The Legitimate Rights of Public Shareholders

38 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2009

See all articles by Ezra Wasserman Mitchell

Ezra Wasserman Mitchell

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics - School of Law

Date Written: March 2, 2009


In recent years there has been significant ongoing academic debate over the expansion of public shareholders' participation rights in corporate governance. The debate has accompanied a dramatic increase in institutional shareholder and hedge fund activism attempting to influence the conduct of corporate affairs.

The legitimacy of shareholder participation rights depends upon the actual role public shareholders play in contributing to the corporation's function of providing goods and services and, ultimately, to economic growth and social welfare. Nobody in the debate has stopped to examine this question. This paper presents original empirical evidence that demonstrates that public shareholders do not, on net, contribute capital to finance industrial production, and in fact are net consumers of corporate equity. Moreover, their investment incentives significantly distort the behavior of corporate managers who place strong emphasis on stock price at the expense of long-term business health, a fact that has played some role in the current global financial debacle. The logical conclusion is that public shareholders' rights should, ideally, be eliminated, and certainly not expanded or enhanced.

Keywords: shareholders, voting, shareholder rights, corporate governance, finance, stock market, finance-growth nexus, stock, shares

Suggested Citation

Wasserman Mitchell, Ezra, The Legitimate Rights of Public Shareholders (March 2, 2009). GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 461; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 461. Available at SSRN: or

Ezra Wasserman Mitchell (Contact Author)

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics - School of Law ( email )

777 Guoding Road
Shanghai, 200433

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