Shareholders & ‘the ADD society’

Andrew Ross Sorkin, the New York Times M&A columnist, CNBC “Squawk Box” co-host and author of Too Big to Fail, says we’re kidding ourselves when we say we want corporate leaders to think long-term. The problem, he says, is all of us.

“We are the ultimate ADD society,” Sorkin said today in a speech to the Association for Corporate Growth Kansas City chapter. Patience is nowhere to be found, and that goes for the stock market and demands it places on managements, he said:

We keep saying we want more shareholder democracy because we want executives to think long-term. The problem is not that the people in power are short-termists, it’s that we are short-term thinkers.

As Exhibit A, Sorkin cited the statistic that the average shareholder holds onto a stock for only 2.8 months. Less than one quarter. Of course, high-frequency automated trading turns stocks over in milliseconds, and multiple times every day. But even individual investors can be fast-moving and fickle:

I would love to find a way to get our country back to being an investing society, not a trading society.

Sorkin acknowledged there’s no sign of that happening anytime soon. (Coverage of the rest of what Sorkin had to say is here or here.)

The investor relations person in search of a patient investor, in this environment, is something like a mythical but tragic hero. Solutions, anyone?

© 2011 Johnson Strategic Communications Inc.

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