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When did Ownership Separate from Control? Corporate Governance in the Early Nineteenth Century

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  • Eric Hilt

Abstract

This paper analyzes the ownership and governance of the business corporations of New York State in the 1820s. Using a new dataset collected from the manuscript records of New York's 1823 capital tax, and from the charters of the corporations, I analyze the ownership structures of the firms, and investigate the degree to which ownership was separated from control at the time. In contrast to Berle and Means's account of the development of the corporation, the results indicate that many of the firms were dominated by large shareholders, who were represented on the firms' boards, and held sweeping power to utilize the firms' resources for their own benefit. The oppression of minority shareholders was a significant problem in early corporate governance, and many of the firms configured their voting rights in a way that curtailed the power of large investors. A positive relationship between firm value and these voting rights configurations is found among the publicly-traded firms in the sample.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Hilt, 2007. "When did Ownership Separate from Control? Corporate Governance in the Early Nineteenth Century," NBER Working Papers 13093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13093
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance
    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
    • M2 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Economics
    • N21 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N81 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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