Corporations are for Profit

Dodge v. Ford Motor Company, 204 Mich. 459, 170 N.W. 668 (Mich. 1919) is a case in which the Michigan Supreme Court held that Henry Ford had to operate the Ford Motor Company in the interests of its shareholders, rather than in a charitable manner for the benefit of his employees or customers. It is often cited as affirming the principle of “shareholder primacy” in corporate America.

The court upheld the order of the trial court requiring that directors declare an extra dividend of $19.3 million. It said the following:

“A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end. The discretion of directors is to be exercised in the choice of means to attain that end, and does not extend to a change in the end itself, to the reduction of profits, or to the non-distribution of profits among stockholders in order to devote them to other purposes…”