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Boston College Law School

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Law and Finance Revisited

Perhaps one of the more interesting papers presented at last week's Law and Society Annual Meeting in Berlin was Holger Spamann's, On the Insignificance and/or Endogeneity of La Porta et al.'s 'Anti-Director Rights Index' under Consistent Coding.  Here is the abstract:

I re-code the "Antidirector Rights Index" (ADRI) of shareholder protection rules from La Porta et al. 1998 for 46 countries in 1997 and 2005 with the help of local lawyers. My emphasis is on consistent coding; I do not change the original variable definitions. Consistently coded ADRI values are neither distributed with significant differences between Common and Civil Law countries, nor predictive of stock market outcomes. The revision of the variable definitions in Djankov et al. 2005 salvages some of the original results, but reinforces severe endogeneity concerns regarding the index components that drive the remaining significant results. I review the other index components and conclude that the ADRI is unlikely to be a valid measure of shareholder protection. Results derived with the ADRI in the literature may have to be revisited. Along the way, I develop some general guidelines for consistent coding.

Translating, Spamann looks at the famous article Law and Finance by Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, Andrei Shleifer, & Robert W. Vishny (The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 106, No. 6 (Dec., 1998), pp. 1113-1155).  That paper examines the legal rules covering protection of corporate shareholders in 49 countries.  It found that common law countries have the strongest protection for investors and civil law countries the weakest protections.   And its findings set off a host of scholarship on inter alia the jurisdictional path dependency and origins of corporate and securities regulation, the role of law in economic growth and building share equity premiums, and the relative strengths of various legal systems for investors.  By casting doubt on La Porta et al.'s findings, Spamann also throws into question all of this further scholarship.  Nonetheless, there has been an observable difference in equity premiums among all of these systems with common law countries generally having higher ones and the U.S. the highest.  The paper of La Porta et al. may have dubious groundings and others are bringing forward some good research to also dispute it and its progeny, but on some level all agree that the law and its protection of investors matters for finance, the question is really how and how much? 

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