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The evolution of the shareholder: legal change, deflection, and constancy

Sonin, Joanne F. (2021) The evolution of the shareholder: legal change, deflection, and constancy. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The equity shareholder occupies a central place in the development of the financial markets and its primacy is a core principle of UK company law. Changes in the shareholder body influence corporate behaviour and the relationships amongst stakeholders, impacting the legal and political efforts to govern industry and financial markets. This thesis examines the evolution of the shareholder body through the lens of British history, focusing on the period from 1945 and the post-war consensus through to the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Within this framework, several interconnected themes are considered. First, how the broader movements for democratisation influenced the treatment of shareholder interests and calls for stakeholder representation. Second, how the rhetoric of change created a narrative that deflected from the lack of systemic legal reforms and protected the status quo. Third, how, under the conditions of post-war reconstruction and consensus, attitudes towards equity ownership by the governing political parties deradicalised, which proved unsustainable with increasing industrial unrest and polarisation. Fourth, how during the post-war period the shareholder body was institutionalised, replacing direct investing by individual shareholders with indirect investing through institutions, with profound effects on industry, the financial markets, and the economy. With these themes as a foundation, this thesis follows the evolutionary arch of the postwar shareholder body and focuses on several key developments that influenced the treatment and perception of shareholder and stakeholder interests, including: i) post-war nationalisations; ii) shareholder democracy; iii) corporate purpose and shareholder primacy; and iv) industrial democracy, including worker shareholders and worker directors, and, the promise, and disappointment, that culminated in the Bullock Report. This study concludes with an examination of how the historical analysis of the post-war period provides tools for considering contemporary questions on shareholder primacy and stakeholderism, as well as the most recent demands for systemic legal reforms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Joanne F. Sonin
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Supervisor: Kershaw, David and Schuster, Edmund-Philipp

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