By: Lynne L. Dallas & Jordan M. Barry
We explore Time-Phased Voting (“TPV”), an arrangement in which long-term shareholders receive more votes per share than short term shareholders. TPV has gained prominence in recent years as a proposed remedy for perceived corporate myopia.
We begin with theory, situating TPV relative to other corporate voting structures, such as one-share-one-vote and dual-class stock. By decreasing the influence of short-term shareholders, TPV may encourage managers to act in the long-term interests of their firms. It may also facilitate controlling shareholder diversification and firm equity issuances by enabling controlling shareholders, who are generally longterm shareholders, to maintain their control with lower levels of ownership. In this respect, it resembles a milder form of dual-class stock, but is more targeted toward myopic behavior.
We then investigate U.S. companies’ experiences with TPV in practice. Due to limited U.S. experience with TPV, our sample size is small from a statistical standpoint. Nevertheless, our findings are consistent with our theoretical analysis. Our ownership and voting data suggest that TPV empowers long-term shareholders but does little to encourage long-term shareholding; this may be due to a lack of investor awareness regarding the few companies that have TPV. In the short term, TPV empowers insiders, increasing their control and creating a wedge between their ownership and control of the firm (though a smaller wedge than is typical of dual-class firms). However, in the long term, we find that TPV is associated with reduced insider ownership and control. We see a transition in TPV companies, which are mainly mature, family owned companies, from a concentrated to a more dispersed ownership structure. Relatedly, we find that TPV is associated with significant insider diversification and the issuance of additional equity.
Overall, TPV firms significantly outperformed the market as a whole; an investor who invested in our TPV firm index in 1980 would have more than six times as much money at the end of 2013 as an investor who invested in the S&P 500. While it is not clear that TPV contributed to this strong performance, we believe that shareholders and corporations should be free to experiment with reasonable TPV plans if they so choose.