Ownership, Agency and Trusteeship

Ownership, Agency and Trusteeship

Colin Mayer

Series number :

Serial Number: 

Date posted :

January 20 2020

Last revised :

January 20 2020
SSRN Share


  • company law • 
  • ownership • 
  • agency • 
  • trusteeship • 
  • purpose • 
  • performance

This article argues that the two dominant concepts of theory of the firm and the bases of modern management education, business practice, and public policy towards the firm, namely shareholder primacy and agency theory, are at best incomplete and at worst erroneous.

They omit what was a substantial basis of discourse on the company in the first half of the 19th century, namely the notion of trusteeship. The article argues that reintroducing trusteeship addresses many of the current debates around capitalism, explains the bewildering patterns of ownership observed around the world, accounts for the recent failures of capitalism, and is a potential source of enhancing firm performance in the future.


Real name:
Fellow, Research Member
Blavatnik School of Government and Saïd Business School, University of Oxford