The Case for Empowering Quality Shareholders

83 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2020 Last revised: 29 Oct 2020

See all articles by Lawrence A. Cunningham

Lawrence A. Cunningham

Quality Shareholders Group; George Washington University

Date Written: 2020


Special Note: This Article is part of The Quality Shareholder Initiative at the Center for Law, Economics and Finance (C-LEAF), at The George Washington University Law School, Prof. Lawrence A. Cunningham, Faculty Director.

Anyone can buy stock in a public company, but not all shareholders are equally committed to a company’s long-term success. In an increasingly fragmented financial world, shareholders’ attitudes toward the companies in which they invest vary widely, from time horizon to conviction. Faced with indexers, short-term traders, and activists, it is more important than ever for businesses to ensure that their shareholders are dedicated to their missions. Today’s companies need “quality shareholders,” as Warren Buffett called those who “load up and stick around,” or buy large stakes and hold for long periods.

While scholars in recent years have extensively debated indexers, short-term traders, and activists, they have paid scant attention to quality shareholders and their critical role in corporate finance and governance. This Article corrects this oversight by highlighting the quality shareholder cohort. Adding this fresh perspective confirms some of the angst about myopic short-termism on the one hand and ignorant indexing on the other, but rather than regulate related behaviors, the fresh perspective invites attention to empowering quality shareholders. In particular, rather than taxing short-term shareholders or passing through indexer voting rights to fund beneficiaries, this Article explains how companies could simply increase the voting power of their quality shareholders.

Keywords: index funds, passive investing, stewardship, engagement, activist shareholders, quality shareholders, Keynes. Graham, Buffett, shareholder power, shareholder voting, corporate governance, corporate finance, institutional investors, capital markets

JEL Classification: K22, G11, G23, G34, K22

Suggested Citation

Cunningham, Lawrence A., The Case for Empowering Quality Shareholders (2020). Brigham Young University Law Review, Forthcoming, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020-09, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2020-09, Available at SSRN:

Lawrence A. Cunningham (Contact Author)

Quality Shareholders Group ( email )

New York City
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

George Washington University ( email )

DC: 2000 H Street, NW
NY: 250 Vesey Street
United States
202-994-0732 (Phone)


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