How Economic Attention Deficit Disorder Infected the Corporate Boardroom

According to one widely reported study, three quarters of senior American corporate officials would not make an investment that would benefit a company over the long run if it would derail even one quarterly earnings report. Combine that with the fact that corporate officials and institutional investors commonly over-discount the future, meaning that they don’t fully appreciate returns on investments that are more than a few months away. For instance, the Bank of England has found that cash flows five years away are actually valued in the marketplace as if they were eight years away and cash flows 30 years in the future are not valued at all. “This is a market failure. It would tend to result in … long-duration projects suffering disproportionately… including infrastructure and high-tech investments… often felt to yield the highest long-term (private and social) returns and hence offer the biggest bang to future growth,” explained Andrew Haldane, the Bank’s Chief Economist.

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