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Escalation in Decision-MakingThe Tragedy of Taurus$
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Helga Drummond

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198289531

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198289531.001.0001

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(p.158) 13 Withdrawal
Escalation in Decision-Making

Helga Drummond

Oxford University Press

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) invested over five years and 80 million pounds in Project Taurus. The market allegedly spent 400 million pounds in preparation for dematerialization plus countless hours of executive time spent in meetings and reading copious documentation. On March 12, 1993 the LSE publicly admitted that it had all been for nothing. This chapter examines the LSE board's decision to accept chief executive Peter Rawlins's recommendation to cancel Taurus. The actions of other players, including the market and the Taurus monitoring group, are also considered. The role of power in this decision is discussed. The resolution of the story is important because most of the escalation literature concentrates on persistence as distinct from withdrawal. Decision dilemma theory predicts that market forces eventually curb unwarranted persistence, while social-psychological theory asserts that market forces are often slow to act, that decision-makers persist with failing projects long after the rational point for withdrawal has been reached.

Keywords:   Project Taurus, London Stock Exchange, Peter Rawlins, power, market forces, escalation, persistence, withdrawal, decision dilemma theory, social-psychological theory

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