The Agency Problems of Institutional Investors

42 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2017  

Lucian A. Bebchuk

Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Alma Cohen

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics; Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Scott Hirst

Harvard Law School

Date Written: June 1, 2017

Abstract

We analyze how the rise of institutional investors has transformed the governance landscape. While corporate ownership is now concentrated in the hands of institutional investors that can exercise stewardship of those corporations that would be impossible for dispersed shareholders, the investment managers of these institutional investors have agency problems vis-à-vis their own investors. We develop an analytical framework for examining these agency problems and apply it to study several key types of investment managers.

We analyze how the investment managers of mutual funds - both index funds and actively managed funds - have incentives to under-spend on stewardship and to side excessively with managers of corporations. We show that these incentives are especially acute for managers of index funds, and that the rise of such funds has system-wide adverse consequences for corporate governance. Activist hedge funds have substantially better incentives than managers of index funds or active mutual funds, but their activities do not provide a complete solution for the agency problems of institutional investors.

Our analysis provides a framework for future work on institutional investors and their agency problems, and generates insights on a wide range of policy questions. We discuss implications for disclosure by institutional investors; regulation of their fees; stewardship codes; the rise of index investing; proxy advisors; hedge funds; wolf pack activism; and the allocation of power between corporate managers and shareholders.

Keywords: institutional investors, investment managers, mutual funds, index funds, hedge fund activism

JEL Classification: G23, G34, K22

Suggested Citation

Bebchuk, Lucian A. and Cohen, Alma and Hirst, Scott, The Agency Problems of Institutional Investors (June 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2982617

Lucian A. Bebchuk (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-3138 (Phone)
617-812-0554 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/bebchuk/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Alma Cohen

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 496-4099 (Phone)
(617) 812-0554 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Scott Hirst

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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