stronger, with credibility that is not easily shaken even as they make false or prejudicial claims, their lack of such mechanisms of accountability, apart from legal provisions within states against fraud, becomes a more serious issue.15
Firms, including media firms, may be limited in some ways by their own stockholders, but there is little reason to believe that stockholders will object to behavior that benefits the firm at the expenses of outsiders. So stockholders do not substitute for effective external accountability. Firms are subject to domestic supervisory and legal accountability, but at the global level they are only subject to market and reputational accountability, in the absence of effective international regulation. The latter forms of accountability are linked. Firms with brand names to protect may be quite vulnerable to consumer boycotts, as the movement against sweatshops, focused for a time on Nike, demonstrated. Media firms are particularly subject to reputational accountability. Commenting on the resignations of the two top editors of the New York Times in June 2003, a commentator observed: “They, of course, had to resign. Any company has to sell the credibility of its product, but a media company has nothing else to sell.”16 Firms whose reputations suffer because of their real or alleged behavior are likely also to suffer in the marketplace. They may therefore have incentives to adopt codes of conduct in order to protect both their reputations and their market share (Garcia-Johnson 2000).
A recent systematic analysis of accountability by the One World Trust (2003) rates various multilateral organizations, multinational firms, and NGOs on eight criteria, four each relating to “internal stakeholder accountability” and “external stakeholder
15 See “The Democratic Accountability of Non-Governmental Organizations,” symposium proceedings published in the Chicago Journal of International Law, vol. 3, no. 1 (spring 2002).
16 The quote is from Warren L. Batts, Adjunct Professor at the University of Chicago School of Business. New York Times, June 6, 2003, p. A 28.