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Theory of the firm

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Full-Text Articles in Law

On Firms, Sanjukta Paul Aug 2022

On Firms, Sanjukta Paul

Law & Economics Working Papers

This paper is about firms as an instance of economic coordination, and about how we think about them in relation to other forms of coordination as well as in relation to competition and markets. The dominant frame for thinking about firms--which has strongly influenced contemporary competition law as well as serving as a vital adjunct to the fundamental concepts of neoclassical price theory that guide many areas of law and policy--implicitly or explicitly explains and justifies the centralization of both decision-making rights and flows of income from economic activity on productive efficiency grounds. We have very good reasons to doubt …


Stealth Governance: Shareholder Agreements And Private Ordering, Jill E. Fisch Jan 2022

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

All Faculty Scholarship

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 …


Team Production Revisited, William W. Bratton Jan 2021

Team Production Revisited, William W. Bratton

Vanderbilt Law Review

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 by …


Team Production Revisited, William W. Bratton Jan 2021

Team Production Revisited, William W. Bratton

All Faculty Scholarship

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 by …


The Corporation As Trinity, David A. Skeel Jr. Jan 2021

The Corporation As Trinity, David A. Skeel Jr.

All Faculty Scholarship

In “Corporate Capitalism and ‘The City of God,’” Adolf Berle references Augustine’s theological classic The City of God in service of his contention that corporate managers have a social responsibility. In this Article, I turn to another work by Augustine, The Trinity, for insights into another feature the corporation, corporate personhood. The Trinity explicates the Christian belief that God is both three and one. I argue that corporations have analogously Trinitarian qualities. Much as theologically orthodox Christians understand God to be both one and three, I argue that corporations are best seen as both a single entity and through …


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

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

All Faculty Scholarship

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–shareholder collaboration, …


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

All Faculty Scholarship

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 …


Remutualization, Erik F. Gerding Jan 2020

Remutualization, Erik F. Gerding

Publications

Policymakers need to rediscover the organizational form of business entity as a tool of financial regulation. Recent and classic scholarship has produced evidence that financial institutions organized as alternative entity forms – including investment bank partnerships and banks and insurance companies organized as mutual or cooperatives – tend to take less risk, exploit customers/consumer less, or commit less misconduct compared to counterparts organized as investor-owned corporations. This article builds off the work of Hill and Painter on investment banks organized as partnerships, Hansmann on the history and economics of banks and insurance companies organized as mutuals and cooperatives, and other …


Agency Problems And Organizational Costs In Slave-Run Business, Barbara Abatino, Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci Jan 2020

Agency Problems And Organizational Costs In Slave-Run Business, Barbara Abatino, Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci

Faculty Scholarship

This chapter examines the internal economic organization of the peculium servi communis — that is, of separate business assets assigned to a slave — and its (external) relationships with creditors. Literary, legal, and epigraphic evidence points predominantly to businesses of small or medium size, suggesting that there must have been some constraints to growth. We identify both agency problems arising within the business organization (governance problems) and agency problems arising between the business organization and its creditors (limited access to credit). We suggest that, although the praetorian remedies had a remarkable mitigating effect, agency problems operated as a constraint to …


Contested Visions: The Value Of Systems Theory For Corporate Law, Tamara Belinfanti, Lynn A. Stout Feb 2018

Contested Visions: The Value Of Systems Theory For Corporate Law, Tamara Belinfanti, Lynn A. Stout

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

Despite the dominant role corporations play in our economy, culture, and politics, the nature and purpose of corporations remains hotly contested. This conflict was brought to the fore in the recent Supreme Court opinions in Citizens United and Hobby Lobby. Although the prevailing narrative for the past quarter-century has been that corporations “belong” to shareholders and should pursue “shareholder value,” support for this approach, which has been justified as essential for managerial accountability, is eroding. It persists today primarily in the form of the argument that corporations should seek “long-term” shareholder value. Yet, as this Article shows, when shareholder value …


Contested Visions: The Value Of Systems Theory For Corporate Law, Tamara Belinfanti, Lynn A. Stout Jan 2018

Contested Visions: The Value Of Systems Theory For Corporate Law, Tamara Belinfanti, Lynn A. Stout

Articles & Chapters

Despite the dominant role corporations play in our economy, culture, and politics, the nature and purpose of corporations remains hotly contested. This conflict was brought to the fore in the recent Supreme Court opinions in Citizens United and Hobby Lobby. Although the prevailing narrative for the past quarter-century has been that corporations “belong” to shareholders and should pursue “shareholder value,” support for this approach, which has been justified as essential for managerial accountability, is eroding. It persists today primarily in the form of the argument that corporations should seek “long-term” shareholder value. Yet, as this Article shows, when shareholder value …


Shareholder Voting And The Symbolic Politics Of Corporation As Contract, Grant M. Hayden, Matthew T. Bodie Jan 2018

Shareholder Voting And The Symbolic Politics Of Corporation As Contract, Grant M. Hayden, Matthew T. Bodie

Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters

American corporations are structured in such a way that shareholders, and shareholders alone, have the right to vote in all significant corporate decisions. Over the years, this exclusive shareholder franchise has been supported by an ongoing procession of justifications. But as those arguments have fallen by the wayside, shareholder primacists have circled back and latched upon a final argument for the special voting status of shareholders, arguing that this fundamental feature of corporate governance is the product of the set of freely-bargained-for agreements among all corporate constituents. Because this set of agreements reflects the preferences of all parties to the …


Shareholder Voting And The Symbolic Politics Of Corporation As Contract, Matthew T. Bodie, Grant M. Hayden Jan 2018

Shareholder Voting And The Symbolic Politics Of Corporation As Contract, Matthew T. Bodie, Grant M. Hayden

All Faculty Scholarship

American corporations are structured in such a way that shareholders, and shareholders alone, have the right to vote in all significant corporate decisions. Over the years, this exclusive shareholder franchise has been supported by an ongoing procession of justifications. But as those arguments have fallen by the wayside, shareholder primacists have circled back and latched upon a final argument for the special voting status of shareholders, arguing that this fundamental feature of corporate governance is the product of the set of freely-bargained-for agreements among all corporate constituents. Because this set of agreements reflects the preferences of all parties to the …


The Next Iteration Of Progressive Corporate Law, Matthew T. Bodie Apr 2017

The Next Iteration Of Progressive Corporate Law, Matthew T. Bodie

Washington and Lee Law Review

No abstract provided.


The Next Iteration Of Progressive Corporate Law, Matthew T. Bodie Jan 2017

The Next Iteration Of Progressive Corporate Law, Matthew T. Bodie

All Faculty Scholarship

A wave of progressive corporate law scholarship in the late 1980s and early 1990s reimagined corporate law from the perspective of employees, consumers, and other stakeholders left behind by shareholder primacy. Almost thirty years later, it is time to revisit this literature and consider what progressive corporate law should be in the 21st Century. This essay argues for three changes: (1) a move to the theory of the firm as the underlying economic literature; (2) a focus on employees, rather than stakeholders more generally, and (3) an effort to change statutory and structural aspects of corporate law, such as board …


The Ownership Of Health Insurers, Peter Molk Jan 2016

The Ownership Of Health Insurers, Peter Molk

UF Law Faculty Publications

Spending by private health insurers exceeds $800 billion and is expected to rise. The Affordable Care Act provides $2 billion in subsidies to jump-start health insurers owned by their policyholders in an attempt to bring these costs under control. Firms with this corporate ownership structure have succeeded in other insurance markets, where Nationwide, Northwestern Mutual, and State Farm are just a few prominent examples. However, the potential of policyholder ownership in health insurance, which is dominated by investor and nonprofit ownership, is poorly understood. This Article applies theories of corporate ownership and control to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of …


The Political Economic Dimensions Of Executive Compensation Reform: Can The Foundations Of Shareholder Primacy Be Sustained In The Post - Crisis Regulatory Environment?, Dezso Peter Arpad Farkas Jan 2015

The Political Economic Dimensions Of Executive Compensation Reform: Can The Foundations Of Shareholder Primacy Be Sustained In The Post - Crisis Regulatory Environment?, Dezso Peter Arpad Farkas

LLM Theses

What is absent in much of the literature on executive compensation reform is a deeper appreciation of the shift that has occurred since the latest financial crisis away from performance-based corporate governance arrangements to an approach that seeks to put the brakes on a runaway train, the shareholder value model and its relentless pursuit of shareholder wealth at all costs. By situating this debate into a broader discussion of corporate purpose, corporate governance and the law’s role in how business corporations are run in their social, economic and political environment this project seeks to shed some light onto what really …


Legal Institutionalism: Capitalism And The Constitutive Role Of Law, Simon Deakin, David Gindis, Geoffrey M. Hodgson, Kainan Huang, Katharina Pistor Jan 2015

Legal Institutionalism: Capitalism And The Constitutive Role Of Law, Simon Deakin, David Gindis, Geoffrey M. Hodgson, Kainan Huang, Katharina Pistor

Faculty Scholarship

Social scientists have paid insufficient attention to the role of law in constituting the economic institutions of capitalism. Part of this neglect emanates from inadequate conceptions of the nature of law itself. Spontaneous conceptions of law and property rights that downplay the role of the state are criticized here, because they typically assume relatively small numbers of agents and underplay the complexity and uncertainty in developed capitalist systems. In developed capitalist economies, law is sustained through interaction between private agents, courts and the legislative apparatus. Law is also a key institution for overcoming contracting uncertainties. It is furthermore a part …


Participation As A Theory Of Employment, Matthew T. Bodie Jan 2013

Participation As A Theory Of Employment, Matthew T. Bodie

All Faculty Scholarship

The concept of employment is an important legal category, not only for labor and employment law, but also for intellectual property law, torts, criminal law, and tax. The right-to-control test has dominated the debate over the definition of “employee” since its origins in the master-servant doctrine. However, the test no longer represents our modern notion of what it means to be an employee. This change has played itself out in research on the theory of the firm, which has shifted from a model of control to a model of participation in a team production process. This Article uses the theory …


Transcending The Tacit Dimension: Patents, Relationships, And The Industrial Organization Of Technology Transfer, Peter Lee Feb 2012

Transcending The Tacit Dimension: Patents, Relationships, And The Industrial Organization Of Technology Transfer, Peter Lee

Peter Lee

As a key driver of innovation and economic growth, university-industry technology transfer has attracted significant attention. Formal technology transfer, which encompasses patenting and licensing university inventions, is often characterized as proceeding according to market principles. According to this dominant conception, patents help commodify academic inventions, which universities then advertise and transfer to private firms in licensing markets.

This Article challenges and refines this market-oriented view of technology transfer. Drawing from empirical studies, it shows that effective technology transfer often involves long-term personal relationships rather than discrete market exchanges. In particular, it explores the significant role of tacit, uncodified knowledge in …


The Post-Revolutionary Period In Corporate Law: Returning To The Theory Of The Firm, Matthew T. Bodie Jan 2012

The Post-Revolutionary Period In Corporate Law: Returning To The Theory Of The Firm, Matthew T. Bodie

All Faculty Scholarship

Law and economics revolutionized the study of corporate law. However, while modern finance theory and attendant empirical research continue to explore the effects of law on shareholder value, the theory of the firm literature has been underutilized. This paper, presented as part of the Berle III: Theory of the Firm Symposium at Seattle University School of Law, argues that corporate law scholars should turn their attention back to this literature and develop a deeper understanding of the corporation as firm.


Innovations In Governance: A Functional Typology Of Private Governance Institutions, Tracey M. Roberts Jan 2011

Innovations In Governance: A Functional Typology Of Private Governance Institutions, Tracey M. Roberts

Tracey M Roberts

Communities are increasingly looking to private governance institutions, rather than formal government, to set public policy and to manage the environmental and social impacts of globalization. Private governance institutions, sets of rules and structures for governing without government, remain undertheorized despite an expanding literature. Questions remain about why they have arisen, what functions they serve, and whether they are effective. This article advances that literature in several ways. First, the article outlines the inherent limitations of the conventional taxonomy, which groups these institutions based on the identity of their constituent organizations (business interests, civil society, and government entities and their …


Big But Brittle: Economic Perspectives On The Future Of The Law Firm In The New Economy, Bernard A. Burk, David Mcgowan Sep 2010

Big But Brittle: Economic Perspectives On The Future Of The Law Firm In The New Economy, Bernard A. Burk, David Mcgowan

Bernard A Burk

This Article addresses the deceptively simple questions why, up to the onset of the recent recession, law firms continued to grow at the rapid rate and in the unusual configuration that they have exhibited for over 40 years; and whether lawyers, clients, law students and law schools should expect familiar trends to reassert themselves as the economy improves. We show that the copious academic theorizing addressing these questions (focusing on such notions as diversification, asset specificity, “tournament” theory, and reputational and agency-cost concerns at the level of the firm as a whole) has proved ineffective at explaining or predicting actual …


The Death Of Big Law, Larry E. Ribstein Feb 2010

The Death Of Big Law, Larry E. Ribstein

Larry E. Ribstein

Large law firms face unprecedented stress. Many have dissolved, gone bankrupt or significantly downsized in recent years. This paper provides an economic analysis of the forces driving the downsizing of Big Law. It shows that this downsizing reflects a basically precarious business model rather than just a shrinking economy. Because large law firms do not own durable, firm-specific property, a set of strict conditions must exist to bind the firm together. Several pressures have pushed the unraveling of these conditions, including increased global competition and the rise of in-house counsel. The large law firm’s business model therefore requires fundamental restructuring. …


Residual-Risk Model For Classifying Business Arrangements, Brad Borden Jan 2010

Residual-Risk Model For Classifying Business Arrangements, Brad Borden

Bradley T. Borden

Tax law classifies business arrangements as one of three general structures: (1) disregarded arrangements, (2) tax partnerships, or (3) tax corporations. Since the enactment of the income tax in 1913, tax law has struggled unsuccessfully to develop an ideal model for classifying business arrangements. The current model’s sole virtue is its simplicity, derived from formalistic, elective attributes. Its greatest shortcoming may be that it disregards the reasons parties form business arrangements and the reasons they use economic items to reduce rent-seeking behavior and agency costs. That disregard often allows business participants to choose their tax classification and minimize their taxes, …


Corporate Ethics, Agency, And The Theory Of The Firm, Robert J. Rhee Jul 2009

Corporate Ethics, Agency, And The Theory Of The Firm, Robert J. Rhee

Robert Rhee

This conference paper suggests that the problem of corporate ethics cannot be reduced to the autonomous person. Although the greatest influence on action and choice is one's moral constitution, it does not follow that the agent's behavior is the same within or without the firm. Ethics is a function of corporate form. The theory of agency cannot dismiss the firm as a fiction or metaphorical shorthand since that which does not exist should not be able to cause ethical breakdowns in corporate action. Thus, the theory of the firm, which emphasizes profit and wealth maximization, should incorporate a richer, more …


Catholic Social Thought And The Reality Of The Corporation, Michael Lp Lower Jan 2009

Catholic Social Thought And The Reality Of The Corporation, Michael Lp Lower

Michael LP Lower

The debate about whether society, the corporation and any other type of "universal" has a reality outside of the mind is an old one. Catholic Social Thought (CST) sees the corporation as a community of persons. It has an existence (a life and ability to operate) of its own and is oriented to the good of its participants. This view is contrasted with the nexus of contracts approach, Williamson's Transaction Cost Economics approach and some types of stakeholder theory. It is contended that CST's approach is more realistic.


Aggregate-Plus Theory Of Partnership Taxation, Brad Borden Jan 2009

Aggregate-Plus Theory Of Partnership Taxation, Brad Borden

Bradley T. Borden

This Article presents a theory of partnership taxation. To provide context for the presentation, the Article examines the history and status of partnerships. That examination reveals humans have a natural tendency to form partnerships and partnerships create a significant challenge for lawmakers. The challenge is determining whether partnerships are entities separate from their members or aggregates of the members. After decades of debate and consideration, many lawmakers and commentators now view partnerships as entities. Tax law has not, however, adopted that view. Partnerships are subject to an aggregate tax regime that contains entity components.

Economic theory justifies tax law deviating …


Collaboration, Innovation, And Contract Design, Matthew C. Jennejohn Mar 2008

Collaboration, Innovation, And Contract Design, Matthew C. Jennejohn

Matthew C Jennejohn

The rise of the network as a form of economic organization renders problematic our standard understanding of how capitalism is governed. As the governance of production shifts from vertical integration to horizontal contract, a puzzle arises: how do contracts, presumed to be susceptible to hold-up problems due to incompleteness, control production arrangements that by their nature invite opportunism? Relying on publicly-available contracts taken from a number of industries, I argue that firms govern their collaborations through a number of new contract mechanisms, the summation of which is a novel governance system. Because traditional theories of contractual control struggle to fully …


Christian Anthropology And The Theory Of The Firm, Michael Lp Lower Jan 2008

Christian Anthropology And The Theory Of The Firm, Michael Lp Lower

Michael LP Lower

Catholic social thought (CST), a branch of moral theology, reflects Christian anthropology (an understanding of human nature that draws on Revelation and natural law theory). CST's understanding of what communities (such as the corporation) are for and how they can best achieve their ends are coloured by its anthropological underpinnings. The same, it is argued, is true for economic theories such as the theories of the firm based on Coase. This paper compares Christian anthropology with the implicit anthropology underpinning some of the dominant economic theories of the firm. Differences at this level go a long way to explaining mismatches …