Hedge funds, insiders, and the decoupling of economic and voting ownership: Empty voting and hidden (morphable) ownership

Henry T C Hu, Bernard Black*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Most U.S. public companies have a single class of voting common shares: voting power is proportional to economic ownership. Linking votes to shares is often thought to be desirable, because, as residual claimants, shareholders have an incentive to exercise voting power well. The linkage also facilitates the market for corporate control. On the other hand, decoupling is efficient in some situations. Equity derivatives and other capital market developments now allow shareholders to readily decouple voting rights from economic ownership of shares, often without public disclosure. Hedge funds are prominent users of decoupling. Sometimes they hold more votes than economic ownership (a situation we term "empty voting"). Sometimes they hold undisclosed economic ownership without votes, but often with the de facto ability to acquire votes if needed (a situation we term ''hidden (morphable) ownership"). This Article analyzes empty voting and hidden (morphable) ownership, which we term the "new vote buying." We offer a framework for unpacking its functional elements and assess its potential benefits and costs. Two companion legal articles (Hu, Henry T.C., and Bernard S. Black, 2006a. The New Vote Buying: Empty Voting and Hidden (Morphable) Ownership, Southern California Law Review 79, 811-908#, and Hu, Henry T.C., and Bernard S. Black, 2006b. Empty Voting and Hidden Ownership: Taxonomy, Implications and Reforms, Business Lawyer 61, 1011-1069.) provide more details on current disclosure rules and offer a disclosure reform proposal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-367
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Corporate Finance
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Equity swaps
  • G32
  • G34
  • K22
  • Record date capture
  • Shareholder voting
  • Stock lending
  • Vote buying

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management


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