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Incentives in Corporations: Evidence from the American Whaling Industry

  • Eric Hilt

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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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10403.pdf
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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
Note: DAE
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
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