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Nadelle Grossman, Turning a Short-Term Fling into a Long-Term Commitment: Board Duties in a New Era, 43 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 905 (2010)

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43 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 905 (2010)


Corporate boards face significant pressure to make decisions that maximize profits in the short run. That pressure comes in part from executives who are financially rewarded for short-term profits despite the long-term risks associated with those profit-making activities. The current financial crisis, where executives at AIG and numerous other institutions ignored the long-term risks associated with their mortgage-backed securities investments, arose largely because those executives were compensated for the short-term profits generated by those investments despite their longer-term risks. Pressure on boards for short-term profits also comes from activist investors who seek to make quick money off of trading in stocks whose prices overly reflect short-term firm values.

Yet this excessive focus on producing short-term profits runs counter to the interests of non-short-termist investors, other corporate constituents, as well as our economy and society as a whole in creating corporate enterprises that are profitable on an enduring basis. Once again, the current financial crisis provides a lens through which we can see the distressing impact – both to individual businesses as well as to the entire U.S community - of an excessive focus on short-term profits.

I propose a solution to address this problem of short-termism. Under my proposal, directors would be required to make decisions that are in the long-term best interest of stockholders and the corporation under their fiduciary duties. I explain in the article why I propose fixing the short-termism problem through fiduciary duties as well as how, practically, my proposal would be implemented.

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