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This paper looks at the phenomenon of “defensive regulatory competition” in European corporate law following Centros, Überseering and Inspire Art. In order to retain control over the corporate governing private limited entities operating within their territories and to prevent the proliferation of “foreign limited” formations, Member States have modified some of the features of their laws that company founders considers most unattractive, such as minimum capital and time-consuming incorporation procedures. The first part of the paper analyzes the market for the law governing privately held firms, drawing from the debate in the United States. The US and Europe differ in that regulatory competition, as far as substantive law is concerned, focuses mainly on ex post mechanisms such as directors’ duties and veil piercing. By contrast, European competition seems to be driven by ex ante issues relating to firm formation, such as minimum capital. The second part of the paper draws from an ongoing empirical research project that attempts to explore the effects of regulatory competition and uses reforms in Germany and Belgium as examples. Regression analysis suggests that at least the German 2008 reform had a minor effect on the number of UK private limited companies being set up to do business in Germany.

Published in

European Business Organization Law Review, vol. 20, pp. 467-492 (2019)

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