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Supreme court 
26th-Jan-2010 06:17 pm
slanty, martha
In honor of the recent supreme court opinion awarding first amendment rights to Corporations, I suggest that Google change its corporate motto from "Don't be Evil" to "Don't be Evil, except where doing Evil would increase shareholder value."

As far as I can tell, if a candidate promised a company a special tax break if elected, the corporation would have a fiduciary duty to its stockholders to contribute to his campaign, even if everyone in the company agreed that he would do a lousy job in office.

When deciding who to support with my money and my vote, I can selfishly choose the candidate who would do the most for me personally, or I can be altruistic, and support the candidate that I think would do the best job for everyone. But a corporation doesn't have that choice; now that it's legal for them to give campaign contributions, they are legally obligated to contribute to which ever candidate will do what's best for the corporation.

How can this be a way to run a democracy?
27th-Jan-2010 12:08 am (UTC)
That's kind of the beauty of the Google charter. It is explicitly allowed for management to make choices that do not necessarily positively impact shareholder value. I remember back when Google went public they basically said "ok, here are the terms of this stock issue: we're going to do it the way we want to, and you all can suck it. We're going to do the right thing, even when it's not the most profitable thing." I was impressed back then, and never imagined I'd have a chance to work for such a place.

(This comment represents my personal views and does not reflect the stance of Google, Inc.)

I think that there is some leeway given to a "normal" corporation's leadership, though, if they come to the conclusion that that kind of contribution isn't the most efficient use for the funds. If, essentially, other investments would give a better return, they have the freedom to choose that path. And that's always going to be based on a purely subjective guess...

If corporations are allowed to give unlimited amounts to candidates, and individuals are still limited to $5000 or whatever the McCain-Feingold number was, does that even further increase the corporations' pull?
27th-Jan-2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
Can you give me a pointer to the charter you speak of? Googling (!)"Google Charter" gives too many hits about some program from Google that produces charts.

I'm not at all sure the SEC allows a for-profit public corporation abolish its fiduciary duty to its stockholders by fiat. In fact, I strongly suspect not. If corporations could legally do that, why wouldn't they all do so, and eliminate all risk of shareholder lawsuits?

I think a shareholder lawsuit has to prove negligence, rather than just that there is something they could have done which they could have known at the time, if they'd been smarter, would have worked out better. And Google could always argue, probably successfully, that the intangible value of their reputation as a non-evil company has more value than they'd gain by a particular evil act, so that the non-evil action maximizes long-term shareholder value. And this has a lot of validity; this reputation really is worth a lot to them. I wouldn't use Gmail and Googledocs if I didn't trust them, and I'm far from alone.

But I think that in theory, they could still be sued for anything legal they fail to do to increase shareholder value.

In case it wasn't 100% clear, my post was in no way intended as anti-google. It was anti-SCOTUS; my point was that corporations are legally required to be evil, and it's better not to have the government run, or bought, by evil persons.
27th-Jan-2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
Google's IPO Letter. Though, it doesn't seem as strongly worded as I remember getting the impression of back in the day. (At that time I had much less reason to pay close attention.)
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