Tag: Incorporations


Amendments to the DGCL

Gregory P. Williams is chair of the Corporate Department at Richards, Layton & Finger. This post is based on a Richards, Layton & Finger publication, and is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Senate Bill 75, which contains several important amendments to the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (the “DGCL”), was signed by Delaware Governor Jack Markell on June 24, 2015. As described in this post, the 2015 legislation includes, among other things:

  • Prohibition on Fee Shifting. The legislation amends Sections 102 and 109 to prohibit “fee shifting” provisions in certificates of incorporation and bylaws of stock corporations.
  • Authorization of Delaware Forum Selection Clauses. The legislation adds new Section 115 to validate provisions in certificates of incorporation and bylaws that select the Delaware courts as the exclusive forum for “internal corporate claims.”
  • Flexibility in Stock and Option Issuances. The legislation amends Section 152 to provide greater flexibility in stock issuances, and makes corresponding amendments to Section 157 in respect of the authorization of rights and options to purchase stock.
  • Ratification of Defective Corporate Acts and Stock. The legislation amends Sections 204 and 205 to clarify and streamline the procedures for ratifying defective corporate acts and stock.
  • Public Benefit Corporations. The legislation amends Section 363 to loosen the restrictions on (x) an existing corporation becoming a “public benefit corporation” and (y) a public benefit corporation ceasing to be a public benefit corporation. It also adds a “market out” exception to the appraisal rights provided in Section 363(b) in connection with a corporation becoming a public benefit corporation.

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Institutional Investing When Shareholders Are Not Supreme

Anne Tucker is Associate Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law. This post is based on an article that first appeared in the Harvard Business Law Review, authored by Professor Tucker, and Christopher Geczy, Jessica Jeffers and David Musto, all of the Department of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.

Signs of the public’s appetite for alternative business forms, such as benefit corporations, [1] that blend profit with purpose include the success of get-one-give-one brands like Warby Parker, and Etsy’s recent $300 million IPO, which made it the second (and largest) B Corp to go public. The success of alternative business forms will also depend, in part, on acceptance by institutional investors, as companies would likely suffer without access to their trillions in assets under management.

The question of institutions’ attitudes toward investing in alternative business forms prompted our recent research, Institutional Investing When Shareholders Are Not Supreme. [2] We address the question by gauging institutional investors’ response to decreased pressure on public firms to maximize shareholder value caused by the passage of constituency statutes. Why constituency statutes? Constituency statutes, first passed as takeover defenses in the 1980’s, explicitly extended directors’ discretion to consider non-shareholder interests in takeover, and sometimes other, circumstances. [3] The changes imposed by constituency statutes were smaller in scope (permissive director discretion in limited circumstances) than the changes codified in benefit corporation legislation (mandatory director consideration of a broader range of circumstances), but constituency statutes were the first codification of directors’ ability to reject a potentially profit maximizing endeavor because of other, non-shareholder concerns. [4] We didn’t rely solely on the statutory language to demonstrate that constituency statutes constituted a legal change; we analyzed thirty years’ worth of case citations to conclude that the statutes, as enforced, expanded boards’ rights to serve nonshareholder interests as opposed to maintaining the status quo. [5] Constituency statutes, at the time of their initial passage, sparked a large body of corporate legal scholarship theorizing the impact (and legality) of reducing pressure to maximize shareholder value. [6] We reviewed this initial debate in our paper because it mirrors, in many respects, the rhetoric and theory evoked in today’s alternative business form debate.

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Freedom of Establishment for Companies

The following post comes to us from Martin Gelter, Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University.

I recently posted my forthcoming book chapter, Centros, the Freedom of Establishment for Companies, and the Court’s Accidental Vision for Corporate Law (forthcoming in EU Law Stories, Fernanda Nicola & Bill Davies eds., Cambridge University Press 2015) on SSRN.

This chapter attempts to tell a short intellectual history of the debate about free choice in corporate law in the EU. In contrast to the United States, in many EU Member States it was traditionally not permissible to set up a corporation in one Member State in order to run the company with its head office (meaning the center of its actual commercial and financial operations) in another. This changed with three cases of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), namely Centros (1999), Überseering (2002), and Inspire Art (2003). Consequently, EU member states can no longer effectively deny the legal capacity to pseudo-foreign corporations, or apply key provisions of their own corporate law to them. At least in principle, founders can now exercise the freedom of establishment for companies to “pick and choose” the best national legal form.

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Limited Commitment and the Financial Value of Corporate Law

The following post comes to us from Martijn Cremers, Professor of Finance at the University of Notre Dame, and Simone Sepe of the College of Law at the University of Arizona. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

For at least 40 years, a large body of literature has debated the effects of state competition for corporate charters and the value of state corporate laws. The common assumption of these studies is that interstate competition affects the way state corporate laws respond to managerial moral hazard, i.e., the agency problem arising between shareholders and managers out of the separation of ownership from control (Jensen and Meckling, 1976). Nevertheless, scholars have been sharply divided about the importance of interstate competition, and particularly whether interstate competition fosters a “race to the top” that maximizes firm value (Winter, 1977; Easterbrook and Fischel, 1991; Romano, 1985, 1993) or a “race to the bottom” that pushes states to cater to managers at the expense of shareholders (Cary, 1974; Bebchuk, 1992; Bebchuk and Ferrell, 1999, 2001).

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Making It Easier for Directors To “Do The Right Thing”

The following post is based on a recent Harvard Business Law Review article by Leo Strine, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court and a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance. The article, Making It Easier For Directors To “Do The Right Thing”, is available here. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Leo Strine, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, and the Austin Wakeman Scott Lecturer on Law and a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance, has recently published an article in the Harvard Business Law Review. The essay, titled Making It Easier For Directors To “Do The Right Thing”, is available here. The essay posits that benefit corporation statutes have the potential to change the accountability structure within which managers operate and thus create incremental reform that puts actual power behind the idea that corporations should “do the right thing.”

The abstract of Chief Justice Strine’s essay summarizes it briefly as follows:

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What Happens in Nevada? Self-Selecting into Lax Law

The following post comes to us from Michal Barzuza, Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and David Smith, Professor of Finance at the University of Virginia.

In our paper, What Happens in Nevada? Self-Selecting into Lax Law, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we study the financial reporting behavior of firms that incorporate in Nevada, the second most popular state for out-of-state incorporations, after Delaware. Compared to Delaware, Nevada law has weak fiduciary requirements for corporate managers and board members. We find evidence consistent with the idea that lax shareholder protection under Nevada law induces firms prone to financial reporting errors to incorporate in Nevada, and that lax Nevada law may also cause firms to engage in risky reporting behavior. [1] In particular, we find that Nevada-incorporated firms are 30 – 40% more likely to report financial results that later require restatement than firms incorporated in other states, including Delaware. These results hold when we narrow our set of restatements to more serious infractions, including restatements that reduce reported earnings, and to restatements that raise suspicions of fraud or lead to regulatory investigations.

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The State of State Competition for Incorporations

Marcel Kahan is the George T. Lowy Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.

The competition by states for incorporations has long been the subject of extensive scholarship. Views of this competition differ radically. While some commentators regard it as “The Genius of American Corporate Law,” others believe it leads to a “Race to the Bottom” and yet others have taken the position that it barely exists. Despite this lack of consensus among corporate law scholars, scholars in other fields have treated state competition for incorporations as a paradigm case of regulatory competition.

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Race to the Bottom Recalculated: Scoring Corporate Law Over Time

Brian Cheffins is Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Cambridge. The following post is based on an article co-authored by Professor Cheffins, Steven A. Bank, Paul Hastings Professor of Business Law at UCLA School of Law, and Harwell Wells, Associate Professor of Law at Temple University Beasley School of Law.

In The Race to the Bottom Recalculated: Scoring Corporate Law Over Time we undertake a pioneering historically-oriented leximetric analysis of U.S. corporate law to provide insights concerning the evolution of shareholder rights. There have previously been studies seeking to measure the pace of change with U.S. corporate law. Our study, which covers from 1900 to the present, is the first to quantify systematically the level of protection afforded to shareholders.

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Revisiting American Exceptionalism

The following post comes to us from Naomi R. Lamoreaux, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Economics and History, Yale University, and Research Associate, NBER.

The legal rules governing businesses’ organizational choices have varied across nations along two main dimensions: the number of different forms that firms could adopt; and the extent to which firms had the contractual freedom to modify the available forms to suit their needs. Until the last quarter of the twentieth century, businesses in the U.S. had a narrower range of forms from which to choose than their counterparts in most other countries and also much less ability to modify the basic forms contractually. In the recent NBER Working Paper, Revisiting American Exceptionalism: Democracy and the Regulation of Corporate Governance in Nineteenth-Century Pennsylvania, I explore the exceptional character of the U.S. legal rules by focusing on the different structure of U.S. and British general incorporation laws.

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Delaware Public Benefit Corporations 90 Days Out: Who’s Opting In?

The following post comes to us from Alicia E. Plerhoples at Georgetown University Law Center. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On August 1, 2013, amendments to the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) became effective, allowing entities to incorporate as a public benefit corporation, a new corporate form that requires managers to produce a public benefit and balance shareholders’ financial interests with the best interests of stakeholders materially affected by the corporation’s conduct.

In my paper, Delaware Public Benefit Corporations 90 Days Out: Who’s Opting in?, I present empirical research on the companies that adopted the Delaware public benefit corporation form within the first three months of the effective date of the amended DGCL.

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