IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/pra/mprapa/42307.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Financialization of the U.S. corporation: what has been lost, and how it can be regained

Author

Listed:
  • Lazonick, William

Abstract

The employment problems that the United States now faces are largely structural. The structural problem is not, however, as many economists have argued, a labor-market mismatch between the skills that prospective employers want and the skills that potential workers have. Rather the employment problem is rooted in changes in the ways that U.S. corporations employ workers as a result of "rationalization", "marketization", and "globalization". From the early 1980s rationalization, characterized by plant closings, eliminated the jobs of unionized blue-collar workers. From the early 1990s marketization, characterized by the end of a career with one company as an employment norm, placed the job security of middle-aged and older white-collar workers in jeopardy. From the early 2000s globalization, characterized by the movement of employment offshore, left all members of the U.S. labor force, even those with advanced educational credentials and substantial work experience, vulnerable to displacement. Nevertheless, the disappearance of these existing middle-class jobs does not explain why, in a world of technological change, U.S. business corporations have failed to use their substantial profits to invest in new rounds of innovation that can create enough new high value-added jobs to replace those that have been lost. I attribute that organizational failure to the financialization of the U.S. corporation. The most obvious manifestation of financialization is the phenomenon of the stock buyback, with which major U.S. corporations seek to manipulate the market prices of their own shares. For the decade 2001-2010 the companies in the S&P 500 Index expended about $3 trillion on stock repurchases. The prime motivation for stock buybacks is the stock-based pay of the corporate executives who make these allocation decisions. The justification for stock buybacks is the erroneous ideology, inherited from the conventional theory of the market economy, that, for superior economic performance, companies should be run to "maximize shareholder value". In this essay I summarize the damage that this ideology is doing to the U.S. economy, and I lay out a policy agenda for restoring equitable and stable economic growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Lazonick, William, 2012. "Financialization of the U.S. corporation: what has been lost, and how it can be regained," MPRA Paper 42307, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 29 Oct 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:42307
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/42307/1/MPRA_paper_42307.pdf
    File Function: original version
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. William Lazonick & Mariana Mazzucato, 2013. "The risk-reward nexus in the innovation-inequality relationship: who takes the risks? Who gets the rewards ?," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(4), pages 1093-1128, August.
    2. Frank Giarratani & Gene Gruver & Randall Jackson, 2007. "Clusters, Agglomeration, and Economic Development Potential: Empirical Evidence Based on the Advent of Slab Casting by U.S. Steel Minimills," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 21(2), pages 148-164, May.
    3. Louis, Henock & White, Hal, 2007. "Do managers intentionally use repurchase tender offers to signal private information? Evidence from firm financial reporting behavior," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 205-233, July.
    4. Dhammika Dharmapala & C. Fritz Foley & Kristin J. Forbes, 2011. "Watch What I Do, Not What I Say: The Unintended Consequences of the Homeland Investment Act," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(3), pages 753-787, June.
    5. Jensen, Michael C, 1986. "Agency Costs of Free Cash Flow, Corporate Finance, and Takeovers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 323-329, May.
    6. Fried, Jesse M, 2000. "Insider Signaling and Insider Trading with Repurchase Tender Offers," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt74m8n14z, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    7. Lazonick, William, 2002. "Innovative Enterprise and Historical Transformation," Enterprise & Society, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(01), pages 3-47, March.
    8. Randall W. Eberts & Erica L. Groshen, 1991. "Is this really a "white-collar recession"?," Economic Commentary, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Mar.
    9. Abowd, John M. & Haltiwanger, John C. & Lane, Julia & McKinney, Kevin Lee & Sandusky, L. Kristin, 2007. "Technology and the Demand for Skill: An Analysis of Within and Between Firm Differences," IZA Discussion Papers 2707, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Must we question corporate rule?
      by bbatiz in NEP-HIS blog on 2013-01-17 17:12:01
    2. Yes, McDonald's Can Do Better
      by ? in The American Prospect on 2013-12-06 22:42:00

    More about this item

    Keywords

    U.S. economy; employment; financialization; stock buybacks; executive pay; shareholder value; stock-market manipulation; income inequality; equitable and stable economic growth;

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • L21 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Business Objectives of the Firm
    • G35 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Payout Policy
    • G38 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:42307. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joachim Winter). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/vfmunde.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.