The nonsense of shareholder ownership

SC_ItinerantArtWho1Neoliberals claim that shareholders are the owners of companies. This is nonsense, argues Austin Mitchell MP and Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting, University of Essex in this joint paper published in Left Foot Forward.

In its 2013 report, the UK Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards concluded that “shareholders failed to control risk-taking in banks, and indeed were criticising some for excessive conservatism”. The Commission rightly recommended that company law should be changed to remove shareholder primacy in respect of banks, and require directors to ensure the financial safety and soundness of the company ahead of the interests of its shareholders.

No political party has had the good sense to follow up the above recommendations from the Commission.  Instead, economic elites continue to preach the futile myths about empowering shareholders to check corporate abuses.

But do shareholders enjoy any of the powers that neo-liberals ascribe to them?  As Prem and Austin point out, neoliberals equate “ownership” of shares with ownership of companies. Yet they provide neither theory nor evidence to support this claim. We can all enjoy a legal right to own a pen, a pencil, a car or a house, something which gives us rights, powers, liberties, duties and liabilities. We can use and destroy a pen. If a car that we own injures someone then we can be held liable. If we hold late-night parties at our houses which disturb others, police can be called to remind us of our obligations to neighbours. But ownership of shares in large companies is not like that.  Read why here.

 


Related Posts

New research on key role major economies play in global tax avoidance

offshore-network_colorcorrectedAn important new study on Offshore Financial Centres (OFCs) from the University of Amsterdam has made some fascinating discoveries, challenging, as the Financial Secrecy Index has, the popular misconception that tax havens are only palm fringed little islands and exposing that in fact major economies play a key role in global tax avoidance. Specifically they’ve […]

READ MORE →

Launch of international research collaboration, #AltAusterity

alt austerityToday is the launch of #AltAusterity, a new, international research collaboration of which Tax Justice Network is a partner.  The project aims to stimulate public debate on the subject of austerity though high quality research. It is a response to the lack of evidence which has underpinned the current policy agenda on austerity. The project […]

READ MORE →

RB tax avoidance – company calls for public country by country reporting after Oxfam report reveals profit shifting

pictureOxfam has today released a report on tax dodging by RB, the company formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser and the maker of thousands of well known household products. The report looks at the 2012 restructuring of the company which saw it set up ‘hubs’ in the Netherlands, Dubai and Singapore, all well known corporate tax […]

READ MORE →

Half measures mean Mauritius will continue to be a tax haven for the developing world

MauritiusThere was news this week that Mauritius has signed the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI). This is an initiative from the OECD to allow countries to take measures designed to stop tax avoidance by multinational companies and put them into their existing network of […]

READ MORE →

G20: Pressure rising on tax haven USA

HamburgWhilst the eyes of the world focused on the isolation of the US from the ‘G19’ position on climate change, something remarkable played out elsewhere in the process. Following closely the common EU position that we highlighted a few days ago, the G20 communique devotes important space to tax justice. It’s so good we quote […]

READ MORE →

About The Author

John Christensen

Trained as a forensic auditor and economist, he has worked in many countries around the world, including a period of working in offshore financial services with Touche Ross & Co. For 11 years he was economic adviser to the government of the British Channel Island of Jersey. In 2003 he became what the Guardian has described as “the unlikely figurehead of a worldwide campaign against tax avoidance.” His research on offshore finance has been widely published in books and academic journals, and John has taken part in many films, television documentaries and radio programmes.
View all posts by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top