form of dividends from the bankrupt banks. Unsurprisingly, stock markets then swooned again.
It is these same shareholders, by their focus on quarterly earnings, who have completely undermined the long-term role of company Boards. They were the ones who pushed for ever higher gearing, and who tried to unseat managements at banks, such as LloydsTSB, who expressed any sense of caution about the likely consequences of such lending.
The blog increasingly suspects that today’s convulsion marks the end of the 25-year bull market from 1982 to last year’s final highs. It also suspects that the next 25 years will see a return to more sobriety and careful analysis amongst major investors. The bonus culture, and its focus on maximising short-term ‘shareholder value’ would then disappear.
In turn, this would enable Boards to return to their proper role, as defined prior to 1982, of taking stewardship of the business for the next generation.

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