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2019

WP511: Fiduciary – Asymmetrical Power, Asymmetrical Care

Helen Mussell

The legal concept of fiduciary plays a fundamental role in all financial and business organisations. It acts as a moral safeguard of the relationship between trustee and beneficiary, ensuring that the beneficiaries’ best interests are met. It is often referred to as a duty of care. Originally formulated within familial law to protect property put into Trust, beneficiaries were women and children, allocated passive and subordinated roles. This paper investigates two aspects of the asymmetrical power relations central to the fiduciary. Firstly it reveals the gendered presuppositions regarding male and female agential capabilities on which the fiduciary is premised, drawing out the origins of the authority differential in the trustee-beneficiary relationship. Secondly, the paper engages with the ethical nature of the fiduciary relationship, arguing that Care Ethics offers a robust framework for explicating the history of the relationship, alongside delivering a morally-enhanced and future-fit fiduciary free of damaging gendered stereotypes.