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What do Boards Really Do? Evidence from Minutes of Board Meetings

  • Miriam Schwartz-Ziv
  • Michael Weisbach

We analyze a unique database from a sample of real-world boardrooms - minutes of board meetings and board-committee meetings of eleven business companies for which the Israeli government holds a substantial equity interest. We use these data to evaluate the underlying assumptions and predictions of models of boards of directors. These models generally fall into two categories: "managerial models" assume boards play a direct role in managing the firm, and "supervisory models" assume that boards' monitor top management but do not make business decisions themselves. Consistent with the supervisory models, our minutes-based data suggest that boards spend most of their time monitoring management: 67% of the issues they discussed were of a supervisory nature, they were presented with only a single option in 99% of the issues discussed, and they disagreed with the CEO only 3.3% of the time. In addition, managerial models describe boards at times as well: Boards requested to receive further information or an update for 8% of the issues discussed, and they took an initiative with respect to 8.1% of them. In 63% of the meetings, boards took at least one of these actions or did not vote in line with the CEO.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17509.

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Date of creation: Oct 2011
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Publication status: published as “What do Boards Really do? Evidence from Minutes of Board Meetings” (with Miriam Schwartz- Ziv), Journal of Financial Economics, Vol. 108 (May 2013), pp. 349-366.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17509
Note: CF LE
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