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The Impact of Litigation on Venture Capitalist Reputation

  • Vladimir Atanasov
  • Vladimir Ivanov
  • Kate Litvak
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    Venture capital contracts give VCs enormous power over entrepreneurs and early equity investors of portfolio companies. A large literature examines how these contractual terms protect VCs against misbehavior by entrepreneurs. But what constrains misbehavior by VCs? We provide the first systematic analysis of legal and non-legal mechanisms that penalize VC misbehavior, even when such misbehavior is formally permitted by contract. We hand-collect a sample of over 177 lawsuits involving venture capitalists. The three most common types of VC-related litigation are: 1) lawsuits filed by entrepreneurs, which most often allege freezeout and transfer of control away from founders; 2) lawsuits filed by early equity investors in startup companies; and 3) lawsuits filed by VCs. Our empirical analysis of the lawsuit data proceeds in two steps. We first estimate an empirical model of the propensity of VCs to get involved in litigation as a function of VC characteristics. We match each venture firm that was involved in litigation to otherwise similar venture firm that was not involved in litigation and find that less reputable VCs are more likely to participate in litigation, as are VCs focusing on early-stage investments, and VCs with larger deal flow. Second, we analyze the relationship between different types of lawsuits and VC fundraising and deal flow. Although plaintiffs lose most VC-related lawsuits, litigation does not go unnoticed: in subsequent years, the involved VCs raise significantly less capital than their peers and invest in fewer deals. The biggest losers are VCs who were defendants in a lawsuit, and especially VCs who were alleged to have expropriated founders.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13641.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13641.

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    Date of creation: Nov 2007
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    Publication status: published as Vladimir Atanasov & Vladimir Ivanov & Kate Litvak, 2007. "The Impact of Litigation on Venture Capitalist Reputation," NBER Chapters, in: Entrepreneurship: Strategy and Structure National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13641
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    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 1999. "Reputation Effects and the Limits of Contracting: A Study of the Indian Software Industry," Working papers 99-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    2. David H. Hsu, 2004. "What Do Entrepreneurs Pay for Venture Capital Affiliation?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(4), pages 1805-1844, 08.
    3. Lin, Timothy H. & Smith, Richard L., 1998. "Insider reputation and selling decisions: the unwinding of venture capital investments during equity IPOs," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 241-263, September.
    4. Kaplan, Steven & Strömberg, Per Johan, 2000. "Financial Contracting Theory Meets The Real World: An Empirical Analysis Of Venture Capital Contracts," CEPR Discussion Papers 2421, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Baker, Malcolm & Gompers, Paul A, 2003. "The Determinants of Board Structure at the Initial Public Offering," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 569-98, October.
    6. Steven Kaplan & Antoinette Schoar, 2003. "Private Equity Performance: Returns, Persistence and Capital," NBER Working Papers 9807, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Lerner, Josh, 1995. " Venture Capitalists and the Oversight of Private Firms," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(1), pages 301-18, March.
    8. Joshua Lerner, 1994. "The Syndication of Venture Capital Investments," Financial Management, Financial Management Association, vol. 23(3), Fall.
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