Tag Archives: incentives

Stiglitz on shareholders’ mistreatment

A few days ago I published a book review of “The Roaring Nineties” by the Nobel prize Joseph E. Stiglitz. I wanted to share here some passages related to how shareholders, investors are mistreated by those who are supposed to work for them and how alignment of incentives play a role in this.

[On boards of directors] “Here again there was another conflict of interest. Boards are supposed to protect the interests of all shareholders. But some boards, whose members often receive large fees for membership and attendance, were frequently more concerned with pleasing the CEO than fulfilling their supposed fiduciary responsibilities.”

[On one-offs] “[executives] found ways to boost their earnings – through sam transactions which allowed them to book revenues even if they didn’t really have them, or by moving expenses off the books, or by using one-time write-offs (time and time again), to try to give the appearance of robust normal profits. Their objective was to create the appearance of alluring success […] and cash out before the world discovered the truth.”

[On incentives] “The bankruptcy report spoke of “numerous failures inadequacies and breakdowns in the multilayered system designed to protect the integrity of financial reporting system at WorldCom, including the board of directors, the audit committee, the company’s system of internal controls and the independent auditors”. The problem, I would argue, was deeper, and touched not only WorldCom: the problem was with incentives – for the management, and for those who were supposedly watching over management.”

[On the subject of fines] “They accepted fines of unprecedented levels […] but, in most cases, only after being assured that their CEOs would not do [jail] time. […] in many cases it was not the CEOs but the companies that paid them;  indeed, the fines imposed on corporations for such bad behavior represent a curious case where the victim is punished twice over. For ultimately, the shareholders – who have already been cheated by corporate management- bear the costs of such fines.

[On executives’ greed and regulation] “The deregulation mentality made the suggestion of increased government regulation […] an anathema. What worried many were shareholder suits, which they viewed as simply reflecting the rapacious greed of lawyers, not part of a system of checks and balances against the rapacious greed of corporate executives.”

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Water counters, water price and incentives

Take a look at the water counter in the picture below:

Water counter at hostel.

We found these water counters at the hostel we were lodged in Berlin. I immediately started taking note of how many litres I consumed in each of the showers I took. First one:

I checked in the internet and found references of average consumptions for showers between 80 and 120 litres. The following days I tried to save some water (of course without compromising the cleaning part :-)). The minimum consumption I had was of 34L, the rest in the end were around 42L.

In the process I discussed with Luca whether hotels could incentivize in some ways (other than displaying the counter at our sight) the saving of water by the guests. We thought of possible messages in the way of “the average guest consumes 100L per shower, see if you can use less water! Do it for the planet!”, or whether some discounts / surcharges could be offered / imposed to those consuming less / more water.

However, I checked water prices in France and in Toulouse and it is around 3.3€ per cubic metre (m3). That is, in 5 days, having seen the counter and having tried to minimize water consumption all I saved was about 0.38 m3 or about 1.25€… this is economically meaningless in comparison with the hotel bill.

At those prices, I guess all we could do is trying to save water out of our consciences and not driven by an economic drive (the same level of saving I achieved could mean ~35€ a year per person).

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Filed under Economy, Travelling