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Legal Theory

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Fiduciary Obligations; Promissory Obligations; Accidental Compliance;


This essay investigates the structure of fiduciary obligations, specifically the obligation of loyalty. Fiduciary obligations differ from promissory obligations with respect to the possibility of “accidental compliance.” Promissory obligations can be satis- fied through behavior that conforms to a promise, even if that behavior is done for inappropriate reasons. By contrast, fiduciary loyalty necessarily has an intentional dimension, one that prevents satisfaction through accidental compliance. The intentional dimension of fiduciary loyalty is best described by what we call the “shaping” account. This account both explains the conscientiousness that loyalty demands and improves on other accounts of the intentional dimension of loyalty. Our analysis challenges two of the most prominent ways of conceptualizing fiduciary obligations. “Contractarianism” configures fiduciary obligations as a species of contractual duties. The view that we call “proscriptivism” reduces fiduciary obligations to the juridical prohibitions that apply to fiduciaries. Neither of these approaches is satisfactory, because each neglects the intentional dimension of fiduciary loyalty.

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Contracts Commons