Between 1996 and 2016, the number of U.S. listed companies declined by about 50 percent. There are now fewer U.S. listed companies than there were in 1976. Some observers have raised the alarm about this decline. For example, SEC Chair Jay Clayton in a speech last summer called the decline in the number of U.S. listed companies “a serious issue for our markets and the country.” But before we can decide whether or not the lower number of public companies is a problem, much less what to do about it, we need to take a look at what is happening and why it is happening. A closer look suggests that the situation is more complex than it might appear at first glimpse.
Continue Reading Fewer U.S. Listed Companies – Is That a Problem?

tickerThere are fewer public companies in the U.S. than there were in the nineties. Understanding the reason for the decline in the number of public companies is important to understanding whether or not the decline is a cause for concern, as well for thinking about what if anything policymakers should about it. In an interesting May 2017 paper entitled “Looking Behind the Declining Number of Public Companies: An Analysis of U.S. Capital Markets” (here), EY takes a detailed look at the drop in the number of companies listed on U.S. exchanges and examines the causes. The paper’s analysis has a number of important implications for policymakers, for investors, and for all market observers. A version of the EY paper appeared in a May 18, 2017 post on the Harvard Law School Forum of Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation blog (here).
Continue Reading Why Are There Fewer Public Companies and How Worried Should We Be About it?

stock marketThere is a long and venerable tradition of predicting the demise of the American public corporation. For example, back in 1989, Harvard Business School Professor Michael Jensen famously questioned whether we were seeing the “eclipse of the public corporation.” In a February 2017 paper entitled “Is the American Public Corporation in Trouble?” (here) University of Arizona finance professor Kathleen Kahle and Ohio State University finance professor René M. Stulz reexamine the question and suggest that in the years since Jensen’s landmark article, there have been “striking changes” in the landscape for American corporations. The relatively few remaining public companies are, in effect, “survivors,” and few “want to join their club,” as new enterprises prefer private equity and other non-public finance sources to the public securities markets. A March 24, 2017 summary of the authors’ paper on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation can be found here.
Continue Reading Are We Witnessing the Sunset of the U.S. Public Company?