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Enjoying the Quiet Life? Corporate Governance and Managerial Preferences

University of Chicago, National Bureau of Economic Research, and Centre for Economic Policy ResearchMassachusetts Institute of Technology and National Bureau of Economic Research

Much of our understanding of corporations builds on the idea that managers, when they are not closely monitored, will pursue goals that are not in shareholders’ interests. But what goals would managers pursue? This paper uses variation in corporate governance generated by state adoption of antitakeover laws to empirically map out managerial preferences. We use plant‐level data and exploit a unique feature of corporate law that allows us to deal with possible biases associated with the timing of the laws. We find that when managers are insulated from takeovers, worker wages (especially those of white‐collar workers) rise. The destruction of old plants falls, but the creation of new plants also falls. Finally, overall productivity and profitability decline in response to these laws. Our results suggest that active empire building may not be the norm and that managers may instead prefer to enjoy the quiet life.