The Decline and Rise of Fiduciary Obligations in Business

Fiduciary Obligations in Business (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)

39 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2021

Date Written: October 11, 2020


This chapter introduces Fiduciary Obligations in Business, a volume of specially commissioned essays on fiduciary law in the business context. The scholarship on fiduciary duties in business organizations has a Janus-faced character. On the one hand, few would disagree that business organizations are one of the key contexts for the application of fiduciary duties. Yet the expressed attitude of much corporate law theory reflects increasing disdain for the role of fiduciary duties, the result of both doctrinal changes and the growth of contractarian scholarship. That marginalization of fiduciary law and theory is out of step with significant developments. In this introduction, we explain some of the ways in which the early, “pure" contractarian position on fiduciary duties has eroded. We suggest three primary critiques that have emerged over the past few decades: (1) market realism, which has brought more nuance and empirics to the contractarian position; (2) stakeholder and pluralist critiques, which emphasize business relationships beyond the shareholder-manager dyad; and (3) fiduciary traditionalism, which draws on philosophical and moral justifications for fiduciary duties. We situate our contributors’ chapters within that framework.

Keywords: fiduciary obligations, fiduciary duties, fiduciary law, corporate governance, business law

Suggested Citation

Russell, Jacob and Laby, Arthur B., The Decline and Rise of Fiduciary Obligations in Business (October 11, 2020). Fiduciary Obligations in Business (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming) , Available at SSRN:

Jacob Russell (Contact Author)

Rutgers Law School ( email )

Camden, NJ
United States

Arthur B. Laby

Rutgers Law School ( email )

217 North Fifth Street
Camden, NJ 08102
United States
856-225-6272 (Phone)
856-225-6516 (Fax)

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