Adapting to the New Shareholder-Centric Reality

83 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2013 Last revised: 26 Jun 2013

See all articles by Edward B. Rock

Edward B. Rock

New York University School of Law; European Corporate Governance Institute

Date Written: 2013


After more than eighty years of sustained attention, the master problem of U.S. corporate law — the separation of ownership and control — has mostly been brought under control. This resolution has occurred more through changes in market and corporate practices than through changes in the law. This Article explores how corporate law and practice are adapting to the new shareholder-centric reality that has emerged.

Because solving the shareholder-manager agency cost problem aggravates shareholder-creditor agency costs, I focus on implications for creditors. After considering how debt contracts, compensation arrangements, and governance structures can work together to limit shareholder-creditor agency costs, I turn to available legal doctrines that can respond to opportunistic behavior that slips through the cracks: fraudulent conveyance law, restrictions on distributions to shareholders, and fiduciary duties. To sharpen the analysis, I analyze two controversies that pit shareholders against creditors: a hypothetical failed LBO, and the attempts by shareholders of Dynegy Inc. to divert value from creditors through the manipulation of a complex group structure. I then consider some legal implications of a shareholder-centric system, including the importance of comparative corporate law, the challenges to the development of fiduciary duties posed by the awkward divided architecture of U.S. corporate law, the challenges for Delaware in adjudicating shareholder-creditor disputes, and the potential value of reinvigorating the traditional "entity" conception of the corporation in orienting managers and directors.

Keywords: corporate governance, corporation law, corporate finance, creditors, management and shareholder incentives, agency costs, shareholder-bondholder conflicts, comparative corporate law, fiduciary duties, Delaware impartiality, entity model of corporations

JEL Classification: G32, G34, K20, K22

Suggested Citation

Rock, Edward B., Adapting to the New Shareholder-Centric Reality (2013). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 161, p. 1907, 2013, U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 13-19, Available at SSRN:

Edward B. Rock (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

European Corporate Governance Institute ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels

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