Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Scrap quarterly reporting

This week’s Economist (requires subs.) has an interesting article on the balance of power between shareholders and managers, in which the paper makes an original proposal (emphasis mine):
Boards of directors could be much tougher with themselves, for instance by scrapping the poison pills that are designed to inhibit the market for corporate control by entrenching ownership (and, typically, managers, too). Similarly, both owners and managers need to think through what is the right way to assess performance and then reward or punish it. Part of the problem is public markets' obsession with quarterly results, which presses managers to pursue meaningless targets rather than think about what is best for the company—one reason why private equity has become more popular in the corporate world. So here's a thought: why not make the whole board stand for re-election under majority voting every two or three years, but leave it to get on with the job in the interstices by scrapping quarterly reporting? Shareholders could challenge incumbents in the meantime only through a hostile takeover bid. That might be just the recalibration American capitalism needs.
Do read the whole thing. Can you imagine what an uproar scrapping quarterly results would cause? Keeping in mind that the Dutch East India Company – the first true publicly traded, limited liability company, founded in 1602 – initially reported financial results (if memory serves) every twenty years or so, should help us keep things in perspective.
When justified, I quite like these bold proposals: let's shake things up!

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