There are two main views about what the corporation’s duties are. The first view—maximizing profits—is the prevailing view among business managers and in business schools. This view largely follows the idea of Milton Friedman that the duty of a manager is to maximize return on investment to the owners. In essence, managers’ legally prescribed duties are those that make their employment possible. In terms of the legal organization of the corporation, the shareholders elect directors who hire managers, who have legally prescribed duties toward both directors and shareholders. Those legally prescribed duties are a reflection of the fact that managers are managing other people’s money and have a moral duty to act as a responsible agent for the owners. In law, this is called the manager’s fiduciary duty. Directors have the same duties toward shareholders. Friedman emphasized the primacy of this duty in his writings about corporations and social responsibility.
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Shareholders and Stakeholders