Two New Articles by Birdthistle
Professor William Birdthistle has recently uploaded two new articles to SSRN, "The Supreme Court's Theory of the Fund" (37 Journal of Corporation Law 771, 2012) and "Becoming the Fifth Branch" (working paper, with M. Todd Henderson). Read the abstracts for both articles below.
The Supreme Court's Theory of the Fund Abstract
"Just as the firm has long served as the foundational molecule of the U.S. capitalist economy, theories of the firm have for more than a century dominated legal and economic discourse. Ever since Ronald Coase published The Nature of the Firm in 1937 and asked why firms should exist in an efficient market, classicists and neoclassicists have competed to develop theories — predominantly managerialist and contractual — that best explain the structure and behavior of business organizations.
The investment fund, by contrast, has languished at the margins of corporate theory, relegated as simply a minor, if somewhat curious, example of the firm. But as the flow of assets into funds has swollen dramatically in recent years, so too has the relevance of the question whether funds are, in fact, best considered a subspecies of the firm or instead ought to be evaluated as independent phenomena.
Part II of this Article discusses the shortcomings of the recent ruling in Janus Capital Group v. First Derivative Traders, taking particular exception with the remarkable formalism of the majority’s reasoning, which appears to ignore or misapprehend the actual operations of mutual funds. If operating companies follow the lead of investment funds and use Janus as a model for immunity against securities litigation, deterrence of financial fraud is likely to drop substantially. Part III considers the potentially deleterious implications of the Court’s fund jurisprudence and predicts that substantial mischief will flow from the decision should its lessons be taken advantage of in other sectors of the economy. Part IV considers the theoretical lens — the theory of the fund — that justices of the Supreme Court appear to use to examine investment funds, and it identifies mistaken assumptions and problems with that lens and its use in the pair of recent rulings in Janus and Jones v. Harris. This Article considers whether alternative theories of the firm might inform a more useful theory of the fund for both the judicial and legislative branches in the future."
Download the article from SSRN here.
Becoming the Fifth Branch Abstract
"Observers of our federal republic have long acknowledged that a fourth branch of government comprising administrative agencies has arisen to join the original three established by the Constitution. In this article, we focus our attention on the emergence of perhaps yet another, comprising financial self-regulatory organizations. In the late eighteenth century, long before the creation of state and federal securities authorities, the financial industry created its own self-regulatory organizations. These private institutions then coexisted with the public authorities for much of the past century in a complementary array of informal and formal policing mechanisms. That equilibrium, however, appears to be growing increasingly imbalanced, as financial SROs such as FINRA transform from “self-regulatory” into “quasigovernmental” organizations.
We describe this change through an account that describes how SROs are losing their independence, growing distant from their industry members, and accruing rulemaking, enforcement, and adjudicative powers that more closely resemble governmental agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. We then consider the confluence of forces that might be driving this increasingly governmental shift, including among others, demographic changes in the style and size of retail investments in the securities markets, the one-way ratchet effect of high-publicity failures and scandals, and the public choice incentives of regulators and the compliance industry.
The process by which such self-regulatory organizations shed their independence for an increasingly governmental role is an undesirable but largely inexorable development, and we offer some initial ideas for how to forestall it."
Download the article from SSRN here.