Chapter 7 Shareholder responsibility in context
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This final chapter steps back from specific legal arguments to look at the emerging social, political and economic context within which companies and shareholders now operate. The chapter notes arguments that the three pillars of the western political and economic order in the 20th century liberalism, democratic government, and capitalism, have each come under pressure in the 21st century. Given that the corporation as an institution is a product of each of these three ideas, it asks whether companies can continue to operate 'as usual' in a context that is being constantly altered by worldwide phenomena including climate change, the global financial crisis, and the coronavirus pandemic. The chapter then looks at the renewal of thinking about 'corporate purpose' and considers how the idea of shareholder responsibility can play a part in this. In this light, the corporate governance paradigm, introduced in chapter 2, is reconsidered and reassessed. Finally, the chapter revisits the question of which shareholders should be subject to responsibility expectations. The story of share trading in the GameStop company is used to illustrate the persistence of stereotypes about shareholders and their purposes. It concludes that attention to shareholder responsibility is a necessary corrective.

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