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Common Ownership in America: 1980-2017

Author

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  • Matthew Backus
  • Christopher Conlon
  • Michael Sinkinson

Abstract

When competing firms possess overlapping sets of investors, maximizing shareholder value may provide incentives that distort competitive behavior, affecting pricing, entry, contracting, and virtually all strategic interactions among firms. We propose a structurally consistent and scaleable approach to the measurement of this phenomenon for the universe of S&P 500 firms between 1980 and 2017. Over this period, the incentives implied by the common ownership hypothesis have grown dramatically. Contrary to popular intuition, this is not primarily associated with the rise of BlackRock and Van- guard: instead, the trend in the time series is driven by a broader rise in diversified investment strategies, of which these firms are only the most recent incarnation. In the cross-section, there is substantial variation that can be traced, both in the theory and the data, to observable firm characteristics – particularly the share of the firm held by retail investors. Finally, we show how common ownership can theoretically give rise to incentives for expropriation of undiversified shareholders via tunneling, even in the Berle and Means (1932) world of the “widely held firm.”

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Backus & Christopher Conlon & Michael Sinkinson, 2019. "Common Ownership in America: 1980-2017," NBER Working Papers 25454, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25454
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. José Azar & Martin C. Schmalz & Isabel Tecu, 2018. "Anticompetitive Effects of Common Ownership," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 73(4), pages 1513-1565, August.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Common Ownership: Back to Basics
      by Steve Cecchetti and Kim Schoenholtz in Money, Banking and Financial Markets on 2019-02-11 14:47:56

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    Cited by:

    1. Brito, Duarte & Ribeiro, Ricardo & Vasconcelos, Helder, 2020. "Overlapping ownership, endogenous quality, and welfare," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • L0 - Industrial Organization - - General
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L21 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Business Objectives of the Firm

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