We present first evidence about individual and institutional factors that guide board members of public companies around the world in addressing the fundamental strategic problem of dealing with shareholders and stakeholders. In a sample comprising nearly nine hundred board members from some fifty countries of origin, we confirm that these corporate leaders hold a principled, quasi-ideological stance towards shareholders and stakeholders, dubbed shareholderism. This stance associates with a personal value profile that emphasizes self-enhancement values and is also compatible with entrepreneurship. We further find that such shareholderism stances correlate with cultural orientations of egalitarianism and mastery that, respectively, reflect a societal view of all people as moral equals and endorse assertive change and domination of the physical and social environment. Our data further suggest that board members’ handling of such strategic dilemmas may be determined by legal factors. Although we do not observe a broad effect of the general style of the legal system as reflected in its legal origin, more specific rules that provide for social security and protect employees may be related to shareholderism.
Assistant Professor in Economics
Professor of Law and Director
Columbia Law School
Sterling Professor of Law
Yale Law School