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Want to Control a 17-Year-Old's Decisions? Now's Your Chance! Want to Control a 17-Year-Old's Decisions? Now's Your Chance!

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Want to Control a 17-Year-Old's Decisions? Now's Your Chance!

A group of shareholders is voting to decide whether to take command of a young man's life.

This is what 17-year-olds look like, according to stock photography.(Shutterstock)

photo of Matt  Berman
December 19, 2013

Mike Merrill is a publicly traded person. Since his IPO in 2008, most of Merrill's major life decisions have been run by a board of shareholdersfrom whom he can date to what kind of hair he can grow on his face. Now, Merrill would like to bring his shareholders to a 17-year-old named Jackson Gariety.

This may sound completely crazy, but before you decry the state of our poor dystopian world, consider this: Weren't we all kind of, if we're being generous, idiots at age 17? Maybe what we could've used, aside from an occasional kick in the shins, is semi-binding advice from a large group of people with a stake in our future.

Just look at what's happened to Mike Merrill. The reason he's now trying to push his shareholders' decisions onto a new person is because he's been too busy since his board voted for him to quit his job and start his own company this past March. The job change, which only one shareholder voted against, was a "huge boost of confidence," Merrill told National Journal this fall. It's the kind of confidence that could, theoretically at least, be beneficial for a freshly minted adult.

 

Jackson Gariety, like Merrill, wouldn't be legally required to do anything Merrill's shareholders voted for. So don't expect a moral dilemma if shareholders ask Gariety to kill. As Merrill put it to NJ this fall, he is only beholden to his shareholders as much as he wants his share price to be high. And, presumably, if he were to refuse to obey an order from his board, prices would collapse. So it's in the best interest of everyone to make decisions that would actually be the most beneficial to Merrill's, or Gariety's, life.

Of course, a lot of what a group of shareholders here would be doing for Gariety is taking the advisory role of a group of friends. Merrill's rule for questions he'd put to shareholders is basically, "Anything I would normally ask my friends for advice for, I'd go to the shareholders and ask questions there."

The difference is, unless he wants his market to tank, he has to take his shareholders' advice. It helps to make tough decisions a little bit simpler. For a 17-year-old, that could be just the right thing.

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