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89 Geo. L.J. 439 (2000-2001)
The End of History for Corporate Law

handle is hein.journals/glj89 and id is 461 raw text is: ESSAY
The End of History for Corporate Law
HENRY HANSMANN* AND REINIER KRAAKMAN**
INTRODUCTION
Much recent scholarship has emphasized institutional differences in corporate
governance, capital markets, and law among European, American, and Japanese
companies.' Despite very real differences in the corporate systems, the deeper
tendency is toward convergence, as it has been since the nineteenth century. The
basic law of corporate governance-indeed, most of corporate law-has achieved
a high degree of uniformity across developed market jurisdictions, and continu-
ing convergence toward a single, standard model is likely. The core legal
features of the corporate form were already well established in advanced
jurisdictions one hundred years ago, at the turn of the twentieth century.
Although there remained considerable room for variation in governance prac-
tices and in the fine structure of corporate law throughout the twentieth century,
the pressures for further convergence are now rapidly growing. Chief among
these pressures is the recent dominance of a shareholder-centered ideology of
corporate law among the business, government, and legal elites in key commer-
cial jurisdictions. There is no longer any serious competitor to the view that
corporate law should principally strive to increase long-term shareholder value.
This emergent consensus has already profoundly affected corporate governance
practices throughout the world. It is only a matter of time before its influence is
felt in the reform of corporate law as well.
I. CONVERGENCE PAST: THE RISE OF THE CORPORATE FORM
We must begin with the recognition that the law of business corporations had
already achieved a remarkable degree of worldwide convergence at the end of
the nineteenth century. By that time, large-scale business enterprise in every
major commercial jurisdiction had come to be organized in the corporate form,
and the core functional features of that form were essentially identical across
these jurisdictions. Those features, which continue to characterize the corporate
form today, are: (1) full legal personality, including well-defined authority to
* Professor, Yale Law School.
** Professor, Harvard Law School.
1. See, e.g., Bernard S. Black & John C. Coffee, Jr., Hail Britannia?: Institutional Investor Behavior
Under Limited Regulation, 92 MICH. L. REV. 1997 (1994); Ronald J. Gilson & Mark J. Roe, Understand-
ing the Japanese Keiretsu: Overlaps Between Corporate Governance and Industrial Organization, 102
YALE L.J. 871 (1993); Mark J. Roe, Some Differences in Company Structure in Germany, Japan, and
the United States, 102 YALE L.J. 1927 (1993).

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