Hobby Lobby. A corporation doing good works. So it thinks. The Court thinks so too. Lynn Stout, in the NY Times Forum quoted the Supreme Court: “Modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not.”
Stout explains that corporate case law instructs corporate directors to use their powers in “the best interests of the company.” Which, she says “is not the same thing as either maximizing profits, or maximizing shareholder value.”
What are the best interests of the company, asks Stout? Is that knowable? Investors vary in their purposes. Some have longer term interests than others. Furthermore, investors care about their own jobs, their tax burdens, the quality of the products they buy, and the air they breathe.
Corporate directors are allowed to make business judgments. They have, Stout says, nearly absolute discretion. She quotes a Delaware case where directors declined a hefty sale price because, they said, holding on to the corporation would ultimately be good for the business.
Stout has a bogeyman. “ … activist hedge funds and modern executive compensation practices… drive … public companies to myopically focus on short-term earnings; cut back on investment and innovation; mistreat their employees, customers and communities; and indulge in reckless, irresponsible and environmentally destructive behaviors.”
If she is right, is there any accountability for these people?