Cultivating Quality: Ten Tools Managers Can Use to Get Long-Term Committed Shareholders

44 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2020

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

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.

Considerable effort goes into forging tools a corporation can use to shape its shareholder base. Much effort is geared toward promoting long investor time horizons, presumed to be a valuable but rare appetite among many shareholders. Less attention has been focused on promoting greater commitment, though attracting shareholders willing to stake large percentages of their portfolio in a given company’s stock may prove way more valuable than having numerous large index funds on the shareholder list.

In three ways, this article adds to the toolkit on shareholder cultivation. First, this article stresses that a shareholder’s relative portfolio concentration in a particular company’s stock is as important as average holding periods. Such an orientation is unusual in corporate life. But today’s world is dominated by index fund investors whose portfolio diversification limits their ability to act as informed shareholders. A focus on relative portfolio concentration is therefore becoming critical.

Second, this discussion introduces, and is motivated by, new evidence showing a correlation between a high density of such shareholders and superior corporate performance. In fact, shareholders exhibiting both traits—patience and conviction—have long been cultivated by an elite group of companies whose long-term performance has benefited. The most famous is Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and there are scores of other less famous but equally accomplished.

Third, focusing on such quality shareholders, as Buffett long ago dubbed them, this article offers numerous tools a corporation may use to achieve a shareholder base with a high density of quality shareholders. These include communications strategies, such as stressing long-term performance metrics in corporate disclosure, and substantive practices, such as prioritizing the art of capital allocation. Managers and quality shareholders themselves are the target audience.

Keywords: index funds, passive investing, stewardship, engagement, activist shareholders, quality shareholders, annual meetings, shareholder letters, quarterly calls, accounting information, stock splits, capital allocation, spin-offs, dual class capital, shareholder voting

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

Suggested Citation

Cunningham, Lawrence A., Cultivating Quality: Ten Tools Managers Can Use to Get Long-Term Committed Shareholders (2020). Ohio State U. Business Law Journal (2020), GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020-60, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2020-60, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3690945

Lawrence A. Cunningham (Contact Author)

George Washington University ( email )

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

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.gwu.edu/gw-in-ny

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