Voting Rights, Share Concentration, and Leverage at Nineteenth-Century US Banks
NBER Working Paper No. 17808
Studies of corporate governance are concerned with two features of modern shareholding: diffuse ownership and the resulting separation of ownership and control, which potentially leads to managerial self-dealing; and, majority shareholding, which potentially mitigates some managerial self-dealing but opens the door for the expropriation of minority shareholders. This paper provides a study of the second issue for nineteenth-century US corporations. It investigates two related questions. First, did voting rules that limited the control rights of large shareholders encourage diffuse ownership? It did. Second, did diffuse ownership systematically alter bank risk taking? It did. Banks with less concentrated ownership followed policies that reduced liquidity and bankruptcy risk.
You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.