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Mutual Fund Stewardship And The Empty Voting Problem, Jill E. Fisch Oct 2021

Mutual Fund Stewardship And The Empty Voting Problem, Jill E. Fisch

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

When Roberta Karmel wrote the articles that are the subject of this symposium, she was skeptical of both the potential value of shareholder voting and the emerging involvement of institutional investors in corporate governance. In the ensuring years, both the increased role and engagement of institutional investors and the heightened importance of shareholder voting offer new reasons to take Professor Karmel’s concerns seriously. Institutional investors have taken on a broader range of issues ranging from diversity and political spending to climate change and human capital management, and their ability to influence corporate policy on these issues has become more ...


Team Production Revisited, William W. Bratton Sep 2021

Team Production Revisited, William W. Bratton

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Article reconsiders Margaret Blair and Lynn Stout’s team production model of corporate law, offering a favorable evaluation. The model explains both the legal corporate entity and corporate governance institutions in microeconomic terms as the means to the end of encouraging investment, situating corporations within markets and subject to market constraints but simultaneously insisting that productive success requires that corporations remain independent of markets. The model also integrates the inherited framework of corporate law into an economically derived model of production, constructing a microeconomic description of large enterprises firmly rooted in corporate doctrine but neither focused on nor limited ...


The “Value” Of A Public Benefit Corporation, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon Apr 2021

The “Value” Of A Public Benefit Corporation, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

We examine the “value” a PBC form provides for publicly-traded corporations. We analyze the structure of the PBC form and find that other than requiring a designated social purpose it does not differ significantly in siting control and direction with shareholders. We also examine the purpose statements in the charters of the most economically significant PBCs. We find that, independent of structural limitations on accountability, these purpose statements are, in most cases, too vague and aspirational to be legally significant, or even to serve as a reliable checks on PBC behavior. We theorize, and provide evidence, that without a legal ...


Just Say Yes? The Fiduciary Duty Implications Of Directorial Acquiescence, Lisa Fairfax Mar 2021

Just Say Yes? The Fiduciary Duty Implications Of Directorial Acquiescence, Lisa Fairfax

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The rise in shareholder activism is one of the most significant recent phenomena in corporate governance. Shareholders have successfully managed to enhance their power within the corporation, and much of that success has resulted from corporate managers and directors voluntarily acceding to shareholder demands. Directors’ voluntary acquiescence to shareholder demands is quite simply remarkable. Remarkable because most of the changes reflect policies and practices that directors have vehemently opposed for decades, and because when opposing such changes directors stridently insisted that the changes were not in the corporation’s best interest. In light of that insistence, and numerous statements from ...


Stealth Governance: Shareholder Agreements And Private Ordering, Jill E. Fisch Mar 2021

Stealth Governance: Shareholder Agreements And Private Ordering, Jill E. Fisch

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Corporate law has embraced private ordering -- tailoring a firm’s corporate governance to meet its individual needs. Firms are increasingly adopting firm-specific governance through dual-class voting structures, forum selection provisions and tailored limitations on the duty of loyalty. Courts have accepted these provisions as consistent with the contractual theory of the firm, and statutes, in many cases, explicitly endorse their use. Commentators too support private ordering for its capacity to facilitate innovation and enhance efficiency.

Private ordering typically occurs through firm-specific charter and bylaw provisions. VC-funded startups, however, frequently use an alternative tool – shareholder agreements. These agreements, which have largely ...


Lifting Labor’S Voice: A Principled Path Toward Greater Worker Voice And Power Within American Corporate Governance, Leo E. Strine Jr., Aneil Kovvali, Oluwatomi O. Williams Feb 2021

Lifting Labor’S Voice: A Principled Path Toward Greater Worker Voice And Power Within American Corporate Governance, Leo E. Strine Jr., Aneil Kovvali, Oluwatomi O. Williams

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In view of the decline in gain sharing by corporations with American workers over the last forty years, advocates for American workers have expressed growing interest in allowing workers to elect representatives to corporate boards. Board level representation rights have gained appeal because they are a highly visible part of codetermination regimes that operate in several successful European economies, including Germany’s, in which workers have fared better.

But board-level representation is just one part of the comprehensive codetermination regulatory strategy as it is practiced abroad. Without a coherent supporting framework that includes representation from the ground up, as is ...


Reconsidering The Evolutionary Erosion Account Of Corporate Fiduciary Law, William W. Bratton Jan 2021

Reconsidering The Evolutionary Erosion Account Of Corporate Fiduciary Law, William W. Bratton

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Article reconsiders the dominant account of corporate law’s duty of loyalty, which asserts that the courts have steadily relaxed standards of fiduciary scrutiny applied to self-dealing by corporate managers across more than a century of history—to the great detriment of the shareholder interest. The account originated in Harold Marsh, Jr.’s foundational article, Are Directors Trustees? Conflicts of Interest and Corporate Morality, published in The Business Lawyer in 1966. Marsh’s showing of historical lassitude has been successfully challenged in a recent book by Professor David Kershaw. This Article takes Professor Kershaw’s critique a step further ...


The History And Revival Of The Corporate Purpose Clause, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2021

The History And Revival Of The Corporate Purpose Clause, Elizabeth Pollman

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The corporate purpose debate is experiencing a renaissance. The contours of the modern debate are relatively well developed and typically focus on whether corporations should pursue shareholder value maximization or broader social aims. A related subject that has received much less scholarly attention, however, is the formal legal mechanism by which a corporation expresses its purpose—the purpose clause of the corporate charter. This Article examines corporate purpose through the evolution of corporate charters. Starting with historic examples ranging from the Dutch East India Company to early American corporations and their modern 21st century parallels, the discussion illuminates how corporate ...


Synthetic Governance, Byung Hyun Anh, Jill E. Fisch, Panos N. Patatoukas, Steven Davidoff Solomon Jan 2021

Synthetic Governance, Byung Hyun Anh, Jill E. Fisch, Panos N. Patatoukas, Steven Davidoff Solomon

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Although securities regulation is distinct from corporate governance, the two fields have considerable substantive overlap. By increasing the transparency and efficiency of the capital markets, securities regulation can also enhance the capacity of those markets to discipline governance decisions. The importance of market discipline is heightened by the increasingly vocal debate over what constitutes “good” corporate governance.

Securities product innovation offers new tools to address this debate. The rise of index-based investing provides a market-based mechanism for selecting among governance options and evaluating their effects. Through the creation of bespoke governance index funds, asset managers can create indexes that correspond ...


Should Corporations Have A Purpose?, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon Jan 2021

Should Corporations Have A Purpose?, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Corporate purpose is the hot topic in corporate governance. Critics are calling for corporations to shift their purpose away from shareholder value as a means of addressing climate change, equity and inclusion, and other social values. We argue that this debate has overlooked the critical predicate questions of whether a corporation should have a purpose at all and, if so, what role it serves.

We start by exploring and rejecting historical, doctrinal, and theoretical bases for corporate purpose. We challenge the premise that purpose can serve a useful function either as a legal constraint on managerial discretion or as a ...


Restoration: The Role Stakeholder Governance Must Play In Recreating A Fair And Sustainable American Economy A Reply To Professor Rock, Leo E. Strine Jr. Dec 2020

Restoration: The Role Stakeholder Governance Must Play In Recreating A Fair And Sustainable American Economy A Reply To Professor Rock, Leo E. Strine Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In his excellent article, For Whom is the Corporation Managed in 2020?: The Debate Over Corporate Purpose, Professor Edward Rock articulates his understanding of the debate over corporate purpose. This reply supports Professor Rock’s depiction of the current state of corporate law in the United States. It also accepts Professor Rock’s contention that finance and law and economics professors tend to equate the value of corporations to society solely with the value of their equity. But, I employ a less academic lens on the current debate about corporate purpose, and am more optimistic about proposals to change our ...


Toward Racial Equality: The Most Important Things The Business Community Can Do, Leo E. Strine Jr. Oct 2020

Toward Racial Equality: The Most Important Things The Business Community Can Do, Leo E. Strine Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In this address, former Chief Justice Strine kicked-off an important series, the Conference on Racial Equity in Corporate Governance, co-sponsored by the Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Governance, Columbia Law School; the Institute for Law & Economics, University of Pennsylvania; the Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford University; and the Stanford Center for Racial Justice, Stanford Law School.

The address explains the importance of institutional investors and corporations contributing to ending the persistent inequality suffered by black Americans. And it focuses on the reality that we would have made huge strides toward closing the race gap if our corporate governance and political systems ...


Corporate Law And The Myth Of Efficient Market Control, William W. Bratton, Simone Sepe Jan 2020

Corporate Law And The Myth Of Efficient Market Control, William W. Bratton, Simone Sepe

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In recent times, there has been an unprecedented shift in power from managers to shareholders, a shift that realizes the long-held theoretical aspiration of market control of the corporation. This Article subjects the market control paradigm to comprehensive economic examination and finds it wanting.

The market control paradigm relies on a narrow economic model that focuses on one problem only, management agency costs. With the rise of shareholder power, we need a wider lens that also takes in market prices, investor incentives, and information asymmetries. General equilibrium theory (GE) provides that lens. Several lessons follow from reference to this higher-order ...


The Uncertain Stewardship Potential Of Index Funds, Jill E. Fisch Jan 2020

The Uncertain Stewardship Potential Of Index Funds, Jill E. Fisch

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Regulators and commentators around the world are increasingly demanding that institutional investors engage in stewardship with respect to their portfolio companies. Further, the demand for stewardship has broadened from an expectation that investors engage to reduce agency costs and promote economic value to a call for investors to demand that companies serve a broader range of societal interests and objectives. This chapter considers calls for stewardship in the context of the U.S. capital markets specifically as applied to index funds. It argues that, irrespective of the merits of institutional stewardship generally, the structure of index funds and the business ...


Private Company Lies, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2020

Private Company Lies, Elizabeth Pollman

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Rule 10b-5’s antifraud catch-all is one of the most consequential pieces of American administrative law and most highly developed areas of judicially-created federal law. Although the rule broadly prohibits securities fraud in both public and private company stock, the vast majority of jurisprudence, and the voluminous academic literature that accompanies it, has developed through a public company lens.

This Article illuminates how the explosive growth of private markets has left huge portions of U.S. capital markets with relatively light securities fraud scrutiny and enforcement. Some of the largest private companies by valuation grow in an environment of extreme ...


Shareholder Collaboration, Jill E. Fisch, Simone M. Sepe Jan 2020

Shareholder Collaboration, Jill E. Fisch, Simone M. Sepe

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Two models of the firm dominate corporate law. Under the management-power model, decision-making power rests primarily with corporate insiders (officers and directors). The competing shareholder-power model defends increased shareholder power to limit managerial authority. Both models view insiders and shareholders as engaged in a competitive struggle for corporate power in which corporate law functions to promote operational efficiency while limiting managerial agency costs. As scholars and judges continue to debate the appropriate balance of power between shareholders and insiders, corporate practice has moved on. Increasingly, the insider–shareholder dynamic is collaborative, not competitive.

This Article traces the development of insider ...


Toward Fair And Sustainable Capitalism: A Comprehensive Proposal To Help American Workers, Restore Fair Gainsharing Between Employees And Shareholders, And Increase American Competitiveness By Reorienting Our Corporate Governance System Toward Sustainable Long-Term Growth And Encouraging Investments In America’S Future, Leo E. Strine Sep 2019

Toward Fair And Sustainable Capitalism: A Comprehensive Proposal To Help American Workers, Restore Fair Gainsharing Between Employees And Shareholders, And Increase American Competitiveness By Reorienting Our Corporate Governance System Toward Sustainable Long-Term Growth And Encouraging Investments In America’S Future, Leo E. Strine

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

To promote fair and sustainable capitalism and help business and labor work together to build an American economy that works for all, this paper presents a comprehensive proposal to reform the American corporate governance system by aligning the incentives of those who control large U.S. corporations with the interests of working Americans who must put their hard-earned savings in mutual funds in their 401(k) and 529 plans. The proposal would achieve this through a series of measured, coherent changes to current laws and regulations, including: requiring not just operating companies, but institutional investors, to give appropriate consideration to ...


Social Activism Through Shareholder Activism, Lisa Fairfax Jul 2019

Social Activism Through Shareholder Activism, Lisa Fairfax

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In 1952, the SEC altered the shareholder proposal rule to exclude proposals made “primarily for the purpose of promoting general economic, political, racial, religious, social or similar causes.” The SEC did not reference civil rights activist James Peck or otherwise acknowledge that its actions were prompted by Peck’s 1951 shareholder proposal to Greyhound for desegregating seating. Instead, the SEC indicated that its change simply reflected a codification of a position the SEC staff had taken in 1945.

Today, the shareholder proposal rule has evolved, giving way to several amendments that now enable shareholders to submit proposals on the proxy ...


From Apathy To Activism: The Emergence, Impact, And Future Of Shareholder Activism As The New Corporate Governance Norm, Lisa M. Fairfax May 2019

From Apathy To Activism: The Emergence, Impact, And Future Of Shareholder Activism As The New Corporate Governance Norm, Lisa M. Fairfax

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The conventional and long-held view that public company shareholders are, and should be, rationally apathetic is waning. Today, public company shareholders are active. Such shareholders have actively sought to increase their voting power and influence over director elections and other important corporate matters. These shareholders not only have been voting, but they also have been voting against management preferences. Moreover, public company shareholders increasingly have begun to request, and in some instances demand, that corporate officers and directors engage with them around a range of issues. The shift away from shareholder apathy reflects a radical departure from the traditional corporate ...


Making Sustainability Disclosure Sustainable, Jill E. Fisch Apr 2019

Making Sustainability Disclosure Sustainable, Jill E. Fisch

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Sustainability is receiving increasing attention from issuers, investors and regulators. The desire to understand issuer sustainability practices and their relationship to economic performance has resulted in a proliferation of sustainability disclosure regimes and standards. The range of approaches to disclosure, however, limit the comparability and reliability of the information disclosed. The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has solicited comment on whether to require expanded sustainability disclosures in issuer’s periodic financial reporting, and investors have communicated broad-based support for such expanded disclosures, but, to date, the SEC has not required general sustainability disclosure.

This Article argues that claims about the relationship ...


The Problem Of Sunsets, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon Jan 2019

The Problem Of Sunsets, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

An increasing percentage of corporations are going public with dual class stock in which the shares owned by the founders or other corporate insiders have greater voting rights than the shares sold to public investors. Some commentators have criticized the dual class structure as unfair to public investors by reducing the accountability of insiders; others have defended the value of dual class in encouraging innovation by providing founders with insulation from market pressure that enables them to pursue their idiosyncratic vision.

The debate over whether dual class structures increase or decrease corporate value is, to date, unresolved. Empirical studies have ...


Corporate Governance Beyond Economics, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2019

Corporate Governance Beyond Economics, Elizabeth Pollman

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In recent years, changes to state and federal law have increased pressure on corporate law to serve as an ordering mechanism for interests and values beyond economics. On the federal front, two U.S. Supreme Court cases have put existing corporate law in a new quasi-constitutional light. In the landmark decisions of Citizens United v. FEC and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court has pointed to state corporate law as the mechanism for ordering political and religious activity. In addition, Congress, the SEC, and federal courts have been embroiled in battles about the scope and appropriateness of ...


The New Titans Of Wall Street: A Theoretical Framework For Passive Investors, Jill E. Fisch, Asaf Hamdani, Steven Davidoff Solomon Jan 2019

The New Titans Of Wall Street: A Theoretical Framework For Passive Investors, Jill E. Fisch, Asaf Hamdani, Steven Davidoff Solomon

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Passive investors — ETFs and index funds — are the most important development in modern day capital markets, dictating trillions of dollars in capital flows and increasingly owning much of corporate America. Neither the business model of passive funds, nor the way that they engage with their portfolio companies, however, is well understood, and misperceptions of both have led some commentators to call for passive investors to be subject to increased regulation and even disenfranchisement. Specifically, this literature takes a narrow view both of the market in which passive investors compete to manage customer funds and of passive investors’ participation in the ...


Startup Governance, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2019

Startup Governance, Elizabeth Pollman

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Although previously considered rare, over three hundred startups have reached valuations over a billion dollars. Thousands of smaller startups aim to follow in their paths. Despite the enormous social and economic impact of venture-backed startups, their internal governance receives scant scholarly attention. Longstanding theories of corporate ownership and governance do not capture the special features of startups. They can grow large with ownership shared by diverse participants, and they face issues that do not fit the dominant principal-agent paradigm of public corporations or the classic narrative of controlling shareholders in closely held corporations.

This Article offers an original, comprehensive framework ...


Fiduciary Blind Spot: The Failure Of Institutional Investors To Prevent The Illegitimate Use Of Working Americans' Savings For Corporate Political Spending, Leo E. Strine Jr. Dec 2018

Fiduciary Blind Spot: The Failure Of Institutional Investors To Prevent The Illegitimate Use Of Working Americans' Savings For Corporate Political Spending, Leo E. Strine Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

For decades, American workers have been subjected to increasing pressure to become forced capitalists, in the sense that to provide for retirement for themselves, and to pay for college for their children, they must turn part of their income every month over to mutual funds who participate in 401(k) and 529 programs. These “Worker Investors” save for the long term, often hold portfolios that are a proxy for the entire economy, and depend on the economy’s ability to generate good jobs and sustainable growth in order for them to be able to have economic security. In recent years ...


The Shifting Tides Of Merger Litigation, Matthew D. Cain, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon, Randall S. Thomas Jan 2018

The Shifting Tides Of Merger Litigation, Matthew D. Cain, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon, Randall S. Thomas

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In 2015, Delaware made several important changes to its laws concerning merger litigation. These changes, which were made in response to a perception that levels of merger litigation were too high and that a substantial proportion of merger cases were not providing value, raised the bar, making it more difficult for plaintiffs to win a lawsuit challenging a merger and more difficult for plaintiffs’ counsel to collect a fee award.

We study what has happened in the courts in response to these changes. We find that the initial effect of the changes has been to decrease the volume of merger ...


Governance By Contract: The Implications For Corporate Bylaws, Jill E. Fisch Jan 2018

Governance By Contract: The Implications For Corporate Bylaws, Jill E. Fisch

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Boards and shareholders are increasing using charter and bylaw provisions to customize their corporate governance. Recent examples include forum selection bylaws, majority voting bylaws and advance notice bylaws. Relying on the contractual conception of the corporation, Delaware courts have accorded substantial deference to board-adopted bylaw provisions, even those that limit shareholder rights.

This Article challenges the rationale for deference under the contractual approach. With respect to corporate bylaws, the Article demonstrates that shareholder power to adopt and amend the bylaws is, under Delaware law, more limited than the board’s power to do so. As a result, shareholders cannot effectively ...


Who Bleeds When The Wolves Bite? A Flesh-And-Blood Perspective On Hedge Fund Activism And Our Strange Corporate Governance System, Leo E. Strine Jr. Apr 2017

Who Bleeds When The Wolves Bite? A Flesh-And-Blood Perspective On Hedge Fund Activism And Our Strange Corporate Governance System, Leo E. Strine Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This paper examines the effects of hedge fund activism and so-called wolf pack activity on the ordinary human beings—the human investors—who fund our capital markets but who, as indirect of owners of corporate equity, have only limited direct power to ensure that the capital they contribute is deployed to serve their welfare and in turn the broader social good.

Most human investors in fact depend much more on their labor than on their equity for their wealth and therefore care deeply about whether our corporate governance system creates incentives for corporations to create and sustain jobs for them ...


The Separation Of Corporate Law And Social Welfare, William W. Bratton Jan 2017

The Separation Of Corporate Law And Social Welfare, William W. Bratton

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

A half century ago, corporate legal theory pursued an institutional vision in which corporations and the law that creates them protect people from the ravages of volatile free markets. That vision was challenged on the ground during the 1980s, when corporate legal institutions and market forces came to blows over questions concerning hostile takeovers. By 1990, it seemed like the institutions had won. But a different picture has emerged as the years have gone by. It is now clear that the market side really won the battle of the 1980s, succeeding in entering a wedge between corporate law and social ...


Standing Voting Instructions: Empowering The Excluded Retail Investor, Jill E. Fisch Jan 2017

Standing Voting Instructions: Empowering The Excluded Retail Investor, Jill E. Fisch

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Despite the increasing importance of shareholder voting, regulators have paid little attention to the rights of retail investors who own approximately 30% of publicly traded companies but who vote less than 30% of their shares. A substantial factor contributing to this low turnout is the antiquated mechanism by which retail investors vote. The federal proxy voting rules place primary responsibility for facilitating retail voting in the hands of custodial brokers who have limited incentives to develop workable procedures, and current regulatory restrictions impede market-based innovation that incorporate technological innovations.

One of the most promising such innovations is standing voting instructions ...