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Towards a Fiduciary Capitalism Perspective on Business Ethics

Finance and Sustainability: Towards a New Paradigm? A Post-Crisis Agenda

ISBN: 978-1-78052-092-6, eISBN: 978-1-78052-093-3

Publication date: 7 October 2011


Andrew Williams and I have argued since the early 1990s that not only have equity (and subsequently most other assets classes) come to be dominated by institutional ownership of various types, an observation that many have made and documented at length, but that the majority of those institutions are fiduciary ones (primarily pension and mutual funds in the United States). More recently pension and mutual funds have been the source of the majority of funds for many ‘alternative’ investments, such as hedge funds, private equity and commodity funds. In the last two decades there have been parallel developments in other countries, although the form of the institutional investors vary widely, from fiduciary ones mostly in common law countries to fiduciary-like ones in many civil law jurisdictions (e.g. the Netherlands), to some sovereign wealth funds (e.g. Norway and Australia and some others) which do not have fiduciary obligations as such, but in their legal mandates and practices are structured much like those that are fiduciary or fiduciary like. As discussed below, all these (in addition to some other large institutional owners) are universal owners, that is, they own a representative cross section of their investment universe (which increasingly is a global universe). Given their ownership structure characterised by a large degree of diversification, universal owners' long-term interests to a large degree coincide with the economy as a whole.


Hawley, J.P. (2011), "Towards a Fiduciary Capitalism Perspective on Business Ethics", Sun, W., Louche, C. and Pérez, R. (Ed.) Finance and Sustainability: Towards a New Paradigm? A Post-Crisis Agenda (Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability, Vol. 2), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 19-37.



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