A Theory of Proxy Advice when Investors Have Social Goals
52 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2020 Last revised: 7 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 6, 2021
This paper studies the conditions under which the proxy advice market helps and hinders corporate governance. A key assumption is that investors are heterogeneous, with some focusing only on returns while others also have nonpecuniary goals, such as environmental sustainability and protection of human rights. Proxy advisory firms compete for business by choosing a scale of production, price, and “slant” of advice. Heterogeneous demand creates pressure for the market to offer an array of advice, but there is a countervailing force: when demand is sufficiently large, suppliers adopt a “platform” technology and consolidate into a natural monopoly. Under conditions that seem empirically relevant, the platform monopolist slants its advice toward the preferences of investors with non-value-maximizing goals, thereby steering corporate elections away from value maximization. We characterize the conditions under which the proxy advice market succeeds and fails, discuss policy reforms that would help it succeed, and develop normative principles for assessing proxy advice when value maximization is not the sole objective of investors.
Keywords: Proxy advice, socially responsible investing, corporate voting, shareholder rights
JEL Classification: G3,G18,L1,L21
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