The Mandatory Law Puzzle: Redefining American Exceptionalism in Corporate Law

59 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2013 Last revised: 11 Jan 2014

See all articles by Jens Dammann

Jens Dammann

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: January 6, 2014


American corporate law stands out when compared to other legal systems. At no time is this more apparent than with regard to the use of mandatory law. Corporate law in the United States is largely enabling, whereas most other countries around the globe rely heavily on mandatory corporate law.

The traditional view seeks to explain this American exceptionalism by pointing to the phenomenon of regulatory competition. According to this view, regulatory competition has eroded mandatory corporate law norms in the United States, whereas the absence of such competition has allowed mandatory norms to persist in other countries. This narrative, however, confuses cause and effect. Regulatory competition exists where it is allowed to exist; the decisive question is why so many countries have chosen to protect their mandatory corporate law norms by suppressing regulatory competition while the United States has done the opposite.

This article argues that efficiency considerations are key to understanding this mandatory law puzzle. The efficiency of enabling versus mandatory corporate law is not uniform across countries; instead, it depends on numerous social and institutional factors, particularly the efficiency of stock markets, ownership patterns, judicial infrastructure, and labor market flexibility. As a result, enabling corporate law is substantially more efficient in the United States than it is in Europe and many other countries. In other words, the U.S. commitment to private ordering in corporate law may not be a simple political choice that other countries can copy at will, but rather the reflection of various deep-seated institutional and social characteristics.

Keywords: mandatory, enabling, comparative, codetermination, co-determination

JEL Classification: K22, K33

Suggested Citation

Dammann, Jens, The Mandatory Law Puzzle: Redefining American Exceptionalism in Corporate Law (January 6, 2014). Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 65, No. 2, 2014, Forthcoming, U of Texas Law, Law and Econ Research Paper No. 545, Available at SSRN:

Jens Dammann (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

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

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