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Behavioral Finance in Corporate Governance - Independent Directors, Non-Executive Chairs, and the Importance of the Devil's Advocate

  • Randall Morck

The Common Law, parliamentary democracy, and academia all institutionalize dissent to check undue obedience to authority; and corporate governance reformers advocate the same in boardrooms. Many corporate governance disasters could often be averted if directors asked hard questions, demanded clear answers, and blew whistles. Work by Milgram suggests humans have an innate predisposition to obey authority. This excessive subservience of agent to principal, here dubbed a "type II agency problem", explains directors' eerie submission. Rational explanations are reviewed, but behavioral explanations appear more complete. Experimental work shows this predisposition disrupted by dissenting peers, conflicting authorities, and distant authorities. Thus, independent directors, chairs, and committees excluding CEOs might induce greater rationality and more considered ethics in corporate governance. Empirical evidence of this is scant - perhaps reflecting problems identifying genuinely independent directors.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10644.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10644.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Publication status: published as Randall Morck, 2008. "Behavioral finance in corporate governance: economics and ethics of the devil’s advocate," Journal of Management and Governance, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 179-200, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10644
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  1. Benjamin E. Hermalin & Michael S. Weisbach, 2003. "Boards of directors as an endogenously determined institution: a survey of the economic literature," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Apr, pages 7-26.
  2. Michael C. Jensen, 2010. "The Modern Industrial Revolution, Exit, and the Failure of Internal Control Systems," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 22(1), pages 43-58.
  3. Randall Morck & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1988. "Alternative Mechanisms for Corporate Control," NBER Working Papers 2532, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Renée B. Adams & Heitor Almeida & Daniel Ferreira, 2005. "Powerful CEOs and Their Impact on Corporate Performance," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(4), pages 1403-1432.
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