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We study when firms choose to install boards and their roles in a historical setting where neither boards nor their duties are mandated by law. Boards arise in firms with large, heterogenous shareholder bases. We propose that an important role of boards is to mediate between heterogenous shareholders with divergent interests. Voting restrictions are common and ensure that boards are representative and not captured by large blockholders. Boards are given significant powers to both mediate and monitor management, and these roles are intrinsically linked.

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