The Twilight of the Berle and Means Corporation

Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 34, pp. 1121-1138, 2011

18 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2011  

Gerald F. Davis

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Date Written: June 8, 2011

Abstract

This article describes the major features of the public corporation described by Berle and Means in The Modern Corporation and Private Property and how these have been challenged since the early 1980s. A decade into the twenty-first century, the public corporation may have reached its twilight in the United States. The “shareholder value” movement of the past generation has succeeded in turning managers into faithful servants of share price maximization, even when this comes at the expense of other considerations. But the shareholder value movement also brought with it a series of changes that have undone many core features of the Berle and Means corporation. Corporate ownership is no longer dispersed; the concentration of assets and employment have been in decline for three decades; and today’s largest corporations bear little resemblance to the companies analyzed by Berle and Means. Moreover, there are far fewer of them than there used to be: the United States had half as many publicly traded domestic corporations in 2010 as it did in 1997. In another generation, the Berle and Means corporation may be largely a memory, overtaken by new forms of organization and financing.

Keywords: shareholder value

Suggested Citation

Davis, Gerald F., The Twilight of the Berle and Means Corporation (June 8, 2011). Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 34, pp. 1121-1138, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1860097

Gerald F. Davis (Contact Author)

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234
United States
734-647-4737 (Phone)
734-936-0282 (Fax)

Paper statistics

Downloads
505
Rank
42,697
Abstract Views
3,497