Chancery’s Greatest Decision: Historical Insights on Civil Rights and the Future of Shareholder Activism
48 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2019 Last revised: 14 Sep 2019
Date Written: August 5, 2019
This essay offers a historical account of the Delaware Court of Chancery’s greatest case, Belton v. Gebhart, a seminal civil rights decision. The circumstances surrounding the Belton case illuminate the limits and potential of shareholder activism to bolster civil rights in the modern context. They vividly illustrate how advancing civil rights requires a range of tactics that leverage public, private, and philanthropic resources. Shareholder activism works best as part of a multipronged activist strategy, not as a substitute for other types of activism. Examining a historical civil rights example is instructive for thinking about how shareholder activism might advance the modern civil rights agenda. Recognizing the complex challenges associated with advancing civil rights, this essay raises key questions about the nascent environmental, social, and governance (ESG) framework with which scholars, practitioners, and other observers must contend.
Keywords: shareholder, activism, civil rights, corporate governance, institutional investor, ESG, board of directors, regulation, corporations, social responsibility
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