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At Issue } essential reading

Businesses Aren't Charities, and We Don't Want Them to Be

Debora Spar
May 21, 2010

Like motherhood and apple pie, corporate social responsibility has achieved iconic status as a feel-good pursuit. Corporations around the world have embraced its charitable philosophy and created divisions devoted to its pursuit. The problem, however, is that corporate social responsibility — by design and definition — can only go so far. Because no matter how widely a firm defines its reach, and how generous its leadership grows, the primary objective of any for-profit firm in a capitalist system will still be as Friedman described it: to maximize the returns of its shareholders. Or at least not to engage in any activity that undermines those returns.

Landline Operators Qwest, CenturyTel to Merge

Apr 22, 2010

CenturyTel Inc. agreed Thursday to buy Qwest Comunications International Inc. in an all-stock deal valuing Qwest at about $10.6 billion—one of the biggest U.S. telecommunications deals in years. The merger will unite two of the country's largest landline phone companies, with operations in some 40 states across the country. It also represents a long-awaited consolidation play for Qwest, a remnant of the regional "Baby Bell" companies that has struggled to stay competitive with the national ascendancy of the wireless operations of AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc.

Steve Jobs: We're Hoarding Cash For 'Big, Bold' Moves

Feb 25, 2010

Apple held its shareholder meeting day today, and CEO Steve Jobs made an appearance. When asked about Apple's huge mountain of cash, he recited Apple's traditional line that he would rather have cash at his disposal instead of dividends or buybacks, Bloomberg reports.

Kraft to Sweeten Value of Cadbury Bid

Jan 18, 2010

Kraft is planning to raise the value of its £10.5bn hostile bid for Cadbury as early as Monday to more than 800p a share by adding more cash after investors rejected its initial offer. The US food group is considering taking advantage of Monday’s US public holiday, Martin Luther King Day – on which US stock markets are closed – to put forward a revised offer after its stock closed on Friday at $29.58, near 52-week highs.

Tiger Woods Scandal Cost Shareholders Up To $12 Billion

Dec 29, 2009

The sex scandal that engulfed Tiger Woods may have cost shareholders of companies endorsed by the world's No. 1 golfer up to $12 billion in losses, according to a study by two economics professors from the University of California, Davis.

Facebook Holders Tighten Their Grip

Jessica E. Vascellaro
Nov 25, 2009

Facebook Inc. took steps to solidify the control of founder Mark Zuckerberg and other existing shareholders in the event the social-networking company goes public. The closely held Silicon Valley firm, emulating one of Google Inc.'s well-known strategies, established a dual-class stock structure that would increase the voting power of Mr. Zuckerberg, who is the company's chief executive, and other existing shareholders if they hold onto their shares during an IPO.

How to Make Socially Responsible Investments Pay Off

Jeff Swartz
Sep 1, 2009

Every 90 days, I report to Wall Street and our shareholders on the financial health of our company--called to the carpet when results are bad, receiving a pat on the back (if memory serves) when numbers are good. Many years ago, we put corporate social responsibility on the agenda for these quarterly financial calls, because as a critical component of our effort to be a responsible business--fiscally and socially--it felt not only appropriate, but necessary. Guess how many times I've been called to the carpet by shareholders for not delivering satisfactory CSR results, or how often we've received a comment or question about our CSR programs on these quarterly calls? Never. The silence isn't an indication that we've perfected corporate responsibility--far from it--it's an indication that shareholders don't find CSR performance relevant.

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