Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

LSE Conference on ‘An Institutional Theory of the Firm’


Eva Micheler
Professor of Law, LSE Law School
David Gindis
Senior Lecturer in Economics, Hertfordshire Business School, University of Hertfordshire


Time to read

2 Minutes

For some time the nexus of contract model of the firm and agency theory have operated as the dominant theoretical approach in law, economics and other social sciences. Following the 2008 financial crisis this approach has received substantial and sustained criticism. Despite this critique no alternative positive or normative theory of the firm has yet taken hold.

The aim of this conference is to fill this gap and to articulate an institutional theory of the firm. This theory (a) emphasizes the real economic enterprise underlying the legal form supplied by law, (b) highlights that and how the enterprise is constituted by law, (c) examines the relative roles of governance mechanisms, organizational routines, codes of practice, social norms and shared beliefs, in a manner that aims to (d) shine a light on current and future reform proposals.

The event is hybrid and takes place at LSE on 16 and 17 June. More information can be found here.

The event is accompanied by a public lecture by Katharina Pistor entitled 'LSE Public Lecture: Financialising the non-financial firm’.

Conventional accounts treat the firm as a site of production and surplus creation. Historically, the corporation was a critical vehicle for capital-intensive production; it shielded investors from liability and committing their capital to the firm for the long term. Over the past half century, the corporate form has been redeployed as a site for financialization, that is, a singular focus on financial returns irrespective of a firm’s business purpose. In this lecture, Katharina traces the evolution of the corporation from a vehicle for raising capital into one for creating capital in the hands of shareholders. Four factors have been critical for this outcome: First, changes in rules governing corporate capital including dividend and rules on share-repurchases; second, the rise of institutional investors and their desire for stable cash flows; third, the transposition of structured (debt) finance to the balance sheets of non-financial firms; fourth, the fragmentation of business operation into corporate group structures domestically and transnationally. 

More information about the public lecture can be found here.

Eva Micheler is Associate Professor in law at the LSE Law School.

David Gindis is Senior Lecturer in Economics at University of Hertfordshire.


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