It is widely believed that companies owned by private-equity sponsors have significant advantages over public companies. Among the advantages of private equity cited by commentators are: (1) better governance and a greater willingness to take risks, (2) the ability to focus on long-term issues and a more stable shareholder base, (3) the ability to attract better management talent, (4) creating a sense of urgency, (5) the ability to use leverage more effectively, (6) avoiding the costs imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and (7) freedom from shareholder suits. It would be helpful if public companies could gain some of these advantages. This Article examines whether changes in existing legal rules governing how public company directors are chosen and the extent to which public company directors can be held liable for damages if they do not have a conflict of interest would be likely to increase the ability of public companies to obtain some of the benefits that companies owned by private-equity sponsors appear to have. My conclusion is that, while changing the rules for selecting directors would not be worthwhile, a reduction in the potential liability of directors for damages in situations in which they do not have a conflict of interest would be likely to increase the ability of public companies to mirror the effectiveness of private-equity portfolio companies without creating other problems that would be unacceptable.
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