3.5.6.1 Directors’ Distribution of Wealth

In a capitalist economy, private investors launch companies to create wealth (3.2.1).  This wealth is shared between the investors, employees and the government – but the amount received by each is determined in separate negotiations:

  • The board of directors distributes much of the profits: as dividends to shareholders, as remuneration for the directors themselves, or retaining money to develop the business.
  • Shareholders can exercise some governance over the board but, particularly if they are able to move their money around quickly, tend not to ‘interfere’ even when the management performs poorly.
  • A widely admired theory, ‘maximising shareholder value’, has led to short-termism. The pay of many chief executives is linked to share price, so both they and the shareholders have an interest in increasing the share price – by such measures as cost-cutting or share buybacks – regardless of what might be best for the business in the medium to long term, as described in Steve Denning’s article: The Lure Of Short-Termism: Kill ‘The World’s Dumbest Idea’.
  • Remuneration for other employees is largely determined by the labour market (3.3.3), in accordance with supply and demand, though minimum wage policies (3.3.3.3) may play a part.
  • If loans have been taken out, the lenders receive a rate of interest which is largely determined by financial markets (3.3.4.1).
  • The government’s share (taken in tax) is politically negotiated (6.7.1), but businesses can influence government taxation policy by lobbying – as discussed later (6.4.5.2).

The balance of power between the participants in these negotiations has shifted over time, partly as a result of macroeconomic policies described earlier (3.3.8.5).  This has caused the sharing of wealth to change markedly, particularly since the 1980s – as reviewed in the next section (3.5.6.2).

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This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/3561a.htm