William Lazonick, professor emeritus of economics at University of Massachusetts, is co-founder and president of the Academic-Industry Research Network, a 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is an Open Society Fellow and a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Fellow.Over the past decade, the Institute for New Economic Thinking has funded a number of his research projects.

He has professorial affiliations with SOAS University of London and Institut Mines-Télécom in Paris. Previously, Lazonick was assistant and associate professor of economics at Harvard University, professor of economics at Barnard College of Columbia University, and distinguished research professor at INSEAD in France. Lazonick earned his B.Com. at the University of Toronto, M.Sc. in Economics at London School of Economics, and Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard University. He holds honorary doctorates from Uppsala University and the University of Ljubljana.

His research focuses on the social conditions of innovation and economic development in advanced and emerging economies. His book Sustainable Prosperity in the New Economy? Business Organization and High-Tech Employment in the United States (Upjohn Institute 2009) won the 2010 Schumpeter Prize. He has twice—in 1983 and 2010—had the award from Harvard Business School for best article of the year in Business History Review. In 2014, he received the HBR McKinsey Award for outstanding article in Harvard Business Review for “Profits Without Prosperity: Stock Buybacks Manipulate the Market and Leave Most Americans Worse Off.” In January 2020, Oxford University Press published his book, co-authored with Jang-Sup Shin, Predatory Value Extraction: How the Looting of the Business Corporation Became the U.S. Norm and How Sustainable Prosperity Can Be Restored.

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Featuring this expert

The Myth of Maximizing Shareholder Value

Video | Jan 22, 2014

Lazonick discusses how we evolved from a society in which corporate interests were largely aligned with those of broader public purpose into a state where crony capitalism, accounting fraud, and corporate predation are predominant characteristics.

Lazonick and Shin's INET funded research is cited in Naked Capitalism

News Jan 26, 2021

“In taking over industrial companies, financial managers focus on the short run, because their salary and bonuses are based on current year’s performance. The “performance” in question is stock market performance. Stock prices have largely become independent from sales volume and profits, now that they are enhanced by corporations typically paying out some 92 percent of their revenue in dividends and stock buybacks.[6]” — Michael Hudson, Naked Capitalism [6]William Lazonick, “Profits Without Prosperity:Stock Buybacks Manipulate the Market and Leave Most Americans Worse Off,”Harvard Business Review, September 2014. And more recently, Lazonick and Jang-Sup Shin, Predatory Value Extraction: How the Looting of the Business Corporation Became the U.S. Norm and How Sustainable Prosperity Can Be Restored(Oxford: 2020).

INET funded research by William Lazonick is cited in the Wall Street Journal

News Dec 7, 2020

“Critics led by William Lazonick, economics professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, say buybacks starve companies of cash for innovation and worker pay, and favor executives aiming to jack up the stock prices because their compensation is increasingly stock-based. The buyback trend has become controversial since a 2014 article by Prof. Lazonick in the Harvard Business Review, “Profits Without Prosperity.” The S&P 500 companies that had been publicly listed from 2003 through 2012, he found, had spent amounts equal to 54% of their earnings for buybacks and 37% for dividends, leaving “very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.” — Randall Smith

INET working paper on how maximizing shareholder value led to minimizing national interests is cited in The American Prospect

News Dec 7, 2020

“If companies continue to prioritize maximizing shareholder wealth at the expense of other key stakeholders, and at the expense of investing in innovation, then the Green New Deal could reinforce long-standing income and wealth inequities and the decline in innovation in the U.S. economy (for an important example, Bill Lazonick and Matt Hopkins document how maximizing shareholder value minimized the strategic national stockpile for ventilators and personal protective equipment).” —Lenore M Palladino