John C. Coffee Jr. Honored for Writing on Shareholder Activism

Coffee received the European Corporate Governance Institute’s Allen & Overy Law Prize at a May 2 ceremony in Berlin.

Prof. Coffee accepts the Allen & Overy Law Prize from the firm’s business development manager, Toni Wienholz, at the European Corporate Governance Institute’s annual members’ meeting in Berlin.

Using data from an empirical study he conducted last year with fellow Columbia Law School faculty members, Professor John C. Coffee Jr. published a paper exploring how the interests of activist investors can conflict with those of other shareholders.

Now, Coffee, the Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law and director of the Center on Corporate Governance, has been honored for that work. On May 4, his paper, “The Agency Cost of Activism: Information Leakage, Thwarted Majorities, and the Public Morality" (ECGI Law Working Paper 373/2017), received the Allen & Overy Law Prize in the European Corporate Governance Institute’s annual working paper series. Coffee was awarded the prize at a ceremony held in Berlin. The prize-winning paper was selected by an editorial committee chaired by Professor Luca Enriques of the  University of Oxford. 

In the paper, which draws on empirical work by Coffee, Professor Joshua Mitts, alumnus Robert E. Bishop ’17, and former Columbia Law Professor Robert J. Jackson Jr. (now a commissioner for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission), Coffee focuses on one of the most debated corporate governance phenomena—hedge fund activism. Coffee identifies four areas in which the interests of activists and other shareholders may clash and discusses proposed reforms intended to minimize these so-called agency costs without “materially chilling shareholder activism.” Coffee also delivered the 18th Annual A.A. Sommer, Jr. Lecture on Corporate, Securities and Financial Law on the topic at Fordham Law School last fall.

Coffee is a prolific scholar whose books include Entrepreneurial Litigation: Its Rise, Fall, and Future, Harvard University Press, 2016; Gatekeepers: The Professions and Corporate Governance, Oxford University Press, 2006; Knights, Raiders, and Targets: The Impact of the Hostile Takeover, (with Louis Lowenstein and Susan Rose-Ackerman), Oxford University Press, 1988; and The Regulatory Aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, (with Ellis Ferran, Niamh Moloney, and Jennifer G. Hill), Cambridge University Press, 2012.

He also writes a regular column for the New York Law Journal on a wide range of subjects pertaining to securities law, corporate governance, and white-collar crime.

Founded in 2002, the European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) is an international scientific nonprofit association that provides a forum for debate and dialogue between academics, legislators, and practitioners, focusing on major corporate governance issues. Allen & Overy is an international law firm that includes 44 offices in 31 countries.

Coffee is not the only Columbia Law School professor to have received the Allen & Overy Prize. Last year, Ronald J. Gilson received the Law Series prize for his paper “From Corporate Law to Corporate Governance;” and in 2014, Professor Katharina Pistor took home the honor for her work, “A Legal Theory of Finance.”


Published on May 4, 2018

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