The question of who calls the shots in companies has been vexed for many years. On paper, the shareholders should have the final say, after all they own the company. However, the reality of what really happens is not so straightforward. Company ownership is widely held in many cases—particularly amongst publicly-listed companies—so forming a common view amongst shareholders is difficult at best. Consequently, boards and CEOs have considerable scope to seize control, in order to pursue their own aims.
My observation is that shareholders are relatively happy to accept this situation when the going is good. However, when times are tough, or when the board or management pursues strategies that are not popular with shareholders, shareholders need to become more active. Shareholders need to ensure that boards represent their interests and that they deliver the results that shareholders want. It seems that some shareholders are starting to do just that, for a new "shareholder spring" appears to be occurring. Will it make a difference? Who knows. One thing seems clear though: passive shareholders will get their comeuppance.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and boardcraft; our place in the world; and other topics that catch my attention.