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The Case Against Shareholder Empowerment 158 U. Penn. L. Rev. 653 ( 2010) William W. Bratton PowerPoint Presentation
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The Case Against Shareholder Empowerment 158 U. Penn. L. Rev. 653 ( 2010) William W. Bratton Peter P. Weidenbruch, Jr., Professor of Business Law Georgetown University Law Center Michael L. Wachter William B. Johnson Professor of Law and Economics

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The Case Against Shareholder

Empowerment

158 U. Penn. L. Rev. 653 ( 2010)

William W. Bratton

Peter P. Weidenbruch, Jr., Professor of Business Law

Georgetown University Law Center

Michael L. Wachter

William B. Johnson Professor of Law and Economics

Co-Director, Institute for Law and Economics

University of Pennsylvania Law School

SASE Annual Meeting

June 25, 2010

1

corporate legal theory
Corporate legal theory
  • Dominant view
    • Management power is the problem
    • The legal model empowers managers
    • Shareholder power is the answer
    • Defenders of the system bear the theoretical burden of proof
this paper s objective
This paper’s objective
  • Reverse the theoretical burden of proof to fall on the law reform proponent
  • Means to the end
    • (1) Clear the field of the conceptual inheritance of Berle and Means
    • (2) Make transparent the theoretical assumptions that motivate the shareholder case
    • (3) Show that management agency costs are not as salient as claimed
    • (4) Show that shareholder empowerment would implicate significant agency costs
    • (5) Decouple the financial crisis from the shareholder case and recouple it with the case against
1 clear the field of the conceptual inheritance of berle and means
(1) Clear the field of the conceptual inheritance of Berle and Means
  • Fama and Jensen (1983)
    • “Separation of ownership and control” is a rational allocation of management functions
      • “Ultimate control” in board
      • Shareholders don’t know anything
    • “Property” is split among decision initiators, monitors, and residual claimants
2 make transparent the theoretical assumptions that motivate the shareholder case
(2) Make transparent the theoretical assumptions that motivate the shareholder case
  • “Ultimate control” in shareholders
  • Incentives
    • Managers are conflicted and self-serving
    • Shareholders have a pure incentive to maximize value
      • But shareholders don’t know anything
    • Market price = objective and accurate measure of pure shareholder maximand
      • Manage to maximize the market price
3 show that management agency costs are not as salient as claimed
(3) Show that management agency costs are not as salient as claimed
  • Shareholder win-win
    • Static agency cost picture dating from the 1980s
  • Jensen and Meckling
    • Dynamic process of agency cost reduction
  • Post 1980s developments
    • Managers become sensitive to shareholder value
    • Boards become better monitors
    • Discipline: Private equity buyouts
    • Hostility: Activist hedge funds
4 show that shareholder empowerment would implicate significant agency costs
(4) Show that shareholder empowerment would implicate significant agency costs
  • What does the market price teach?
    • (1) If markets were strong form efficient, the shareholders would have a great case
      • Markets are not strong form efficient
    • (2) The strength of the shareholder case varies depending on the content of public information and the governance issue
    • (3) Information asymmetries are real and persistent
    • (4) Market prices are subject to speculative distortion
5 decouple the financial crisis from the shareholder case and recouple it with the case against
(5) Decouple the financial crisis from the shareholder case and recouple it with the case against
  • They say
    • Management caused the financial crisis
    • Shareholder empowerment will restore trust
  • We say
    • Shareholder empowerment is about market control and the financial crisis follows from market failure
    • Managers and shareholders made the same mistakes