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Energy Infrastructure Investment and the Rise of the Uncorporation

Larry E. Ribstein (Deceased)

University of Illinois College of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Summer 2011

Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Vol. 23, Issue 3, pp. 75-83, 2011

While most large U.S. businesses have long been organized as corporations, a significant portion of our economy, including major parts of our energy infrastructure, are organized as other types of legal entities. These “uncorporations” include such business forms as Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). Many practitioners have dismissed these alternative entities as merely tax devices and only peripherally important to mainstream business. But this view misses important features of the uncorporation that make it an important alternative in dealing with the “agency” costs that arise in public companies from separating managerial control from equity ownership. Corporate governance relies heavily on agents such as auditors, class action lawyers, judges, and independent directors to protect shareholders from managerial self‐interest. The obvious costs and defects of relying on these governance mechanisms have generally been seen as a reasonable price to pay for the benefits of the corporate form. But this conclusion depends on the availability and effectiveness of the alternative mechanisms for addressing agency costs. Uncorporations provide such an alternative by tying managers' economic well‐being so closely to that of their firms that corporate monitoring devices become less necessary. Uncorporate governance mechanisms include managerial compensation that is based largely (if not entirely) on the firm's profits or cash distributions, and restrictions on managers' control of corporate cash through liquidation rights and requirements for cash distributions. Business people and policy makers should evaluate the potential benefits of uncorporations before concluding that the costs of corporate governance are an inevitable price of separating ownership and control in modern firms.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 11

Date posted: September 29, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Ribstein (Deceased), Larry E., Energy Infrastructure Investment and the Rise of the Uncorporation (Summer 2011). Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Vol. 23, Issue 3, pp. 75-83, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1935249 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6622.2011.00344.x

Contact Information

Larry Edward Ribstein (Deceased) (Contact Author)
University of Illinois College of Law ( email )
504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
217-244-9881 (Phone)
217-244-1478 (Fax)

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center
2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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