Columbia Law School Roundtable on a Governance Research Agenda for the Academy

12 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2017

See all articles by Marcel Bucsescu

Marcel Bucsescu

Columbia University - Law School

Martijn Cremers

University of Notre Dame

Vikramaditya S. Khanna

University of Michigan Law School

Jeffrey N. Gordon

Columbia Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: Winter 2017


Since Jensen and Meckling’s formulation of the theory of “agency costs” in 1976, corporate finance and governance scholars have produced a large body of research that attempts to identify the most important features and practices of effective corporate governance systems. But for all the research that has been done in the past 40 years, many practitioners continue to see a disconnect between theory and practice, between the questions researched and the questions that need to be answered. In this roundtable, Martijn Cremers begins by challenging the conventional view that limiting “agency costs” is the main challenge confronted by boards of directors in representing shareholder interests and, hence, the proper focus of most governance scholarship. Especially in today’s economy, with the high values assigned to growth companies, the most important function of corporate governance may instead be to overcome the problem of American “short termism” that he attributes to “inadequate shareholder commitment to long‐term cooperation.” And he buttresses his argument with the findings of his own recent research suggesting that obstacles to the workings of the corporate control market like staggered boards and supermajority voting requirements may actually improve long‐run corporate performance by lengthening the decision‐making horizon of boards and the managements they supervise. Vik Khanna discusses Indian Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spending and its effects in light of a recent law requiring Indian companies of a certain size to devote at least 2% of their after‐tax profit to CSR initiatives. One unintended effect of this mandate, which took effect in 2010, was that all Indian companies that were spending more than the prescribed 2% of profits cut their expenditure back to that minimum, suggesting that CSR and advertising are substitutes to some extent, and that such legal mandates can discourage CSR spending by early adapters or “leaders.” Nevertheless, Khanna also found evidence of social norms developing in support of CSR, including a spreading perception that such spending can help some companies achieve strategic goals. Jeff Gordon closes by arguing that, to the extent investors are short‐sighted, their short‐sightedness is likely to be justified by their recognition that public company directors have neither the information nor the incentives to do an effective job of monitoring corporate managements. The best solution to the problems with U.S. corporate governance is to replace today’s “thinly informed” directors with “activist” directors who more closely resemble the directors of private‐equity owned firms. Such directors would spend far more time with, and be much more knowledgeable about, corporate management and operations—and they would have much more of their personal wealth at stake in the form of company stock.

Suggested Citation

Bucsescu, Marcel and Cremers, K. J. Martijn and Khanna, Vikramaditya S. and Gordon, Jeffrey N., Columbia Law School Roundtable on a Governance Research Agenda for the Academy (Winter 2017). Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Vol. 29, Issue 1, pp. 76-85, 2017. Available at SSRN: or

Marcel Bucsescu

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

K. J. Martijn Cremers (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame ( email )

P.O. Box 399
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0399
United States

Vikramaditya S. Khanna

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-615-6959 (Phone)

Jeffrey N. Gordon

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
Ctr. for Law and Economic Studies
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2316 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

B-1050 Brussels


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