Companies abuse & shareholders don’t give a sh*t?

Twitter can be a bit like the Wild West where people shoot from the hip at anything that moves before they ask questions.  I came across the tweets below from someone with a large following (my emphasis):

“… private companies … just abuse because their loyalty is to shareholders.

Shareholders are usually a tiny minority of people who don’t give a shit so long as their dividend comes in”

You may think that is an emotive & inaccurate generalisation.  Here are some interesting stats from the Dept for BIS (Oct 2011):

There are 4.5 million small businesses in the UK (including 6,000 companies).

SMEs (up to 249 employees) account for 99 per cent of of all enterprise in the UK, 58.8 per cent of private sector employment and 48.8 per cent of private sector turnover.

SMEs employed an estimated 13.8 million people and had an estimated combined annual turnover of £1,500 billion

A vast majority of the SME companies/businesses are owner-operated, ie the owners/shareholders also work in them. The small family-owned butchers down the road, the IT consultant with a tax efficient corporate vehicle & a couple of employees, GP surgeries, Ken Livingstone …  Do they abuse & don’t give a sh*t?  Hmmm.

Aha, but what the top 1% of enterprises in the UK – the large companies, the multi-national corporations, the newspapers, oil companies, banks (you get the picture). Surely, they abuse & their shareholders don’t give a sh*t except about dividends, right?

You may be surprised some of these shareholders are not “a tiny majority of people who don’t give a shit” as tweeted above.  Quick examples – John Lewis, the obvious one.  Less obvious – both the Church of England Commissioners & the RMT Union have large share investments in banks, financial services companies, multi-national corps & oil companies. The Church also had £2 million worth of shares in Murdoch’s News Corp until recently (yes you read that right).

And who else are shareholders in these large enterprises?  Well, insurance, life & pension companies – eg. Standard Life, Prudential (shareholders in G4S)  – which manage life, endowment & pension policies on behalf of tens of millions of us.  Not sure tens of millions count as a “tiny minority”.

Don’t the shareholders give a sh*t?  Do private companies just abuse?


About Art Li

Briefly, I am a lawyer, keen amateur photographer, dog lover and politics junkie but not a member of any party. Full details on Biography page. Follow me on Twitter @Art_Li.
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