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Article

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Abstract

This article analyzes a private ordering solution to multiforum shareholder litigation: exclusive forum provisions in corporate charters and bylaws. These provisions require that all corporate-law-related disputes be brought in a single forum, typically a court in the statutory domicile. Using hand-collected data on the 746 U.S. public corporations that have adopted the provision, we examine what drives the growth in these provisions and whether, as some critics contend, their adoption reflects managerial opportunism. We find that nearly all new Delaware corporations adopt the provision at the IPO stage, and that the transition from zero to near-universal IPO adoption over 2007--2014 is driven by law firms. Characteristics of individual companies appear to play little or no role in adoption decisions. Instead, the pattern of adoption follows what can be described as a light-switch model, in which law firms suddenly switch from never adopting to always adopting the provision in the IPOs they advise. For post-IPO (or “midstream”) adoptions, we compare corporate governance features of adopters to a matched sample of nonadopters to test the hypothesis that midstream bylaw adoption reflects managerial opportunism. If the hypothesis were correct, then we would expect to find that the midstream adopters exhibit poor corporate governance compared to nonadopters (using the metrics of good governance practices as identified by critics of the provisions). We find, however, that there are either no significant differences in governance or that it is adopters that have higher-quality governance features. We also find no significant differences in governance and ownership structures between firms whose boards adopt the provisions as bylaws and those who obtain shareholder approval. The absence of significant differences across firms using disparate adoption procedures suggests that the method of adopting an exclusive forum provision--- whether with or without shareholder approval---should not be a matter of import for investors.

Date of Authorship for this Version

2017

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