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Incentives in Corporations: Evidence from the American Whaling Industry

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  • Eric Hilt

Abstract

In the 1830s, when whaling was a prosperous American industry, a number of whaling corporations were chartered. All of them were short-lived. This paper analyzes the failure of corporations in American whaling, and argues that the corporate form was unable to create the incentives requisite for success in the industry. Most nineteenth-century whaling ventures were owned by a small number of local investors, and were configured to provide powerful incentives for their managers. The effect of the corporate form on productivity is analyzed using a newly-collected panel dataset of 874 whaling voyages. Many whaling corporations were managed by individuals who had previously (or would subsequently) manage ventures with the usual ownership structure. Using an individual-fixed-effects framework, a strong negative effect of the corporate form on productivity is identified.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10403.

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Date of creation: Apr 2004
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Publication status: published as Hilt, Eric. "Incentives In Corporations: Evidence From The American Whaling Industry," Journal of Law and Economics, 2006, v49(1,Apr), 197-227.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10403

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  1. Ellickson, Robert C, 1989. "A Hypothesis of Wealth-Maximizing Norms: Evidence from the Whaling Industry," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 83-97, Spring.
  2. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
  3. Allen, Douglas W & Lueck, Dean, 1998. "The Nature of the Farm," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 343-86, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Alex Gershkov & Jianpei Li & Paul Schweinzer, 2014. "How to Share it out: The Value of Information in Teams," CESifo Working Paper Series 4906, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Eric Hilt, 2006. "The Negative Trade-off Between Risk and Incentives: Evidence from the American Whaling Industry," NBER Working Papers 11960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Eric Hilt, 2014. "Corporate Governance and the Development of Manufacturing Enterprises in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts," NBER Chapters, in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Hilt, Eric, 2008. "When did Ownership Separate from Control? Corporate Governance in the Early Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(03), pages 645-685, September.

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