Motives and Fiduciary Loyalty

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American Journal of Jurisprudence


How, if at all, do motives matter to loyalty? We have argued that loyalty (and the duty of loyalty in fiduciary law) has a cognitive dimension. This kind of "cognitivist" account invites the counterargument that, because most commercial fiduciary relationships involve financial considerations, purity of motive cannot be central to loyalty in the fiduciary context. We contend that this counterargument depends on a flawed understanding of the significance of motive to loyalty. We defend a view of the importance of motivation to loyalty that we call the compatibility account. On this view, A acts loyally toward B only if A's motives are compatible with A's robustly assigning non-derivative significance to the interests of B. We show that the compatibility account describes the motivational structure of fiduciary loyalty and of loyalty as such. This account provides a realistic picture of motivation and helps respond to two broader criticisms of cognitivism: first, that attributing significance to motivation is paradoxical; second, that attributing significance to motive would make fiduciary law impossible to administer. We also show that the compatibility account can help explain features of ineffective assistance of counsel jurisprudence under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which draws on the lawyer's duty of loyalty toward the client.


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