Category Archives: Academic Research

More than 300 Research Papers Have Applied the Entrenchment Index of Bebchuk, Cohen and Ferrell (2009)

This post relates to an article by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen and Allen Ferrel, What Matters in Corporate Governance, available here and discussed on the Forum here. Lucian Bebchuk is William J. Friedman and Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance and Director of the Program on Corporate Governance, Harvard Law School. Alma Cohen is Professor of Empirical Practice, Harvard Law School. Allen Ferrell is Greenfield Professor of Securities Law, Harvard Law School.

As of May 2015, more than 300 research studies have applied the Entrenchment Index put forward in a study published by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen and Allen Ferrell, What Matters in Corporate Governance. The papers using the Entrenchment Index, including many papers in leading journals in law, economics and finance, are listed here.

The Bebchuk-Cohen-Ferrell paper, first circulated in 2004 and published in 2009 in the Review of Financial Studies, identified six corporate governance provisions as especially important, demonstrated empirically the significance of these provisions for firm valuation and put forward a governance index, commonly referred to as the “Entrenchment Index,” based on these six provisions. The paper has been cited by more than 650 research studies, and more than 300 of these studies made use of the index in their own empirical analysis.

The Bebchuk-Cohen-Ferrell paper putting forward the Entrenchment Index is available for download here.

Supporters of Transparency Should Work with the SEC, Not Take it to Court

Lucian Bebchuk is Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance at Harvard Law School. Robert J. Jackson, Jr. is Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. Bebchuk and Jackson served as co-chairs of the Committee on Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending, which filed a rulemaking petition requesting that the SEC require all public companies to disclose their political spending. Bebchuk and Jackson are also co-authors of Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending, published in the Georgetown Law Journal. A series of posts in which Bebchuk and Jackson respond to objections to an SEC rule requiring disclosure of corporate political spending is available here. All posts related to the SEC rulemaking petition on disclosure of political spending are available here.

In July 2011, we co-chaired a committee of ten corporate and securities law experts that petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission to develop rules requiring public companies to disclose their political spending. As reflected on the SEC’s webpage for comments filed on the petition, the SEC has now received more than 1.2 million comments on the proposal—more than any rulemaking petition in the SEC’s history. Earlier this week, a suit was filed in the federal court for the District of Columbia, relying in part on our petition and the broad support it has received, seeking an injunction requiring the SEC to initiate rulemaking on the subject. As explained below, this litigation is unhelpful to the broadly supported effort to obtain disclosure that would shed light on corporate political spending.

To be sure, we are disappointed that the SEC has not yet started the rulemaking process urged by our petition. At the end of 2012, the Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance acknowledged the widespread support for the petition, and the Commission placed the proposal on its regulatory agenda for 2013. Unfortunately, Chairman Mary Jo White faced considerable political pressure from Congress not to develop rules that would require disclosure of corporate spending on politics, and the Commission has thus far delayed any further consideration of rules in this area. As we explained in earlier posts on the Forum (see, for example, posts here and here), we view the delay as unfortunate and unwarranted in light of the compelling arguments for disclosure, the breadth of support that the petition has received, and the weakness of the objections that opponents have been able to raise.

While the SEC would do well to initiate rulemaking without further delay, we view the attempt to force the Commission to act through court action as unhelpful for two reasons. First, while the SEC’s delay in initiating rulemaking is regrettable, the SEC’s behavior thus far does not come close to satisfying the demanding conditions for judicial intervention. The court should thus not be expected to provide the injunction requested by the lawsuit.

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Commissioner Gallagher’s and Professor Grundfest’s Wrongful Attack on the Shareholder Rights Project

Jonathan R. Macey is the Sam Harris Professor of Corporate Law, Corporate Finance & Securities Law at Yale University. This post relates to a paper by Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher and Professor Joseph A. Grundfest, Did Harvard Violate Federal Securities Law? The Campaign Against Classified Boards of Directors, described on the Forum in a post by Professor Grundfest here. Earlier posts by Professor Macey on the Gallagher/Grundfest paper appear on the Forum here, here, and here, with responses by Professor Grundfest here and here. A joint statement by thirty-four senior corporate and securities law professors from seventeen leading law schools, opining that the allegations in the Gallagher/Grundfest paper are meritless and urging the paper’s co-authors to withdraw these allegations, is available on the Forum here.

Earlier this month, at a University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Institute for Law & Economics Corporate Roundtable, Professor Joseph Grundfest presented to a audience of practitioners and academics the same accusations against Harvard and the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP) that he advanced in his paper (co-authored with soon-to-be departing SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher), “Did Harvard Violate the Federal Securities laws? The Campaign Against Classified Boards of Directors” (available here and described on the Forum here). Given Grundfest’s persistence in making these accusations, which have been widely viewed as meritless by corporate and securities law academics (see the statement by 34 senior law professors here ), readers might find of interest a new paper I just posted on SSRN, Commissioner Gallagher’s and Professor Grundfest’s Wrongful Attack on the Shareholder Rights Project, available here.

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Corporations and the 99%: Team Production Revisited

Shlomit Azgad-Tromer is a researcher at Tel Aviv University—Buchmann Faculty of Law. This post is based on the article Corporations and the 99%: Team Production Revisited. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Growth of Executive Pay by Lucian Bebchuk and Yaniv Grinstein, and The CEO Pay Slice by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried (discussed on the Forum here).

“We Are the 99%” is a political slogan used by the Occupy Wall Street movement, referring to the prevailing wealth and income inequality, and claiming a divergence of corporate America from the public. The article explores the interaction between the general public and the public corporation, and its legal manifestation.

Stakeholder theory portrays the corporation as a sphere of cooperation between all stakeholder constituencies, including the general public. Revisiting team production analysis, the article argues that while several constituencies indeed form part of the corporate team, others are exogenous to the corporate enterprise. Employees, suppliers and financiers contribute together to the common corporate enterprise, enjoying a long-term relational contract with the corporation, while retail consumers contract with the corporation at arm’s length, and other people living alongside the corporation do not contract with it at all. Under this organizational model, the general public may participate in the team forming the corporate enterprise by providing public financing. Indeed, corporate law was developed to protect public investors.

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Financial Distress, Stock Returns, and the 1978 Bankruptcy Reform Act

Dirk Hackbarth is Associate Professor of Finance at Boston University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Hackbarth; Rainer Haselmann, Professor of Finance, Accounting, and Taxation at Goethe University, Frankfurt; and David Schoenherr of the Department of Finance at London Business School.

In our article, Financial Distress, Stock Returns, and the 1978 Bankruptcy Reform Act, forthcoming in The Review of Financial Studies, we examine how bargaining power in distress affects the pricing of corporate securities. The nature of Chapter 11 makes bargaining an important factor in distressed reorganizations. Reorganization outcomes depend on the relative bargaining power of the parties involved. A number of papers document that shareholders receive concessions in distressed reorganization even when creditors are not paid in full despite of their contractual (junior) status as residual claimants (Franks and Torous 1989; Eberhart, Moore and Roenfeldt 1990; Weiss 1990). To this end, our research exploits an exogenous variation in the allocation of bargaining power between shareholders and debtholders due to the 1978 Bankruptcy Reform Act to examine how the ex post allocation of cash flows in distress affects the ex ante pricing (return and risk) of corporate securities, such as risky debt and levered equity.

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Why Run Away from the Evidence?

Bernard S. Sharfman is an adjunct professor of business law at the George Mason University School of Business. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about hedge fund activism includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here), The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here), and The Law and Economics of Blockholder Disclosure by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert J. Jackson Jr. (discussed on the Forum here). An exchange of posts on the empirical evidence on hedge fund activism between Bebchuk, Brav and Jiang, who urged Wachtell Lipton not to run away from the evidence, and Martin Lipton, who responded to their posts, is available on the Forum here.

Back in September 2013, Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav and Wei Jiang posted Don’t Run Away from the Evidence: A Reply to Wachtell Lipton on this blog as a means to rebut the criticism they received on an early draft of their empirical study, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism. In a nutshell, their empirical study found hedge fund activism to create long-term value for both shareholders and the companies they invest in while the lawyers for Wachtell Lipton said the results meant nothing. Based on a recent blog posting by Martin Lipton, the most famous of all the Wachtell partners, Further Recognition of the Adverse Effects of Activist Hedge Funds, the post by Bebchuk, Brav and Jiang did not do anything to change their minds.

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Restraining Overconfident CEOs Through Improved Governance

Mark Humphery-Jenner is Senior Lecturer at the UNSW Business School. This post is based on the article Restraining overconfident CEOs through improved governance: Evidence from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, authored by Mr. Humphery-Jenner, Suman Banerjee, Associate Professor in the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of Wyoming, and Vikram Nanda, Professor of Finance at Rutgers University.

In our recent paper, Restraining overconfident CEOs through improved governance: Evidence from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we use the joint passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and changes to the NYSE/NASDAQ listing rules to analyze the impact of improved governance in moderating the behavior of overconfident CEOs. Overconfidence can lead managers to overestimate returns and underestimate risk. The literature suggests that while some CEO overconfidence can benefit shareholders, a highly distorted view of risk-return profiles can destroy shareholder value. An intriguing question is whether there are ways to channel the drive and optimism of highly overconfident CEOs while curbing the extremes of risk-taking and over-investment associated with such overconfidence. We explore such a possibility in this paper. Specifically, we investigate whether appropriate restraints on CEO discretion and the introduction of diverse viewpoints on the board serve to moderate the actions of overconfident CEOs and, in the end, benefit shareholders.

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Fixing Public Sector Finances: The Accounting and Reporting Lever

Holger Spamann is an assistant professor at Harvard Law School. This post is based on the article Fixing Public Sector Finances: The Accounting and Reporting Lever recently published in the UCLA Law Review and co-authored by Professor Spamann and James Naughton of Kellogg School of Management.

Detroit’s bankruptcy highlighted the precarious financial situation of many states, cities, and other localities (collectively referred to as municipalities). In an article just published in the UCLA Law Review, we argue that part of the blame for this situation lies with the outdated and ineffective financial reporting regime for public entities and that fixing this regime is a necessary first step toward fiscal recovery. We provide concrete examples of advisable changes in accounting rules and advocate for institutional changes, particularly involvement of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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CEO Stock Ownership Policies—Rhetoric and Reality

The following post comes to us from Nitzan Shilon at Peking University School of Transnational Law. This post is based on his recent study, CEO Stock Ownership Policies—Rhetoric and Reality. He conducted this study while being a Fellow in Law and Economics and an S.J.D. (Doctor of Laws) candidate at Harvard Law School.

I recently published a study titled CEO Stock Ownership Policies—Rhetoric and Reality. This study is the first academic endeavor to analyze the efficacy and transparency of stock ownership policies (SOPs) in U.S. public firms. SOPs generally require managers to hold some of their firms’ stock for the long term. Although firms universally adopted these policies and promoted them as a key element in their mitigation of risk, no one has shown that such policies actually achieve the important goals that they have been established to achieve. My study shows that while SOPs are important in theory, they are paper tigers in practice. It also shows that firms camouflage the weakness of these policies in their public filings. Therefore I put forward a proposal to make SOPs transparent as a first step in improving their content. My findings have important implications for the ongoing policy debates on corporate governance and executive compensation.

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A Century of Capital Structure: The Leveraging of Corporate America

The following post comes to us from John Graham, Professor of Finance at Duke University; Mark Leary of the Finance Area at Washington University in St. Louis; and Michael Roberts, Professor of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.

In our paper, A Century of Capital Structure: The Leveraging of Corporate America, forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics, we shed light on the evolution and determination of corporate financial policy by analyzing a unique panel data set containing accounting and financial market information for US nonfinancial publicly traded firms over the last century. Our analysis is organized around three questions. First, how have corporate capital structures changed over the past one hundred years? Second, do existing empirical models of capital structure account for these changes? And, third, if not explained by existing empirical models, what forces are behind variation in financial policy over the last century?

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  • Programs Faculty & Senior Fellows

    Lucian Bebchuk
    Alon Brav
    Robert Charles Clark
    John Coates
    Alma Cohen
    Stephen M. Davis
    Allen Ferrell
    Jesse Fried
    Oliver Hart
    Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
    Scott Hirst
    Howell Jackson
    Robert J. Jackson, Jr.
    Wei Jiang
    Reinier Kraakman
    Robert Pozen
    Mark Ramseyer
    Mark Roe
    Robert Sitkoff
    Holger Spamann
    Guhan Subramanian

  • Program on Corporate Governance Advisory Board

    William Ackman
    Peter Atkins
    Joseph Bachelder
    John Bader
    Allison Bennington
    Richard Breeden
    Daniel Burch
    Richard Climan
    Jesse Cohn
    Isaac Corré
    Scott Davis
    John Finley
    Daniel Fischel
    Stephen Fraidin
    Byron Georgiou
    Larry Hamdan
    Carl Icahn
    David Millstone
    Theodore Mirvis
    James Morphy
    Toby Myerson
    Barry Rosenstein
    Paul Rowe
    Rodman Ward