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.
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Dec. 19, 2013, 10:42 a.m.

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 share­hold­ers — from 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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