Corporate Politics, Governance, and Value Before and After Citizens United

44 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2011 Last revised: 2 Feb 2012

See all articles by John C. Coates, IV

John C. Coates, IV

Harvard Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 25, 2012


This paper explores corporate politics, governance and value in the S&P 500 before and after Citizens United. In regulated and government-dependent industries (e.g., banking, telecommunications), political activity is nearly universal, and uncorrelated with measures of shareholder power, managerial agency costs, or value. But 11% of CEOs in 2000 who retired by 2011 obtained political positions after retiring, and in a majority of industries (e.g., apparel, retail), political activity is common but varied, and correlates negatively with measures of shareholder power (concentration, rights), positively with signs of managerial agency costs (corporate jet use by CEOs), and negatively with shareholder value (industry-relative Tobin’s q). The negative politics-value relationship is stronger in firms making large capital expenditures, suggesting that politics may lead firms to pursue value-destroying projects, and the relationship is also stronger in regressions with firm and time fixed effects, which rule out many potential omitted variables. After the exogenous shock of Citizens United, corporate lobbying and PAC activity jumped, in both frequency and amount, and firms that were politically active in 2008 had lower value in 2010 than other firms, consistent with politics at least partly causing and not merely correlating with lower value. Overall, the results are inconsistent with politics generally serving shareholder interests, and support proposals to require disclosure of political activity to shareholders.

JEL Classification: D72, G32, G34, G38, K22, K23

Suggested Citation

Coates, John C., Corporate Politics, Governance, and Value Before and After Citizens United (January 25, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

John C. Coates (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

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