For Whom (and For When) is the Firm Governed? The Effect of Changes in Corporate Fiduciary Duties on Tax Strategies and Earnings Management
European Financial Management, forthcoming
50 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2021 Last revised: 5 Aug 2021
Date Written: July 31, 2021
The proper object of the fiduciary duties of corporate directors and officers is frequently described as the central question in all corporate law. We use the adoption of constituency statutes, which shift the loci of corporate managers’ duties from shareholders to a wide range of stakeholders, as a quasi-natural experiment to determine the actual impact of fiduciary duties. We find that while the adoption of constituency statutes has no significant effect on measures of earnings management, it has a robust effect on firms’ effective tax rate, which increases in a range between 0.570% and 1.903%. These results are robust in terms of various measures of the firm’s effective tax rate. We provide explanations for why fiduciary duties apparently do not influence manager behaviors in relation to shareholders, but do affect their behaviors in relation to the taxing authority. We argue that a change to fiduciary duties doesn’t appear to alter the motivation of managers to maximize shareholder welfare outcomes, but rather it allows them to eschew short-term strategies that often impair long-term outcomes.
Keywords: tax aggressiveness, fiduciary duties, earnings management
JEL Classification: H26, G34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation