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Firms’ Rationales for CEO Duality: Evidence from a Mandatory Disclosure Regulation

The common practice of combining the roles of the CEO and chairman of the board (CEO duality) has been the topic of one of the longest debates in corporate governance. On the one side, a majority of S&P 500 firms combine the two roles. On the other side, investors and governance experts—via shareholder proposals and public campaigns—frequently pressure firms into separating the two roles, emphasizing a lack of effective managerial oversight under CEO duality. Nevertheless, most such proposals do not receive majority support, which suggests disagreement among shareholders about the value of CEO duality. Such disagreement is consistent with the inconclusive academic literature on the relation between CEO duality and firm performance (for a review, see Krause, Semadeni, and Cannella, 2014), as well as the lack of reliability of extant studies likely suffering from the non-random choice of board structures. The above discussion highlights the need for both practitioners and scholars to better understand why firms combine or separate the CEO and chairman roles.

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