Can technology help?

Our interests, as ultimate shareholders and stakeholders, are protected by a complex system operated by range of responsible people: auditors, trustees and regulators. This is not the place to pick apart the system, which has suffered some high-profile failures in recent years, but to ask if technology can help.

Accounts today are, almost without exception, held in electronic form. And today, practically every electronic device is connected. The computer on which the purchase ledger clerk in the corporation I indirectly own enters details of her chief executive’s expenses is connected to the same Internet to which my mobile phone connects. Every account in every corporation (indeed, every document) is a digital resource which I could, if the network were so configured, read on my phone. Would that same chief executive be more measured in his use of his expense account if he knew that every detail could be read by every shareholder, not some years later in discovery at trial but today, perhaps even as soon as he enters the PIN code for his corporate credit card in the restaurant at which he has entertained – we know not whom – to an egregiously long lunch?

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