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Traditional theories argue that governance is strongest under a single large blockholder, as she has large incentives to undertake value-enhancing interventions. However, most firms are held by multiple small blockholders. This paper shows that, while such a structure generates free-rider problems that hinder intervention, the same co-ordination difficulties strengthen a second governance mechanism: disciplining the manager through trading. Since multiple blockholders cannot co-ordinate to limit their orders and maximize combined trading profits, they trade competitively, impounding more information into prices. This strengthens the threat of disciplinary trading, inducing higher managerial effort. The optimal blockholder structure depends on the relative effectiveness of manager and blockholder effort, the complementarities in their outputs, information asymmetry, liquidity, monitoring costs, and the manager's contract.


Published in

Review of Financial Studies
Vol. 24, No. 7, pp. 2395-2428, July 2011

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