Shareholder Power Conference

In theory, shareholders own companies and directors and managers are obligated to serve them by maximizing shareholder value. In reality, the role of shareholders is far more complex. In some contexts, shareholders appear to be powerless providers of capital with a limited ability to influence corporate governance. In other contexts, shareholders appear to be able to abuse their power by tunnelling wealth into their own pockets at the expense of companies. In between these two extremes, there are a myriad of ways in which different types of shareholders, in different institutional environments, have varying degrees of influence on corporate governance.

In short, the reality of the power exercised by shareholders is far more varied and complex than the basic theory suggests. Although unravelling the complex reality of shareholder power around the world is a daunting challenge, it appears to be a challenge worth taking. It is no secret that corporations have a pervasive impact on virtually every aspect, of every person's life, in every part of the world. This makes understanding the power wielded by shareholders-who are ostensibly the "owners" of corporations-an issue of paramount importance around the world.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Centre for Law & Business and the Vanderbilt University Law and Business Program have collaborated to launch a project to develop a deeper understanding of the role of Shareholder Power around the world. This project aims to achieve this goal by bringing together leading scholars from around the world at two conferences to discuss the issue of Shareholder Power from a variety of perspectives. The first conference, organized by Professor Randall S. Thomas, was held at Vanderbilt Law School in September 2013. The second conference, organized by Associate Professor Dan W. Puchniak, was held at the National University of Singapore Law School in March 2014. The research produced at these two conferences will be published as a Research Handbook on Shareholder Power by Edward Elgar in 2014 which will be co-edited by Professor Jennifer Hill and Professor Randall S. Thomas. The European Corporate Governance Institute has partnered with NUS and Vanderbilt to promote this research project.