David I. Walker

Boston University School of Law Working Paper 05-02


It is sometimes argued in the corporate governance literature that the total share of corporate value that can be extracted by a manager is fixed and independent of the avenues through which value is extracted. Shareholders need not worry about an activity such as insider trading, the story goes, because any profits achieved by a manager through insider trading will simply offset conventional compensation. This article challenges that idea and argues that whether one views the manager’s share as being capped by external market forces, set by an optimal principal/agent contract, or limited by saliency and outrage in accordance with a managerial power view of corporate governance, the total value that can and will be appropriated by managers will be a function of the number and type of avenues through which value can be appropriated.

Although the foregoing theories provide the same overall prediction that additional avenues of appropriation increase total managerial appropriation, the factors affecting the magnitude of the effect depend on the model or mechanism employed. For example, potential avenues of appropriation that are easily monitored and under the unilateral control of the directors, such as bonuses or perks, should have little affect on incremental appropriation under an optimal contracting model, but could have significant impact under a managerial power model. A review of the relevant empirical literature suggests that additional avenues of appropriation do indeed lead to greater overall appropriation. The evidence, moreover, is largely inconsistent with the optimal contracting view.

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David I. Walker Contact Information
Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 353-3174

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