Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



This essay focuses on the impact of recent changes in corporate governance on ethical behavior within the public corporation. It argues that a style of corporate behavior – one characterized by a risk tolerant, even reckless, pursuit of short-term profits and a disregard for the interests of non-shareholder constituencies – is attributable in significant part to recent changes in corporate governance, including the rise of hedge fund activism, greater use of incentive compensation, and the appearance of blockholder directors. It then surveys feasible responses intended to strengthen the role of the boards as the corporation’s conscience and superego. Given the difficulty of reform, it predicts that the problems identified are likely to get worse before they get better.


Banking and Finance Law | Business Organizations Law | Law | Law and Economics


This paper was prepared for a Symposium Issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy on the “Responsible Conduct of Business."