Wealth creation without domination. The fiduciary duties of corporations

R Claassen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Corporations wield power in today’s economies, and political theories of the corporation argue about the legitimacy conditions of corporate power. This paper argues in favour of a double-fiduciary theory for corporations. Based on a concession theory of markets, it sees all markets as authorized by states (in the name of society), for the purpose of creating economic value, or wealth. Hence corporations, as much as non-incorporated firms, have a fiduciary duty to the state/society to create wealth, in the competitive structure of the market. However, their pursuit of wealth often creates unbalanced relations of power between corporations and their stakeholders, which can at some point be classified as instances of domination. Therefore, corporations need to be subjected to a second fiduciary duty, i.e. not to dominate others in the economy. This duty is also, in the final instance, owed to the state/society. In an era when everyone can incorporate their business, states/societies can be interpreted as having, through corporate law, mandated shareholders as ‘proximate beneficiaries’, to incentivize corporations to create wealth. Now states/societies need to think about how to prevent corporations from dominating others. New mechanisms of accountability towards stakeholders and/or citizens as proximate beneficiaries are needed. Only in this way can corporations be effectively held to account for both of the fiduciary duties which characterize their normative status.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-338
Number of pages22
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Volume27
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2024

Keywords

  • Corporations
  • Domination
  • Fiduciary duties
  • Firms
  • Wealth creation

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