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The ethical implications of ignoring shareholder directives to remove antitakeover provisions

Business Ethics Quarterly 18 (3):321-346 (2008)
Abstract
Managers have a unique fiduciary responsibility to shareholders of a firm that implies a set of ethical obligations. At a minimum, managers are required to protect shareholder’s interests when other stakeholders are unaffected by their decision. This ethical imperative has been established in the literature. In cases of conflicts of interest between managers and shareholders, the board of directors of the firm has an ethical obligation to shareholders. The structure of the boardcan affect its ability to fulfill this obligation. Two specific cases where managerial actions have been argued to be unethical are the adoption of classified boards and poison pills. In this study, we empirically analyze the role of board structure in protecting shareholder rights in the specific case of antitakeover provisions. We test this question on a sample of firms whose shareholders have voted to remove antitakeover provisions and find that independent, focused boards are more likely to accede to shareholder resolutions than are less independent boards. Board size is also important and related to other board structures. We draw implications of this finding for future research on the ethics of board governance
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