Please enjoy the following article from the Journal of Urban Affairs, available online.
Shareholder as client: Firms, markets, and the new business of planning, by Orly Linovski
Though there has been significant interest in the financialization of urban space, there has been little examination of the role of planning practitioners in these processes. Professional practices in publicly traded planning and engineering “megafirms”—global companies created through mergers and diversification—are marked by the influence of capital markets and shareholder value metrics, rather than traditional political and bureaucratic constraints. Drawing on analysis of corporate reports, political activity, and merger data, this research uses a financial lens through which to understand the changing nature of professional practices. The findings show that firms seek to influence funding decisions through activities such as lobbying and campaign finance, as well as more subtle strategies that draw on professional expertise. The imperative to increase shareholder value is driven down to the professional level, with tactics that integrate professional and entrepreneurial motives. With firms largely dependent on public-sector funding, this raises concerns about how tactics to increase shareholder value may conflict with both professional values and the public interest.