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Opting Only In: Contractarians, Waiver of Liability Provisions, and the Race to the Bottom

Brown, Jr., J. Robert and Gopalan, Sandeep (2009) Opting Only In: Contractarians, Waiver of Liability Provisions, and the Race to the Bottom. Indiana Law Review, 42 (2). pp. 285-315. ISSN 0090-4198

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Abstract

This paper will test the core claim of scholars in the nexus of contracts tradition—that private ordering as a process of bargaining creates optimal rules. We do this by analyzing empirical evidence in the context of waiver of liability provisions. These provisions allow companies to eliminate monetary damages for breach of the duty of care through amendments to the articles of incorporation. With all states allowing some form of these provisions, they represent a good laboratory to examine the bargaining process between management and shareholders. The contractarian approach would suggest that shareholders negotiate with management to obtain agreements that are in their best interests. If a process of bargaining is at work as they claim, the opt-in process for waiver of liability provisions ought to generate a variety of approaches. Shareholders wanting a high degree of accountability would presumably not support a waiver of liability. In other instances, shareholders might favor them in order to attract or retain qualified managers. Still others would presumably want a mix, allowing waiver but only in specified circumstances. Our analysis reveals that the diversity predicted by a private ordering model is not borne out by the evidence with waiver of liability provisions for Fortune 100 companies. All states permit such provisions and in the Fortune 100, all but one company has them. Moreover, they are remarkably similar in effect, waiving liability to the fullest extent permitted by law. In other words, one categorical rule was merely replaced by another, dealing a significant blow to the contractarian thesis.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: University of Denver Sturm College of Law Legal Research Paper Series Working Paper No. 08-02
Keywords: private ordering; contract; contractarian; waiver of Liability Provisions; accountability;
Subjects: Social Sciences > Law
Item ID: 2414
Depositing User: Prof. Sandeep Gopalan
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2011 17:10
Journal or Publication Title: Indiana Law Review
Publisher: Indiana University of School of Law
Refereed: Yes
URI:

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