NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Blockholders and Corporate Governance

Alex Edmans

NBER Working Paper No. 19573
Issued in October 2013
NBER Program(s):   CF   LE

This paper reviews the theoretical and empirical literature on the different channels through which blockholders (large shareholders) engage in corporate governance. In classical models, blockholders exert governance through direct intervention in a firm's operations, otherwise known as "voice." These theories have motivated empirical research on the determinants and consequences of activism. More recent models show that blockholders can govern through the alternative mechanism of "exit" - selling their shares if the manager underperforms. These theories give rise to new empirical studies on the two-way relationship between blockholders and financial markets, linking corporate finance with asset pricing. Blockholders may also worsen governance by extracting private benefits of control or pursuing objectives other than firm value maximization. I highlight the empirical challenges in identifying causal effects of and on blockholders, and the typical strategies attempted to achieve identification. I close with directions for future research.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19573

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