Moerman, Lee and van der Laan, Sandra, 2007, Pursuing shareholder value: the rhetoric of James Hardie, Accounting Forum, 31(4), 354-369.
In this paper we analyse the media release by James Hardie Industries Limited (JHIL) announcing the establishment of a separate entity to fund current and future asbestos litigation claims using the interpretive tool of rhetorical criticism. At the centre of the corporate reorganisation which alienated asbestos-related liabilities from the corporate group was the concept of shareholder value. This concept was presented as an unequivocal rationale to persuade the public that the reorganisation would resolve the asbestos liability issue and benefit both shareholders and legitimate asbestos claimants alike. Accounting is implicated by the use of accounting concepts such as assets and liabilities to persuade stakeholders of the financial viability of the new entity. These concepts were presented as objective and unproblematic without consideration of the nuances of accounting measurement, recognition and disclosure criteria. Using an organisational discourse analysis framework, the media release is ‘dismantled’ to expose the rhetorical strategies used to create particular understandings and to privilege certain interests. The analysis demonstrates the power of a single textual artefact to harness and influence strategic possibilities and serve an organisational strategy.