NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

What do Boards Really Do? Evidence from Minutes of Board Meetings

Miriam Schwartz-Ziv, Michael Weisbach

NBER Working Paper No. 17509
Issued in October 2011
NBER Program(s):   CF   LE

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.

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Acknowledgments

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17509

Published: “What do Boards Really do? Evidence from Minutes of Board Meetings” (with Miriam Schwartz- Ziv), Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 108 (May 2013), pp. 349-366.

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