Article | Harvard Business Review | July–August 2012

What Good Are Shareholders?

by Justin Fox and Jay W. Lorsch


The article looks at the role outside shareholders play in corporate governance in the U.S., and the relationship between companies' shareholders and managers, as of 2012. It recounts the shift beginning in the 1970s toward shareholders claiming an increasing amount of power relative to corporate managers. The authors argue that shareholders have not benefited much from the trend. They suggest that shareholders as a category are not well positioned to guide corporate decisions or to discipline management. They also discuss problems in two other roles shareholders play with respect to corporations, as a source of funds and as aggregators of information about corporations by way of their decisions to buy or sell stock.

Keywords: corporate governance; shareholder activism; Business and Shareholder Relations; Investment Activism; Corporate Governance; Decision Making; Managerial Roles; United States;


Fox, Justin, and Jay W. Lorsch. "What Good Are Shareholders?" R1207B. Harvard Business Review 90, nos. 7-8 (July–August 2012): 49–57.