Like many corporate law teachers, I have mixed views about the old chestnut of Dodge v. Ford. On the one hand, it’s very quotable. On the other, shareholder wealth maximization is a normative goal, not a rule with teeth. Still you go to war with the data you have.
Now we’ve more data – useful for an exam fact pattern, at least! An alert student (thanks, C.M) found this choice quote in a recent interview of Wholefoods CEO John Mackey:
“JOHN MACKEY: I think that Whole Foods does have higher purposes. We take them very seriously. We don’t exist primarily to maximize profits.
We’re fulfilling the mission that we set for ourselves of helping people to live healthier lives, to hopefully reverse this obesity crisis we have in America. Whole Foods does feel this sense of responsibility to try to make a difference. And that filters through our team member base to our customers. We really are united around kind of our mission as an organization. That really makes a difference.”
Now, obviously this is a branding statement – which could be interpreted as a way to make money by convincing customers to pay more for fruit than they ought to. And maybe nothing Mackey says should be taken very seriously. See, e.g., fascism & sockpuppets. Indeed, he’s certainly said CSR-like things like this before. But it’s still striking to see a CEO say essentially what Henry Ford said (and was punished for saying) in Ford v. Dodge. In the interview, Mackey also was asked about why his perspective is rarely articulated by CEOS. Check out his answer after the jump.