Fink vs Icahn: Who's right on corporate cash?

Larry Fink and Carl Icahn.
Adam Jeffery (L) and David Grogan (R) | CNBC

BlackRock Chief Larry Fink thinks companies should focus more on long-term results instead of boosting dividends or buying back stock to appease short-term interests, such as those demanded by activist investors. Billionaire corporate agitator Carl Icahn thinks too many businesses are run by incompetents who waste shareholder money and need to focus on short-term improvements.

Who's right?

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"Both" is the short—if obvious—answer from observers.

Corporate chief executive officers generally side with Fink on expanding a business for the long term.

"The theme of Mr. Fink just resonated with me. You're darn right we should innovate," said Bart Shuldman, CEO of TransAct Technologies, a $100 million public printer company based in Hamden, Conn.

"We need that, not only for shareholder value but we need it because we can then grow our companies, hire more people and get our economy going," Shuldman added. "If all we're doing is buying back stock and paying dividends, some people make out but it's not going to enhance the value of our companies and it's not going to do all that great for the country either."