On Value Maximization and Alternative Objectives of the Firm

Stiglitz, Joseph E.; Grossman, Sanford J.

The recent literature on firm behavior has been characterized by two contrasting strands of analysis: on the one hand, there is the literature attempting to extend the conventional maxims of profit maximization of competitive firms from the familiar static models to dynamic contexts and into situations of uncertainty. These analyses argue that firms should maximize their stock market value and explore the implications of this for firm behavior. On the other hand, there is the vast and growing "managerial" literature, in which other objectives, such as "satisficing," "sales maximizing," and "maximization of the manager's utility functions" are postulated. The second group of analyses criticize the first as being unrealistic, while the first argues that it provides the best "first approximation" to firm behavior: if firms did not maximize their stock market value, or deviated far from value maximization, someone would attempt to take them over, change the course of action of the firm, and make a pure capital gain. This paper presents a unified framework for analyzing firm behavior which can be used to reconcile these divergent views.



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Journal of Finance

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May 1, 2013