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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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


Caremark And Esg, Perfect Together: A Practical Approach To Implementing An Integrated, Efficient, And Effective Caremark And Eesg Strategy, Leo E. Strine Jr., Kirby M. Smith, Reilly S. Steel Jan 2021

Caremark And Esg, Perfect Together: A Practical Approach To Implementing An Integrated, Efficient, And Effective Caremark And Eesg Strategy, Leo E. Strine Jr., Kirby M. Smith, Reilly S. Steel

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

With increased calls from investors, legislators, and academics for corporations to consider employee, environmental, social, and governance factors (“EESG”) when making decisions, boards and managers are struggling to situate EESG within their existing reporting and organizational structures. Building on an emerging literature connecting EESG with corporate compliance, this Essay argues that EESG is best understood as an extension of the board’s duty to implement and monitor a compliance program under Caremark. If a company decides to do more than the legal minimum, it will simultaneously satisfy legitimate demands for strong EESG programs and promote compliance with the law. Building ...


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 ...


Whitman And The Fiduciary Relationship Conundrum, Lisa Fairfax Nov 2020

Whitman And The Fiduciary Relationship Conundrum, Lisa Fairfax

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

While the law on insider trading has been convoluted and, in Judge Jed S. Rakoff’s words, “topsy turvy,” the law on insider trading is supposedly clear on at least one point: insider trading liability is premised upon a fiduciary relationship. Thus, all three seminal U.S. Supreme Court cases articulating the necessary elements for demonstrating any form of insider trading liability under § 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 made crystal clear that a fiduciary relationship represented the lynchpin for such liability.

Alas, insider trading law is not clear about the source from which ...


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 ...


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 ...


The Reverse Agency Problem In The Age Of Compliance, Asaf Eckstein, Gideon Parchomovsky Sep 2019

The Reverse Agency Problem In The Age Of Compliance, Asaf Eckstein, Gideon Parchomovsky

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The agency problem, the idea that corporate directors and officers are motivated to prioritize their self-interest over the interest of their corporation, has had long-lasting impact on corporate law theory and practice. In recent years, however, as federal agencies have stepped up enforcement efforts against corporations, a new problem that is the mirror image of the agency problem has surfaced—the reverse agency problem. The surge in criminal investigations against corporations, combined with the rising popularity of settlement mechanisms including Pretrial Diversion Agreements (PDAs), and corporate plea agreements, has led corporations to sacrifice directors and officers in order to reach ...


Centros, California’S “Women On Boards” Statute And The Scope Of Regulatory Competition, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon May 2019

Centros, California’S “Women On Boards” Statute And The Scope Of Regulatory Competition, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

We examine the Centros decision through the lens of SB 826 – the California statute mandating a minimum number of women on boards. SB 826, like the Centros decision, raises questions about the scope of the internal affairs doctrine and its role in encouraging regulatory competition. Despite the claim that US corporate law is characterized by regulatory competition, in the US, the internal affairs doctrine has led to less variation in corporate law than in Europe. We theorize that this is due to the shareholder primacy norm in US corporate law which results in the internal affairs doctrine focusing on matters ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


The New Bond Workouts, William W. Bratton, Adam J. Levitin Jan 2018

The New Bond Workouts, William W. Bratton, Adam J. Levitin

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Bond workouts are a famously dysfunctional method of debt restructuring, ridden with opportunistic and coercive behavior by bondholders and bond issuers. Yet since 2008 bond workouts have quietly started to work. A cognizable portion of the restructuring market has shifted from bankruptcy court to out-of-court workouts by way of exchange offers made only to large institutional investors. The new workouts feature a battery of strong-arm tactics by bond issuers, and aggrieved bondholders have complained in court. The result has been a new, broad reading of the primary law governing workouts, section 316(b) of the Trust Indenture Act of 1939 ...


Before International Tax Reform, We Need To Understand Why Firms Invert, Michael S. Knoll Sep 2017

Before International Tax Reform, We Need To Understand Why Firms Invert, Michael S. Knoll

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

A wave of corporate inversions by U.S. firms over the past two decades has generated substantial debate in academic, business, and policy circles.

The core of the debate hinges on a couple of key economic questions: Do U.S. tax laws disadvantage U.S.-domiciled companies relative to their foreign competitors? And, if so, do inversions improve the competitiveness of U.S. multinational firms both abroad and at home?

There is unfortunately little, if any, empirical work directly determining whether U.S.-based MNCs are currently tax-disadvantaged compared to their foreign rivals, or measuring the amount by which (if ...


Amending Corporate Charters And Bylaws, Albert H. Choi, Geeyoung Min Aug 2017

Amending Corporate Charters And Bylaws, Albert H. Choi, Geeyoung Min

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Recently, courts have embraced the contractarian theory that corporate charters and bylaws constitute a “contract” between the shareholders and the corporation and have been more willing to uphold bylaws unilaterally adopted by the directors. This paper examines the contractarian theory by drawing a parallel between amending charters and bylaws, on the one hand, and amending contracts, on the other. In particular, the paper compares the right to unilaterally amend corporate bylaws with the right to unilaterally modify contract terms, and highlights how contract law imposes various limitations on the modifying party’s discretion. More generally, when the relationship of contracting ...


The Bylaw Puzzle In Delaware Corporate Law, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2017

The Bylaw Puzzle In Delaware Corporate Law, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In less than a decade, Delaware’s legislature has overruled its courts and reshaped Delaware corporate law on two different occasions, with proxy access bylaws in 2009 and with shareholder litigation bylaws in 2015. Having two dramatic interventions in quick succession would be puzzling under any circumstances. The interventions are doubly puzzling because with proxy access, Delaware’s legislature authorized the use of bylaws or charter provisions that Delaware’s courts had banned; while with shareholder litigation, it banned bylaws or charter provisions that the courts had authorized. This Article attempts to unravel the puzzle.

I start with corporate law ...


Appraising Merger Efficiencies, Herbert J. Hovenkamp Jan 2017

Appraising Merger Efficiencies, Herbert J. Hovenkamp

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Mergers of business firms violate the antitrust laws when they threaten to lessen competition, which generally refers to a price increase resulting from a reduction in output. However, a merger that threatens competition may also enable the post-merger firm to reduce its costs or improve its product. Attitudes toward mergers are heavily driven by assumptions about efficiency gains. If mergers of competitors never produced efficiency gains but simply reduced the number of competitors, a strong presumption against them would be warranted. We tolerate most mergers because of a background, highly generalized belief that most or at least many produce cost ...


Corporate Power Is Corporate Purpose I: Evidence From My Hometown, Leo E. Strine Jr. Dec 2016

Corporate Power Is Corporate Purpose I: Evidence From My Hometown, Leo E. Strine Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This paper is the first in a series considering a rather tired argument in corporate governance circles, that corporate laws that give only rights to stockholders somehow implicitly empower directors to regard other constituencies as equal ends in governance. By continuing to suggest that corporate boards themselves are empowered to treat the best interests of other corporate constituencies as ends in themselves, no less important than stockholders, scholars and commentators obscure the need for legal protections for other constituencies and for other legal reforms that give these constituencies the means to more effectively protect themselves.

Using recent events in the ...


Corporate Power Is Corporate Purpose Ii: An Encouragement For Future Consideration From Professors Johnson And Millon, Leo E. Strine Jr. Oct 2016

Corporate Power Is Corporate Purpose Ii: An Encouragement For Future Consideration From Professors Johnson And Millon, Leo E. Strine Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This paper is the second in a series considering the argument that corporate laws that give only rights to stockholders somehow implicitly empower directors to regard other constituencies as equal ends in governance. This piece was written as part of a symposium honoring the outstanding work of Professors Lyman Johnson and David Millon, and it seeks to encourage Professors Johnson and Millon, as proponents of the view that corporations have no duty to make stockholder welfare the end of corporate law, to focus on the reality that corporate power translates into corporate purpose.

Drawing on examples of controlled companies that ...


Hedge Fund Activism, Poison Pills, And The Jurisprudence Of Threat, William W. Bratton Aug 2016

Hedge Fund Activism, Poison Pills, And The Jurisprudence Of Threat, William W. Bratton

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This chapter reviews the single high profile case in which twentieth century antitakeover law has come to bear on management defense against a twenty-first century activist challenge—the Delaware Court of Chancery’s decision to sustain a low-threshold poison pill deployed against an activist in Third Point LLC v. Ruprecht. The decision implicated an important policy question: whether a twentieth century doctrine keyed to hostile takeovers and control transfers appropriately can be brought to bear in a twenty-first century governance context in which the challenger eschews control transfer and instead makes aggressive use of the shareholder franchise. Resolution of the ...


Institutional Investors In Corporate Governance, Edward B. Rock Jul 2015

Institutional Investors In Corporate Governance, Edward B. Rock

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This chapter of the Oxford Handbook on Corporate Law and Governance examines the role of institutional investors in corporate governance and the role of regulation in encouraging institutional investors to become active stewards. I approach these topics through asking what lessons we can draw from the U.S. experience for the E.U.’s 2014 proposed amendments to the Shareholder Rights Directive.

I begin by defining the institutional investor category, and summarizing the growth of institutional investors’ equity holdings over time. I then briefly survey how institutional investors themselves are governed and how they organize share voting. This leads me ...


The Mess At Morgan: Risk, Incentives And Shareholder Empowerment, Jill E. Fisch Jan 2015

The Mess At Morgan: Risk, Incentives And Shareholder Empowerment, Jill E. Fisch

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The financial crisis of 2008 focused increasing attention on corporate America and, in particular, the risk-taking behavior of large financial institutions. A growing appreciation of the “public” nature of the corporation resulted in a substantial number of high profile enforcement actions. In addition, demands for greater accountability led policymakers to attempt to harness the corporation’s internal decision-making structure, in the name of improved corporate governance, to further the interest of non-shareholder stakeholders. Dodd-Frank’s advisory vote on executive compensation is an example.

This essay argues that the effort to employ shareholders as agents of public values and, thereby, to ...


Rediscovering Corporate Governance In Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2015

Rediscovering Corporate Governance In Bankruptcy, David A. Skeel Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In this Essay on Lynn LoPucki and Bill Whitford’s corporate reorganization project, written for a symposium honoring Bill Whitford, I begin by very briefly describing its historical antecedents. The project draws on the insights and perspectives of two closely intertwined traditions: the legal realism of 1930s, whose exemplars included William Douglas and other participants in the SEC study; and the law in action movement at the University of Wisconsin. In Section II, I briefly survey the key contributions of the corporate governance project, which punctured the then-conventional wisdom about the treatment of shareholders in bankruptcy, managers’ principal allegiance, and ...


Symbolic Corporate Governance Politics, Marcel Kahan, Edward B. Rock Jan 2014

Symbolic Corporate Governance Politics, Marcel Kahan, Edward B. Rock

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

How are we to understand the persistent gap between rhetoric and reality that characterizes so much of corporate governance politics? In this Article, we show that the rhetoric around a variety of high profile corporate governance controversies (including shareholder proposals asking boards to redeem poison pills, proxy access, majority voting in director elections, and shareholder proposals to remove supermajority voting requirements) cannot be justified by the material interests at stake. At the same time, shareholder activists are oddly reluctant to pursue issues that may have a more material impact, such as anti-pill charter provisions or mandatory bylaw amendments. We consider ...


Toward A Theory Of Shareholder Leverage, Lisa Fairfax Jan 2014

Toward A Theory Of Shareholder Leverage, Lisa Fairfax

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

On Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, 2014, the UCLA School of Law Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy sponsored a conference on competing theories of corporate governance.

Corporate law and economics scholarship initially relied mainly on agency cost and nexus of contracts models. In recent years, however, various scholars have built on those foundations to construct three competing models of corporate governance: director primacy, shareholder primacy, and team production.

The shareholder primacy model treats the board of directors as agents of the shareholders charged with maximizing shareholder wealth. Scholars such as Lucian Bebchuk working with this ...


Separation Anxiety: A Cautious Endorsement Of The Independent Board Chair, Lisa Fairfax Jan 2014

Separation Anxiety: A Cautious Endorsement Of The Independent Board Chair, Lisa Fairfax

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Article critically examines the competing arguments related to splitting the roles of CEO and board chair. Although the campaign for independent board chairs has received increased attention from shareholders and regulators, there has been very little academic analysis of such campaign. This Article seeks to fill this void not only by examining the campaign, but also by assessing its implications in light of the available empirical evidence and normative claims. Based on this assessment, this Article offers two conclusions. First, while there appear to be costs associated with splitting the roles of CEO and board chair, those costs likely ...