By the same authors

Private Enforcement of Corporate Law: An Empirical Comparison of the United Kingdom and the United States

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Publication details

JournalJournal of Empirical Legal Studies
DatePublished - Dec 2009
Issue number4
Number of pages36
Pages (from-to)687-722
Original languageEnglish


It is often assumed that strong securities markets require good legal protection of minority shareholders. This implies both “good” law—principally, corporate and securities law—and enforcement, yet there has been little empirical analysis of enforcement. We study private enforcement of corporate law in two common-law jurisdictions with highly developed stock markets, the United Kingdom and the United States, examining how often directors of publicly traded companies are sued, and the nature and outcomes of those suits. We find, based a comprehensive search for filings over 2004–2006, that lawsuits against directors of public companies alleging breach of duty are nearly nonexistent in the United Kingdom. The United States is more litigious, but we still find, based on a nationwide search of court decisions between 2000–2007, that only a small percentage of public companies face a lawsuit against directors alleging a breach of duty that is sufficiently contentious to result in a reported judicial opinion, and a substantial fraction of these cases are dismissed. We examine possible substitutes in the United Kingdom for formal private enforcement of corporate law and find some evidence of substitutes, especially for takeover litigation. Nonetheless, our results suggest that formal private enforcement of corporate law is less central to strong securities markets than might be anticipated.

    Research areas

  • Corporate law , directors duties , enforcement

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