Firm Boundaries Matter
The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation 2014-01-28
Do firm boundaries affect the allocation of resources? This question had spawned significant research in economics since it was raised in Coase (1937). A large body of work has focused on comparing the resource allocation in conglomerates relative to stand-alone firms to shed light on this issue. Theoretically, there are competing views on this aspect. On the one hand, Alchian (1969), Wiliamson (1985), and Stein (1997), among others, have put forth the view that conglomerates, by virtue of exerting centralized control over the capital allocation process, may do a better job in directing investments than the external capital markets. On the other hand, the “dark side” view of internal capital markets argues that problems of corporate socialism are more prevalent in conglomerates making them less efficient in resource allocation (Rajan, Servaes, and Zingales, 2000; Scharfstein and Stein, 2000).