Corporate governance and aspects of public policy

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Alford, Stephen C.
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This dissertation consists of three papers that examine how aspects of public policy may impact private sector corporate governance. The first two examine the relationship between personal-tax policy and corporate agency costs. The first paper is a theoretical analysis based on an agency model of managerial behavior. A unique element of this paper is that it assumes a discontinuous compensation function, which reflects the occurrence of performance thresholds associated with the dismissal incentive and many common bonus plans. The analysis results in three main findings. First, the relative magnitude of proportional taxation has an indeterminate effect on managerial performance. Second, an increase in tax progressivity is associated with reduced managerial performance and increased agency costs. Third, the inclusion of performance thresholds and compensation discontinuities can cause tax system changes to have surprisingly large impacts on managerial performance. The second paper is an empirical investigation of the relationship between personal-tax progressivity and corporate operating efficiency. The analysis is based on variations in across-state tax policy and utilizes a sample of US-based firms. Using matched-pair testing and regression analysis, evidence is found that is consistent with the hypothesis that increased personal-tax progressivity negatively impacts managerial performance. Together, the analysis contained in the first two papers suggests a need to further examine the relationship between personal taxation and corporate agency costs, an issue that is largely absent from the research literature. The third paper investigates whether variations in state corporate law affect firm value. Previous research in this area generally treats all states other than Delaware as having homogeneous corporate law. I relax this assumption and analyze a large panel sample of US firms. Evidence is found that Delaware firms are worth more, on average, than non-Delaware firms. However, this effect is not consistent across all non-Delaware jurisdictions. The valuation differences are correlated to differences in statutory law. Specifically, corporate law that provides greater entrenchment of management is associated with reduced firm value. The results indicate that corporate law does affect corporate governance. Furthermore, the findings are inconsistent with the “race to the bottom” theory of corporate law.
corporate governance, personal taxation, agency theory, agency cost, corporate performance, corporate law, corporate control, progressivity