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Uncertainty, Dangerous Optimism, And Speculation: An Inquiry Into Some Limits Of Democratic Governance, Lynn A. Stout Jul 2012

Uncertainty, Dangerous Optimism, And Speculation: An Inquiry Into Some Limits Of Democratic Governance, Lynn A. Stout

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

People are often optimistic. Nearly fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, but one survey found that 100 percent of individuals planning to get married believed they would never get divorced. Most people think they drive better than the average driver, and at one university, ninety-four percent of professors placed themselves in the top fifty percent in terms of teaching skills. We often seem to think we are like the youth of Garrison Keillor’s fictional hometown Lake Wobegon, where “all the children are above average.”

This is not always a bad thing. Optimism can be advantageous. Without optimism, Columbus ...


New Thinking On "Shareholder Primacy", Lynn A. Stout Jan 2012

New Thinking On "Shareholder Primacy", Lynn A. Stout

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, many observers had come to believe that U.S. corporate law should, and does, embrace a "shareholder primacy" rule that requires corporate directors to maximize shareholder wealth as measured by share price. This Essay argues that such a view is mistaken.

As a positive matter, U.S. corporate law and practice does not require directors to maximize "shareholder value" but instead grants them a wide range of discretion, constrained only at the margin by market forces, to sacrifice shareholder wealth in order to benefit other constituencies and the firm itself. Although recent "reforms ...