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Activist Investing Today: SMU's Goodwin on CEO Lobbying Group

By Ronald Orol
Published: January 22nd, 2021
Shane Goodwin, the chief of the Applied Corporate Governance Institute, says Milton Friedman’s 1970 doctrine of shareholder primacy is misunderstood and that the Business Roundtable’s recent ‘stakeholders’ statement of purpose may have a hard time withstanding the next recession.

A new widely circulated statement of purpose issued by the Business Roundtable, a lobby group of big corporate executives, may have a difficult time surviving the next financial recession.

That’s the perspective of Shane Goodwin, associate dean and professor in the Department of Finance at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. Goodwin spoke with The Deal for its Activist Investing Today Podcast about the statement, which put the generation of long-term value for shareholders at the bottom of a list that discusses the importance of customers, employees, suppliers and communities.

The shift is controversial because the group’s previous statement of purpose puts shareholders first.

Goodwin, who is the managing director of the Applied Corporate Governance Institute at the Center for Global Enterprise, suggested it may be hard to make employees and communities a priority when it comes time to make difficult decisions about preserving cash and running the business in a “demand-starved” market.

“You are going to have to trade things off,” Goodwin said. “What becomes the priority when you are losing money in a difficult time? Will your shareholders be satisfied that you’ve lost a lot of free cash flow, missed earnings and can’t get the business turned around but you’ve improved on some metrics maybe around environmental issues? I’m not diminishing environmental issues — they are important — but what is important when the business is losing money and you have to lay off employees? Lets see what the tradeoff is.”

Here’s the podcast:

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