Limitation of Liability and the Ownership Structure of the Firm

  • Author(s): ANDREW WINTON
  • Published: Apr 30, 2012
  • Pages: 487-512
  • DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.1993.tb04724.x


This paper models the optimal choice of shareholder liability. If investors want managers to be monitored, the monitors should be residual claimants (shareholders), and monitoring and firm value will increase as shareholders commit more of their wealth to the firm. When liquidating wealth is costly, contingent liability dominates direct investment as a wealth commitment device; however, if wealth is unobservable, under this regime only relatively poor investors will hold shares in equilibrium. This may be prevented at a cost by verifying shareholder wealth and restricting stock transfers. Comparative statics on various liability regimes are used to motivate actual contractual arrangements.

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