Liability Risk for Outside Directors: A Cross-Border Analysis

12 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2005  

Bernard S. Black

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law; Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Brian R. Cheffins

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Michael Klausner

Stanford Law School

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Abstract

Much has been said recently about the risky legal environment in which outside directors of public companies operate, especially in the USA, but increasingly elsewhere as well. Our research on outside director liability suggests, however, that directors' fears are largely unjustified. We examine the law and lawsuit outcomes in four common law countries (Australia, Canada, Britain, and the USA) and three civil law countries (France, Germany, and Japan). The legal terrain and the risk of 'nominal liability' (a court finds liability or the defendants agree to a settlement) differ greatly depending on the jurisdiction. But nominal liability rarely turns into 'out-of-pocket liability,' in which the directors pay personally damages or legal fees. Instead, damages and legal fees are paid by the company, directors' and officers' (D&O) insurance, or both. The bottom line: outside directors of public companies face a very low risk of out-of-pocket liability. We sketch the political and market forces that produce functional convergence in outcomes across countries, despite large differences in law, and suggest reasons to think that this outcome might reflect sensible policy.

Suggested Citation

Black, Bernard S. and Cheffins, Brian R. and Klausner, Michael, Liability Risk for Outside Directors: A Cross-Border Analysis. European Financial Management, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 153-171, March 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=688647

Bernard S. Black (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-2784 (Phone)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-5049 (Phone)

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Brussels
Belgium

Brian R. Cheffins

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom
+44 1223 330084 (Phone)
+44 1223 330055 (Fax)

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

c/o ECARES ULB CP 114
B-1050 Brussels
Belgium

Michael D. Klausner

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-723-6433 (Phone)
650-725-0253 (Fax)

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