In “A Radical Proposal for Improving Capitalism” (Other Voices, June 16), Eric A. Posner and E. Glen Weyl repeat the venerable observation of Adolph Berle and Gardiner Means (in The Modern Corporation and Private Property, published in 1932) that in corporations, “ownership was separated from control,” where the shareholders are seen as principals and the management as hired agents. But this is old news.
The fundamental structure of corporations has changed little since 1932, but the structure of capital markets has changed a lot. In addition to the concentration of voting power that Posner and Weyl reasonably worry about, a more fundamental problem is that we now have an additional, dominating layer of agents: the investment managers. The result is a further separation: that of ownership from voting. The hired employees of the investment-management firms control the votes, and claim to be stockholders, but in fact they are merely agents with other people’s money.
What do those other people, the real owners, have to say in contrast to whatever their hired agents may think? Those may not be at all the same. If you don’t like agents being in control in the one case of separation, why would you like them being in control in the other?