Posts filed under ‘Corporate Governance’
| Peter Klein |
Along with Don Siegel, Nick Wilson, and Mike Wright, I am guest editing a special issue of Managerial and Decision Economics on the “Effects of Alternative Investments on Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Growth.” Proposals are due 15 June 2011. A special issue conference for developing the papers is planned for 29 October 2011 at the SUNY Global Center in Manhattan. The conference is jointly sponsored by the SUNY-Albany School of Business, the Centre for Private Equity Research at Imperial College Business School, and the McQuinn Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Further details and submission guidelines are below the fold. (more…)
| Dick Langlois |
If you’re in New York on February 6, you might want to go hear the always-interesting Henry Hansmann talk about work he is doing with Nicolai’s CBS colleague Steen Thomsen. The talk is at 4:20 in Room 701 Jerome Greene Hall at Columbia. This is part of the Columbia Law and Economics Workshop. (I’m on their mailing list but seldom have the time to make the trip.) Here’s the abstract:
Industrial foundations are nonprofit holding companies that own business firms. These entities are common in Northern Europe, and many successful international companies are owned in thus fashion. Because of their strong economic performance and unusual combination of nonprofit and for-profit entities, they present interesting challenges to theories of the firm. In this paper, we present the first study of the manner in which the foundations govern the companies that they own. We work with a rich data set comprising 121 foundation-owned Danish companies over the period 2003-2008.
We focus in particular on a composite structural factor that we term “managerial distance.” We interpret this as a measure of the clarity and objectivity with which a foundation-owned company’s top managers are induced to focus on the company’s profitability. More particularly, managerial distance seems best interpreted as a factor, or aggregate of component factors, that put the foundation board in the position of “virtual owners,” in the sense that the information and decisions facing the managers are framed for them in roughly the way they would be framed for profit-seeking outside owners of the company. Our empirical analysis shows a positive, significant, and robust association between managerial distance and company economic performance. The findings appear to illuminate not just foundation governance, but corporate governance and fiduciary behavior more generally.
| Dick Langlois |
Speaking of football. I just now received an email newsletter from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the union of which I am necessarily a member. The newsletter calls attention to a New York Times op-ed by Michael Bérubé, an AAUP activist who happens to be the Paterno Family Professor of Literature at Penn State. For Bérubé and the AAUP, the Penn State sex-abuse scandal “coincided with the steady erosion of faculty governance.” Peter has written critically about shared governance, which is a central and long-standing platform of the AAUP; and we can argue about whether shared governance is likely to be efficient in general. But it seems to me dubious that faculty oversight of athletics would have meant quicker detection of the offense and the cover-up at Penn State: the problem is less one of incentives than of impacted knowledge in a large bureaucracy. In yesterday’s news came the announcement that a history professor at Utah had been arrested for viewing child pornography on his laptop during a plane flight. How could this be? Isn’t the History Department under faculty governance?
What struck me most about the AAUP newsletter was the extent to which it reflected the academic coattail effect: issues of great popular interest or concern sweeping up in their wake lots of long-existing and dubiously related academic hobby-horses. Global warming is another, more obvious, example. At a university function a while back, I heard a retired faculty member bemoan the inexplicable lack of research and funding into the role of the family in global warming. Needless to say, she was a historian of the family.
| Peter Lewin |
The October 2011 issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is a special issue on the work of James Buchanan, guest edited by Pete Boettke, arising out of a recent FFSO conference. In addition to Boettke, the contributors are Kliemt, Marciano, Munger, Leeson, G. Vanberg, Voigt, Horwitz, Besley, Coyne, and Horn on a variety of topics. Amartya Sen and Elinor Ostrom contributed short appreciations. This issue is full of good stuff on a variety of topics.
I focus here on the lead article by Pete Boettke somewhat clumsily entitled, “Teaching Economics, Appreciating Spontaneous Order, and Economics as a Public Science.” For my part, this article alone makes the issue worthwhile getting. Boettke presents an overview of the many facets of Buchanan’s work (and as they developed over his career) helpfully connecting and contrasting it with Hayek. Some of these ideas are directly relevant to the organization and management context.
At the risk of distorting oversimplification, we may say that whereas Hayek concentrated on the problem of rationalistic hubris, Buchanan concentrated on the problem of opportunistic behavior. Both are inevitable and related problems of social systems, and each of their works thus complements the other. In a nutshell, each is an in-depth protracted examination of the knowledge problem and the incentive problem, respectively.
As points of emphasis in their respective works, Hayek concentrated on the limits on man’s knowledge at the abstract level, and the contextual nature of the knowledge residing in the economy at the concrete level, while Buchanan stressed the institutional/organizational logic of politics and the systemic incentives that different rule environments generate. In both, however, the central message of same players, different rules, produce different games is seen throughout their work in comparative political economy. To Hayek the puzzle was how to limit the rationalistic hubris of men, to Buchanan the puzzle was how to limit the opportunistic impulse of men. Both found hope in what they called a “generality norm” embedded in a constitutional contract — no law shall be passed, or rule established which privileges one group of individuals in society.
Hayek uses an evolutionary approach and Buchanan a “veil of ignorance” contractarian approach. But both are surely applicable to organizations of all types.
| Peter Lewin |
I should also mention that Bill Easterly gave the distinguished guest lecture this year on “Does Development Economics Cause Economic Development?” I thought it was excellent — both entertaining and informative — especially for non-specialists. I hope he publishes it.
Just one instance — a story about controlled random experiments in a development context (perhaps some of you have heard this). An interesting study showed that teacher absenteeism declined when teacher attendance was monitored and rewarded (imagine that). But when the same idea was applied to health-care workers, health-care workers in the treatment group (the monitored group) declined! Apparently, as a result of being monitored, health-care workers started asking for excused absences and found out that their supervisors actually did not care one way or another. As a result excused absences increased dramatically. This illustrates the power of unintended consequences and the importance of local knowledge, and how a seemingly unobtrusive experiment actually ended up providing locals with valuable knowledge that made things worse.
| Peter Klein |
The Call for Papers for the 2012 ISNIE conference, 14-16 June 2012 at the University of Southern California, is now posted. Proposals are due 30 January 2012, so start working on those abstracts!
I have been involved with ISNIE for many years and currently serve as the organization’s treasurer. The conferences are terrific, with a variety of papers, panels, and keynotes spanning the broad range of institutional and organizational social science research.
Trivia: I first met the good Professor Foss at the inaugural ISNIE conference in 1997 in St. Louis So if it weren’t for ISNIE, this blog might not exist. . . .
| Peter Lewin|
- Self-employment is a form of contractual relationship which, in certain circumstances, will have greater benefits to the parties involved than an employer–employee relationship. Government intervention, however, may make selfemployment artificially more attractive by raising the costs of employment relationships.
- Certain ethnic minority groups, older people and those without English as a first language tend to be overrepresented among the self-employed. This is partly because of the flexibility the arrangement provides but also because self-employment offers a ‘safety valve’ for those who find it difficult to find employment in the formal labour market.
- It is vital that businesses are not impeded from moving from a situation where the owner is self-employed without employees to a situation where the business has employees. There is evidence that businesses are impeded in this way. In just nine years to 2009, the proportion of micro-businesses with employees fell by almost one fifth. At the same time the proportion of self-employed with no employees rose rapidly.
- Women, individuals from certain ethnic groups, those with young dependants, those with low or no qualifications, those for whom English is not a first language and those who have recently experienced unemployment make up a much greater proportion of the workforce of small firms. For example, whereas 11 per cent of employees of small firms had no qualifications, only 4 per cent of employees of large firms had no qualifications.
- Some workers will prefer to work for small firms because of the greater flexibility they offer in their working practices. In many cases, however, small firms will employ people who are talented but who are not able to negotiate the more formal recruitment processes of larger firms. Micro-businesses therefore perform an important economic and social function – employing people who might be overlooked by larger employers.
- Genuine entrepreneurial insight and discovery tends to come from small firms. Entrepreneurship is crucial for economic growth. The nature of entrepreneurial insight is such, however, that we have no idea where it will come from – not even in the most general terms. Probably only one in every thousand ‘start-up’ firms will become one of the large businesses of the future.
- Policies to promote entrepreneurship must come in the form of removing impediments to business and should not involve the promotion of particular business activities. It is simply not possible for government intervention to pick this tiny number of winners. All government can do is create a climate in which entrepreneurship can thrive.
- The smallest firms are a key driver of job creation. Businesses do not start big. One quarter of employees working in firms that were established ten years earlier are working for firms that started from a position of employing only one person.
- The cost of regulation has grown enormously over the last fifteen years. This particularly affects small firms with employees because regulatory costs act like a ‘poll tax’. Wide ranging exemptions from employment regulation and the minimum wage would be appropriate for small firms. Such exemptions would have the additional advantage of allowing the government to ‘experiment’ with deregulation. Standard terms and conditions of employment could be drawn up which would ensure that employees clearly understood the exemptions. Radical reforms of the tax system would also assist small firms which experience much greater compliance costs than large firms.
- Moves by the government to promote entrepreneurship through the state education system or provide specific tax exemptions and reliefs for particular forms of business activity are wasteful or counterproductive.
| Peter Klein |
Coase is fond of telling this story about the economist and the horse:
Economics, over the years, has become more and more abstract and divorced from events in the real world. Economists, by and large, do not study the workings of the actual economic system. They theorize about it. As Ely Devons, an English economist, once said at a meeting, “If economists wished to study the horse, they wouldn’t go and look at horses. They’d sit in their studies and say to themselves, ‘What would I do if I were a horse?’” And they would soon discover that they would maximize their utilities.
Coase, as O&M readers know, prefers direct, hands-on observation to abstract theorizing. As a Misesian [serious, hubba hubba], of course, I can’t endorse this view as a general prescription, though I recognize its value for empirical work. Sometimes it’s best to look at real examples, or to ask real practitioners. Kaplan and Strömberg read through real-world venture-capital contracts to see how control rights were allocated. Genesove and Mullin used the minutes of trade-association meetings, not modeling, to figure out how members of the US sugar cartel maintained compliance.
Here’s another interesting example: “What Do Boards Really Do?” by Miriam Schwartz-Ziv and Michael Weisbach.
We analyze a unique database from a sample of real-world boardrooms – minutes of board meetings and board-committee meetings of eleven business companies for which the Israeli government holds a substantial equity interest. We use these data to evaluate the underlying assumptions and predictions of models of boards of directors. These models generally fall into two categories: “managerial models” assume boards play a direct role in managing the firm, and “supervisory models” assume that boards’ monitor top management but do not make business decisions themselves. Consistent with the supervisory models, our minutes-based data suggest that boards spend most of their time monitoring management: 67% of the issues they discussed were of a supervisory nature, they were presented with only a single option in 99% of the issues discussed, and they disagreed with the CEO only 3.3% of the time. In addition, managerial models describe boards at times as well: Boards requested to receive further information or an update for 8% of the issues discussed, and they took an initiative with respect to 8.1% of them. In 63% of the meetings, boards took at least one of these actions or did not vote in line with the CEO.
I think Ronald would approve.
| Lasse Lien |
In case you wonder the author of this paper — Stefano Allesina — works in Chicago:
Abstract: Nepotistic practices are detrimental for academia. Here I show how disciplines with a high likelihood of nepotism can be detected using standard statistical techniques based on shared last names among professors. As an example, I analyze the set of all 61,340 Italian academics. I find that nepotism is prominent in Italy, with particular disciplinary sectors being detected as especially problematic. Out of 28 disciplines, 9 – accounting for more than half of Italian professors – display a significant paucity of last names. Moreover, in most disciplines a clear north-south trend emerges, with likelihood of nepotism increasing with latitude. Even accounting for the geographic clustering of last names, I find that for many disciplines the probability of name-sharing is boosted when professors work in the same institution or sub-discipline. Using these techniques policy makers can target cuts and funding in order to promote fair practices.
Allesina, S. (2011). “Measuring Nepotism through Shared Last Names: The Case of Italian Academia.” PLoS ONE 6(8): e21160. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021160
| Peter Lewin |
I am envious. My brother in law and my nephew are in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. He is sending short reports via his Blackberry. His descriptions are graphic — he is awe-struck. Sounds incredible, beyond imagination — to those of us veteran Africans used to having to search hard for game on our game park safaris. In the Serengeti there is game in exaggerated profusion. Lions, leopards, and cheetah virtually next to each other. Huge migrations of herds, hundreds of thousands strong. A trip for a lifetime. I should live so long.
It seems clear that this wonder of nature (a giant crater-bubble full of wild life) would not exist in the absence of the revenue from international tourism. Though government managed, it is subject to vigorous competition from other game parks in that part of Africa. The area is the traditional homeland of the legendary Masai tribe, who have a cattle-based economy. Population growth, technological change, and the pace of modernity threatened to destroy their world. Now they seem to be flourishing. The Masai have turned out to be successful entrepreneurs! I wonder if this is an instance of Ostrom’s successful local initiatives.
More generally, the preservation of wild-life in Africa has turned on the successful management of a plethora of wild-life game parks (many of them quite small relatively speaking), some having the status of super luxury hotels. There is an irony in there somewhere. (I wonder what it is like to have to manage a wild-life park as a business firm).
Of course most of the environmentalists never tell you about the preservation successes of market competition.
| Peter Klein |
ISNIE held its fifteenth annual meeting last week in lovely Palo Alto, California. President-Elect Barry Weingast put together a terrific program, which you can view here. Many of the papers are also available for public viewing here. A few highlights:
Private Entrepreneurs in Public Services: a Longitudinal Examination of Outsourcing and Statization of Prisons - abstract and paper
Sandro Cabral, (Federal University of Bahia)
Sergio Lazzarini, (Insper)
Paulo Furquim de Azevedo, (FGV-SP)
What is Law? a Coordination Account of the Characteristics of Legal Order - abstract and paper
Gillian K. Hadfield, (University of Southern California)
Barry R. Weingast, (Stanford University)
Law As Byproduct: Theories of Private Law Production - abstract and paper
Bruce H. Kobayashi, (George Mason Univeristy School of Law)
Larry E. Ribstein, (University of Illinois College of Law)
On the Evolution of Collective Enforcement Institutions: Communities and Courts - abstract and paper
Scott E. Masten, (University of Michigan)
Jens Prüfer, (Tilburg University)
The ‘Fundamental Transformation’ Reconsidered: Dixit Vs. Williamson - abstract and paper
Antonio Nicita, (University of Siena, and EUI)
Massimiliano Vatiero, (University of Lugano)
In the Shadow of Violence: the Problem of Development in Limited Access Societies - abstract and paper
Douglass North, (Washington University (St Louis))
John Wallis, (University of Maryland)
Steven Webb, (World Bank)
Barry Weingast, (Stanford University)
Alberto Diaz-Cayeros, (University of California San Diego)
Gabriella Montinola, (University of Californa Davis)
Jong-Sung You, (University of California San Diego)
Entrepreneurial Finance and Performance: a Transaction Cost Economics Approach - abstract and paper
Alicia Robb, (Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation)
Robert Seamans, (NYU Stern School of Business)
Expanding the Concept of Bounded Rationality in TCE: Incorporating Interpretive Uncertainty in Governance Choice - abstract
Libby Weber, (UC Irvine)
Kyle J. Mayer, (University of Southern California)
See the complete list for many more excellent papers.
Bonus (via Lynne Kiesling): the program for a Festschrift conference at Northwestern in honor of Joel Mokyr.
Update: More on the Mokyr conference from Lynne.
| Peter Klein |
Important new paper by Henry Manne on entrepreneurship (Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Spring 2011). It won’t surprise you to know that Henry has a solution to the problem of encouraging entrepreneurial behavior among corporate managers: allow them to trade on inside information.
Entrepreneurship, Compensation, and the Corporation
Henry G. Manne
This paper revisits the concept of entrepreneurship, which is frequently neglected in mainstream economics, and discusses the importance of defining and isolating this concept in the context of large, publicly held companies. Compensating for entrepreneurial services in such companies, ex ante or ex post, is problematic — almost by definition — despite the availability of devices such as stock and stock options. It is argued that insider trading can serve as a unique compensation device and encourage a culture of innovation.
| Peter Klein |
The University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business, Division of Applied Social Sciences, and School of Law are jointly hosting an interdisciplinary conference on corporate governance, 19-21 May 2011 in Columbia, Missouri: “Corporate Governance: The Role of the Board of Directors in Understanding and Managing Disruptive and Transformational Technologies.” Keynote speakers include Renee Adams, Ed Zajac, David Haffner, and Tom Melzer. Check the link above for registration, accommodation, and other information.
| Peter Klein |
O&M readers attending the American Economic Association annual meeting in Denver may find these papers of particular interest:
Industrial Policy, Entrepreneurship, and Growth
PHILIPPE AGHION (Harvard University)
Does Management Matter: Evidence from India
NICHOLAS BLOOM (Stanford University)
BENN EIFERT (University of California-Berkeley)
APRAJIT MAHAJAN (Stanford University)
DAVID MCKENZIE (World Bank)
JOHN ROBERTS (Stanford University)
Efficiency and Adaptation in Organizations and Institutions
PETER G. KLEIN (University of Missouri-Columbia)
JOSEPH T. MAHONEY (University of Illinois)
ANITA M. MCGAHAN (University of Toronto)
CHRISTOS N. PITELIS (University of Cambridge)
The Coevolution of Culture and Institutions in Seventeenth Century England
PETER MURRELL (University of Maryland) (more…)
| Peter Klein |
Maybe you knew this already, but the Center for Research on Security Prices (CRSP) — the provider of most of the stock-price data used in academic and practitioner research on financial markets — is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The center has put up a fancy website, full of interesting factoids, to commemorate the occasion. Did you know, for example, that the first CRSP computer was a UNIVAC, donated by Sperry-Rand though the intervention of Leslie Groves? That the initial data collection effort came in three years late and 200% over budget? (Makes me feel better about some of my own projects.) That CRSP hasn’t used tapes for years, though people still refer to the master file as the “CRSP tapes”? (HT: Gregg Gordon.)
| Peter Klein |
- A new paper by Randall Morck and Bernard Yeung, “Agency Problems and the Fate of Capitalism.” A very good comparative-institutional analysis of shareholder democracy and its benefits and costs relative to “stakeholder” models.
- A Washington Post story on “moral licensing” (via Sheen Levine) — suggesting that some people view ethical behavior, like goods and services, in terms of trade-offs at the margin!
- A call for contributions to The Ethics and Economics of Agrifood Competition, a Springer volume in preparation by my colleague Harvey James.
- Videos and papers from the Coase centenary conference held last year at the University of Chicago Law School.
| Dick Langlois |
The boundaries of the firm and the ownership of the firm have been two of the main themes of the economics of organization over the past several decades. In this paper, I develop a general multi-party framework that integrates the ownership of the firm into the property-rights approach to the firm. I consider the ownership of the firm as the ownership of the rights to terminate cooperation with any party while maintaining a contractual or employment relation with all the other related parties of the firm. The model in this paper allows for the separation of the ownership of the firm from the ownership of the alienable assets that partly constitute it. Such a general multi-party setup may provide new tools for the study of the problem of the firm’s boundaries as well as inspiration for further applications of the theory of property rights.
This will be Leshui’s job market paper. Comments (and job offers) welcome.
| Dick Langlois |
The Visible Hand
By Raymond Chandler
It was eight o’clock in the morning, sharp, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain on the Manhattan pavement. I was wearing my heavy gray flannel suit, with rounded collar, display handkerchief, and gold tie with streamlined mechanical shapes on it. As always, I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed professional manager ought to be. I was calling on the head of General Motors.
From two blocks away I stared at the GM building at 57th and Broadway, its terra cotta façade now etched gray as the pavement, as it wrapped itself around the gothic fantasy of the Broadway Tabernacle at 56th Street. I knew which one was really the cathedral. I didn’t get to inspect the building’s interior for as long as I had the outside. The minute I walked through the front door I was met by a tall, striking female, platinum blonde in finger waves. She wore a cardigan jacket over a skirt and sweater. Her eyes were slate-gray, and had almost no expression when they looked at me.
I admitted as much.
“Follow me, please.”
Following her was easy. She led me into a black-and-gilt elevator. Like all New York elevator men, the operator was small and pinched but looked as though he knew something we didn’t. He brought us up to the top floor, where the cast iron grille of the elevator opened onto an anteroom of the inner-sanctum. When I glanced back, the blonde had already disappeared. I walked in. (more…)
| Peter Klein |
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act — I’ll refrain from snarks about the title — was signed into law today by President Obama. Here is a very useful summary by William Sweet of the Act’s contents and likely consequences. In a nutshell: “The Dodd-Frank Act effects a profound increase in regulation of the financial services industry. The Act gives U.S. governmental authorities more funding, more information and more power. In broad and significant areas, the Act endows regulators with wholly discretionary authority to write and interpret new rules.” Aren’t you shocked that it passed?
| Peter Klein |
- The much-anticipated KKR IPO turned out to be a snoozer. But what the heck is a publicly traded private-equity firm anyway?
- Is the flattening hierarchy an illusion, driven by job-title inflation?
- How call centers use behavioral economics.
- Belén Villalonga’s new paper on ownership concentration and internal-capital-market efficiency — highly recommended.