The Objective of the Firm

No discipline can develop cohesively over time without a unifying objective. The growth of corporate financial theory can be traced to its choice of a single objective and the development of models built around this objective. The objective in conventional corporate financial theory when making decisions is to maximize the value of your business or firm. Consequently, any decision (investment, financial, or dividend) that increases the value of a business is considered a 'good' one, whereas one that reduces firm value is considered a 'poor' one. While the choice of a singular objective has provided corporate finance with a unifying theme and internal consistency, it has come at a cost. To the degree that one buys into this objective, much of what corporate financial theory suggests makes sense. To the degree that this objective is flawed, however, it can be argued that the theory built on it is flawed as well. Many of the disagreements between corporate financial theorists and others (academics as well as practitioners) can be traced to fundamentally different views about the correct objective for a business. For instance, there are some critics of corporate finance who argue that firms should have multiple objectives where a variety of interests (stockholders, labor, customers) are met, while there are others who would have firms focus on what they view as simpler and more direct objectives such as market share or profitability.

Given the significance of this objective for both the development and the applicability of corporate financial theory, it is important that we examine it much more carefully and address some of the very real concerns and criticisms it has garnered: it assumes that what stockholders do in their own self-interest is also in the best interests of the firm; it is sometimes dependent on the existence of efficient markets; and it is often blind to the social costs associated with value maximization. In the next chapter, we will consider these and other issues and compare firm value maximization to alternative objectives.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

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Responses

  • rezene
    What are the financial objectives of a firm?
    8 years ago

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