The corporate governance arrangements of U.S. public companies have been transformed over the past four decades. Independent directors now dominate boards (at least numerically), activism by shareholders has become more prevalent and executive pay has become more lucrative and more performance-oriented. The changes have been accompanied by a new nomenclature—the term “corporate governance” only came into general usage in the 1970s. How and why did this transformation of corporate governance come about? Delaware and the Transformation of Corporate Governance, which is based on the 2014 Francis G. Pileggi lecture, addresses these questions by assessing Delaware’s impact on key corporate governance trends.
Posts Tagged ‘Brian Cheffins’
In The Race to the Bottom Recalculated: Scoring Corporate Law Over Time we undertake a pioneering historically-oriented leximetric analysis of U.S. corporate law to provide insights concerning the evolution of shareholder rights. There have previously been studies seeking to measure the pace of change with U.S. corporate law. Our study, which covers from 1900 to the present, is the first to quantify systematically the level of protection afforded to shareholders.
The primary function of corporate governance in the United States has been to address the managerial agency cost problem that afflicts publicly traded companies with dispersed share ownership. Berle and Means threw the spotlight on this type of agency cost problem—using different nomenclature—in their famous 1932 book The Modern Corporation and Private Property. Nevertheless, it was only in the 1970s that the now ubiquitous corporate governance movement began. Why did the corporate governance movement gain momentum in the U.S. when it did? And given its belated arrival, why did it flourish during ensuing decades?
“Leximetrics,” which involves quantitative measurement of law, has become a prominent feature in empirical work done on comparative corporate governance, with particular emphasis being placed on the contribution that robust shareholder protection can make to a nation’s financial and economic development. Using this literature as our departure point, we are currently engaging in a leximetric analysis of the historical development of U.S. corporate law. Our paper, Law and History by Numbers: Use, But With Care, prepared for a University of Illinois College of Law symposium honoring Prof. Larry Ribstein, is part of this project. We identify in this paper various reasons for undertaking a quantitative, historically-oriented analysis of U.S. corporate law. The paper focuses primarily, however, on the logistical challenges associated with such an inquiry.
The standard historical narrative is that the market for corporate control took on its modern form in the mid-1950s with the emergence of the cash tender offer. Our paper, The Origins of the Market for Corporate Control, which was prepared for a University of Illinois College of Law symposium honoring Prof. Larry Ribstein, pushes the story back to the beginning of the 20th century. Drawing primarily upon hand-collected data from newspaper reports, we show that were numerous instances during the opening half of the 20th century where a bidder sought to obtain voting control of targeted companies when the incumbent managers were opposed to change. Having documented that the most popular hostile bid technique initially was the purchasing of shares on the stock market we explain why cash tender offers came to dominate the market for control after World War II.
The general consensus is that the market for corporate control, a term coined by Henry Manne in the mid-1960s, only began to emerge as a meaningful corporate governance mechanism in the United States in the mid-1950s when the cash tender offer was initially deployed. Various observers have acknowledged the existence of a highly rudimentary pre-1950 market for corporate control but empirical analysis was lacking until a 2011 study of ours in which we used the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database to search major daily newspapers over the period 1900-1949 to identify “open market bids” (OMBs), these being instances where an attempt was made, without consent from a target company’s board, to buy sufficient shares on the stock market to acquire control of a public company. We revisit our findings in this paper, confirming there were 82 hostile bids for control launched by way of open market purchases of shares over the fifty year period.
Hedge funds first began engaging in the assertive form of shareholder activism for which they are renowned in the United States, and the United States is where hedge fund activism has become most firmly entrenched as part of the corporate governance landscape. Nevertheless, hedge fund activism is a global phenomenon, with companies in numerous countries being targeted. The United Kingdom, Japan and Canada are the three countries other than the U.S. where hedge fund activism has been most prevalent. The efforts of hedge fund activists in Britain and Japan have begun to capture the attention of academics (e.g. Iris Chiu, The Foundations and Anatomy of Shareholder Activism (2010) and John Buchanan, Dominic Chai and Simon Deakin, Hedge Fund Activism in Japan: The Limits of Shareholder Primacy (2012)). In the case of Canada, however, little has been said about hedge fund activism in the academic literature. Correspondingly in “Hedge Fund Activism Canadian Style,” recently published on SSRN, I describe the emergence of hedge fund activism in Canada, identify the legal and economic variables that account for its rise to prominence and offer predictions on whether the trend will be sustained.
Since the late 1990s, a “law and finance” literature emphasizing quantitative comparative research on the relationship between national legal institutions on the one hand and corporate governance and financial systems on the other has achieved academic prominence. An important tenet of the law and finance literature is that corporate law “matters” in the sense it does much to explain how durable and robust equities markets develop. While “law and finance” has an important forward-looking normative message, namely that countries must enact suitable laws to reach their full economic potential, the thesis that corporate law influences stock market development seems to be well-suited to offer insights into if, when and how a country develops a corporate economy widely held companies dominate. Law and finance thinking implies that this should not occur in the absence of corporate law providing significant stockholder protection. In Questioning “Law and Finance”: U.S. Stock Market Development, 1930-70, recently published on SSRN, we draw upon events occurring in the United States to cast doubt on this logic.
The role that regulation should play in the development of securities markets is much debated and a persistent lull in initial public offerings helped to prompt some deregulation through the enactment of the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. While the appropriate scope of public regulation of securities markets is a contentious issue and while the market for newly listed firms can be a bellwether for the development of public equity markets, the empirical literature on regulation of IPOs is small and generally inconclusive. In our paper, Regulating IPOs: Evidence from going public in London and Berlin published on SSRN, we use history to offer insights concerning regulation of IPOs and the development of public equity markets. In particular, we draw upon hand-collected Initial Public Offering (IPO) datasets to undertake a comparative study of the London and Berlin stock markets between 1900 and 1913, a period that coincides with the apogee of an era of global financial development unmatched until the end of the 20th century.
In contrast to most other countries, in both Britain and the United States, a hallmark of corporate governance is a separation of ownership and control in major business enterprises. Various theories that have been advanced to account for why patterns of ownership and control differ across borders, with the most influential being that the “law matters” in the sense that ownership dispersion is unlikely to become commonplace in public companies unless company law provides substantial protection to outside investors. As one of us has argued elsewhere, these theories do not explain effectively why a separation of ownership and control became the norm in the UK. In our paper “Ownership Dispersion and the London Stock Exchange’s ‘Two-Thirds Rule’: An Empirical Test”, recently published on SSRN we analyze a different law-related hypothesis concerning the evolution of ownership patterns and show that it similarly lacks substantial explanatory power.
In the paper Delaware’s Balancing Act, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine the decline in Delaware’s popularity as a venue for corporate litigation. The Delaware court system has functioned to a significant degree as a de facto “national” court for U.S. corporate law. Corporate disputes arising in Delaware courts frequently generate extensive press coverage. Delaware law is a central part of the business law curriculum in U.S. law schools and law students learning corporate law are exposed to a steady diet of Delaware case law. Official comments accompanying the Model Business Corporations Act (M.B.C.A.), a model set of laws prepared by the Committee on Corporate Laws of the Section of Business Law of the American Bar Association followed by 24 states, frequently refer to Delaware cases to provide examples or as a source of further explanation. Courts in M.B.C.A. states often rely on Delaware case law to clarify gaps in the M.B.C.A. and sometimes even cite Delaware jurisprudence in preference to M.B.C.A. court decisions.