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Corporate governance

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Purpose Proposals, Jill E. Fisch Apr 2022

Purpose Proposals, Jill E. Fisch

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Repurposing the corporation is the hot issue in corporate governance. Commentators, investors and increasingly issuers, maintain that corporations should shift their focus from maximizing profits for shareholders to generating value for a more expansive group of stakeholders. Corporations are also being called upon to address societal concerns – from climate change and voting rights to racial justice and wealth inequality.

The shareholder proposal rule, Rule 14a–8, offers one potential tool for repurposing the corporation. This Article describes the introduction of innovative proposals seeking to formalize corporate commitments to stakeholder governance. These “purpose proposals” reflect a new dynamic in the debate ...


Initial Public Offering And Optimal Corporate Governance, Albert H. Choi Feb 2022

Initial Public Offering And Optimal Corporate Governance, Albert H. Choi

Law & Economics Working Papers

This paper examines the long-standing debate over whether firms have a market-based incentive to adopt optimal governance provisions at their initial public offering (IPO). Various scholars and practitioners have argued that firms that offer stock to the public with suboptimal governance structure will be penalized by the market through a lower IPO price. At the same time, others have documented empirical evidence that many IPO firms have putatively suboptimal governance provisions, such as anti-takeover provisions and dual class structure, and many, especially those with dual-class structure, enjoy a market premium at their IPO. This paper attempts to bridge this gap ...


Optimizing The World’S Leading Corporate Law: A 20-Year Retrospective And Look Ahead, Lawrence Hamermesh, Jack B. Jacobs, Leo E. Strine Jr. Oct 2021

Optimizing The World’S Leading Corporate Law: A 20-Year Retrospective And Look Ahead, Lawrence Hamermesh, Jack B. Jacobs, Leo E. Strine Jr.

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In a 2001 article (Function Over Form: A Reassessment of Standards of Review in Delaware Corporation Law) two of us, with important input from the other, argued that in addressing issues like hostile takeovers, assertive institutional investors, leveraged buyouts, and contested ballot questions, the Delaware courts had done exemplary work but on occasion crafted standards of review that unduly encouraged litigation and did not appropriately credit intra-corporate procedures designed to ensure fairness. Function Over Form suggested ways to make those standards more predictable, encourage procedures that better protected stockholders, and discourage meritless litigation, by restoring business judgment rule protection for ...


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 ensuing 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 ...


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 ...


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 Sec's Shareholder Proposal Rule: Creating A Corporate Public Square, James D. Cox, Randall S. Thomas Jan 2021

The Sec's Shareholder Proposal Rule: Creating A Corporate Public Square, James D. Cox, Randall S. Thomas

Faculty Scholarship

In this Article, we take advantage of this Symposium’s goals to think broadly about the future of Rule 14a-8 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the shareholder proposal rule. We set forth a vision for the rule to address boardroom insularity by likening the shareholder proposal rule as the public square for shareholders. The existence of such a forum would redound to the benefit of investors, officers, and boards of directors as a fount of current and useful information about their investors’ and stakeholders’ concerns.


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 ...


Corporate Personhood And Limited Sovereignty, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2021

Corporate Personhood And Limited Sovereignty, Elizabeth Pollman

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Article, written for a symposium celebrating the work of Professor Margaret Blair, examines how corporate rights jurisprudence helped to shape the corporate form in the United States during the nineteenth century. It argues that as the corporate form became popular because of the way it facilitated capital lock-in, perpetual succession, and provided other favorable characteristics related to legal personality that separated the corporation from its participants, the Supreme Court provided crucial reinforcement of these entity features by recognizing corporations as rights-bearing legal persons separate from the government. Although the legal personality of corporations is a distinct concept from their ...


The Corporate Governance Machine, Dorothy S. Lund, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2021

The Corporate Governance Machine, Dorothy S. Lund, Elizabeth Pollman

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The conventional view of corporate governance is that it is a neutral set of processes and practices that govern how a company is managed. We demonstrate that this view is profoundly mistaken: in the United States, corporate governance has become a “system” composed of an array of institutional players, with a powerful shareholderist orientation. Our original account of this “corporate governance machine” generates insights about the past, present, and future of corporate governance. As for the past, we show how the concept of corporate governance developed alongside the shareholder primacy movement. This relationship is reflected in the common refrain of ...


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 ...


Corporate Law For Good People, Yuval Feldman, Adi Libson, Gideon Parchomovsky Jan 2021

Corporate Law For Good People, Yuval Feldman, Adi Libson, Gideon Parchomovsky

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This article offers a novel analysis of the field of corporate governance by viewing it through the lens of behavioral ethics. It calls for both shifting the focus of corporate governance to a new set of loci of potential corporate wrongdoing and adding new tools to the corporate governance arsenal. The behavioral ethics scholarship emphasizes the large share of wrongdoing generated by "good people" whose intention is to act ethically. Their wrongdoing stems from "bounded ethicality" -- various cognitive and motivational processes that lead to biased decisions that seem legitimate. In the legal domain, corporate law provides the most fertile ground ...


Team Production Revisited, William W. Bratton Jan 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 Millennial Corporation, Michal Barzuza, Quinn Curtis, David Webber Jan 2021

The Millennial Corporation, Michal Barzuza, Quinn Curtis, David Webber

Faculty Scholarship

In a prior paper, Shareholder Value(s): Index Fund ESG Activism and The New Millennial Corporate Governance, we argued that the index funds’ sudden shift towards socially-responsible investment, after decades of ignoring or opposing it, was driven by the competition to manage growing Millennial wealth. In our view, the main contribution of that paper was identifying sharp differences between Millennials and prior generations over investment, consumption, and employment. It has now become clear that this contribution has implications far beyond index-fund environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) activism and is in fact completely transforming the corporate world, marking a fundamental shift ...


Extending Democracy To Corporate Governance And Beyond, Edward Rubin Jan 2021

Extending Democracy To Corporate Governance And Beyond, Edward Rubin

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

This article proposes a different rationale for corporate democracy, one that extends more broadly to all forms of employment. It is based on an equivalence, not an analogy. The equivalence is that subordination feels essentially the same to an individual whether a public or a private entity is carrying it out. As recognized in the public arena, it undermines people’s dignity and autonomy, and at least threatens—and often produces—actual oppression. Based on this equivalence, this article proposes a different argument for corporate democracy. Proponents of democracy in the public sphere believe that the citizens of a nation ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


Shifting Influences On Corporate Governance: Capital Market Completeness And Policy Channeling, Ronald J. Gilson, Curtis J. Milhaupt Jan 2020

Shifting Influences On Corporate Governance: Capital Market Completeness And Policy Channeling, Ronald J. Gilson, Curtis J. Milhaupt

Faculty Scholarship

Corporate governance scholarship is typically portrayed as driven by single factor models, for example, shareholder value maximization, director primacy or team production. These governance models are Copernican; one factor is or should be the center of the corporate governance solar system. In this essay, we argue that, as with binary stars, the shape of the governance system is at any time the result of the interaction of two central influences, which we refer to as capital market completeness and policy channeling. In contrast to single factor models, which reflect a stable normative statement of what should drive corporate governance, in ...


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 ...


Singapore Company Law And The Economy: Reciprocal Influence Over 50 Years, Vincent Ooi, Cheng Han Tan Sep 2019

Singapore Company Law And The Economy: Reciprocal Influence Over 50 Years, Vincent Ooi, Cheng Han Tan

Research Collection School Of Law

A strong reciprocal relationship has existed between Singapore Company Law (SCL) and the economy since Independence in 1965. Swift Parliamentary responses to economic events and successful implementation of Government policies has made it possible to clearly attribute cause and effect to statutory amendments and economic events in turn, proving the reciprocal relationship between the two. The first theme of this article seeks to explain the fundamental characteristics of SCL that have resulted in such an unusually strong reciprocal relationship: (1) Autochthonous nature of SCL; (2) Responsive nature of legislation; and (3) Government control at multiple levels of implementation. The second ...


Index Funds And The Future Of Corporate Governance: Theory, Evidence, And Policy, Scott Hirst Sep 2019

Index Funds And The Future Of Corporate Governance: Theory, Evidence, And Policy, Scott Hirst

Faculty Scholarship

Index funds own an increasingly large proportion of American public companies. The stewardship decisions of index fund managers—how they monitor, vote, and engage with their portfolio companies—can be expected to have a profound impact on the governance and performance of public companies and the economy. Understanding index fund stewardship, and how policymaking can improve it, is thus critical for corporate law scholarship. In this Article we contribute to such understanding by providing a comprehensive theoretical, empirical, and policy analysis of index fund stewardship.

We begin by putting forward an agency-costs theory of index fund incentives. Stewardship decisions by ...


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 ...