|The fifth power|
One of the forms of measuring the development of a country's capital market is the institutionalization of its savings. The more organized the assets of individuals, in the form of investment funds, pension funds or other collective investment mechanisms, the higher the chances of equilibrium in the relations between issuers and investors.
We have recently seen that the contribution of institutional investors may extend far beyond the development of markets. In the role of spokespeople for a collective group and strengthened by the size of the assets under their care, they have been showing themselves to be veritable drivers of social advancement. They breathe down the necks of companies and governments that ignore the environment and human rights. They refuse to support, even indirectly, such outrageous practices as child labor, torture or genocide. They seek allies to rally forces and pressure the bad guys. They change a society's course of history, backed by the accumulated power of all their members' savings.
Speaking of power, if the press does occupy the fourth estate in the hierarchy of powers in a democratic state, then it would be plausible to consider that the community of investors deserves the fifth. And if any of the four other spheres haven't yet acknowledged the importance of this new player, it's high time that they did so. Given the influence of investors on the paths taken by society and their ability to act for its development and ethics, the other forces should not undervalue them.
On this matter in Brazil, the executive and legislative branches don't seem very concerned with the strength of institutional investors. Take for example the episode where Brazil's pre-salt oil exploration rights were assigned to Petrobras (see story on page 20). The government's chosen manner of following through with this transaction will not only brutally dilute current investors' stakes in the company, it will also create a precedent for other controllers to do the same without paying any mind to minority shareholders.
This is just one example of the executive branch’s because-I-said-so attitude, something completely out of place in a globalized world where companies depend on competitive and diversified sources of capital for survival. If organized investors benefit the economic and social development of a country, governments should treat them with respect and acknowledge their rights, especially when the government is the controller and the investors are the minority shareholders.