The shareholder voice: British and American accents, 1890-1965

Rutterford, Janette (2012). The shareholder voice: British and American accents, 1890-1965. Enterprise & Society, 13(1) pp. 120–153.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/es/khr030

Abstract

This article discusses the interaction between directors and small shareholders who made up the majority of names on the share ledgers of many companies in both the UK and the USA. It is concerned with the period 1890–1965 and concentrates on the management/shareholder relationship in the context of the annual general meeting and shareholder activism. I argue that there were significant differences between shareholder activism in the UK and the USA, due to the difference in relative numbers of the shareholders themselves, to legal and geographic differences, to corporate culture, and to the earlier diffusion of shareholding in the UK compared to the USA. UK shareholders concentrated their interventions on management issues, as well as some social and labor matters. US shareholders, mostly through so-called ‘corporate gadflies’, concentrated their efforts on corporate governance issues, some of which were already enshrined in UK company law and practice.

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