Publications

Working Paper
Working Paper. “Lawyers’ Role-Induced Bias Arises Fast and Persists Despite Intervention”. SSRNAbstract
Law students randomly assigned to represent one side in a legal argument in the classroom exhibit substantial role-induced prediction bias for their side within only 40 minutes of their role assignment. Reminding students that prediction requires a more neutral perspective than advocacy does not attenuate the bias. The bias occurs evenly in male and female participants, who also report equal confidence in their predictions.
Forthcoming
Lars Klöhn, John Zhuang Liu, and Holger Spamann. Forthcoming. “Precedent and Chinese Judges: An Experiment.” American Journal of Comparative Law. SSRNAbstract
We experimentally study the decision-making process of judges in China, where judges are specifically prohibited to cite prior decisions as the basis for their judgments, and where, in past surveys, most judges explicitly stated that precedent played at most a marginal role in their decisions. In an experiment resembling real-world judicial decision making, we find, however, that precedent seems to have a significant influence on the decisions of the participating Chinese judges. Indeed, judges spend more time reading prior cases than statutes, and they typically read precedents before they access the statutes. On the other hand, judges rarely mention the precedent in their reasons. Our findings suggest that the Chinese judiciary operates much more similarly to its homologues in the U.S. and elsewhere than their written opinions and much folklore would suggest.
2019
Natalie Salmanowitz and Holger Spamann. 2019. “Does the Supreme Court Really Not Apply Chevron When It Should?” International Review of Law and Economics, 57, Pp. 81-89. SSRNAbstract
William Eskridge and Lauren Baer’s (96 Geo. L. J. 1083 (2008)) “empirical study of all 1014 Supreme Court cases between Chevron and Hamdan in which an agency interpretation of a statute was at issue” finds that “the Court does not apply the Chevron framework in nearly three-quarters of the cases where it would appear applicable.” Our reexamination of this study finds that the fraction of such cases is far lower, and indeed closer to zero. Our main methodological innovation is to infer Chevron applicability from Supreme Court litigants’ briefs rather than our own evaluation of the cases’ facts, as in Eskridge and Baer’s study. In over half the cases flagged by Eskridge and Baer, neither of the parties (nor, where applicable, the Solicitor General as amicus) cited Chevron, and in almost half of the cases within that subset, no one argued for or against deference of any kind. In most of a sample of the remaining cases, the Supreme Court either did not need to reach the Chevron issue, or actually applied it, at least in an abbreviated form.
codebook brief_coding_data
2018
Jesse Fried and Holger Spamann. 6/1/2018. “Cheap-Stock Tunneling Around Preemptive Rights”. SSRNAbstract
Preemptive rights are thought to protect minority shareholders from cheap-stock tunneling by a controlling shareholder. We show that preemptive rights, while making cheap-stock tunneling more difficult, cannot prevent it when asymmetric information about the value of the offered shares makes it impossible for the minority to know whether these shares are cheap or overpriced. Our analysis can help explain why sophisticated investors in unlisted firms and regulators of listed firms do not rely entirely on preemptive rights to address cheap-stock tunneling, supplementing them with other restrictions on equity issues.
Holger Spamann. 2018. “Are Sleepy Punishers Really Harsh Punishers? Comment on Cho, Barnes, and Guanara (2017).” Psychological Science, 29, 6, Pp. 1006-1009. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This comment points out four severe reservations regarding Cho et al.’s (PS 2017) finding that U.S. federal judges punish more harshly on “sleepy Mondays,” the Mondays after the start of Daylights Savings Time. First, Cho et al.’s finding pertains to only one of at least two dimensions of harshness, and the opposite result obtains in the second dimension. Second, even within the first dimension, Cho et al.’s result is statistically significant only because of a variable transformation and sample restrictions that are neither transparent in the article nor theoretically sound. Third, reanalysis of the data with superior methods reveals no significant “sleepy Monday” effect in the years 1992-2003. Fourth, sentences were on average shorter on “sleepy Mondays” out of sample, namely in 2004-2016.
2016
Holger Spamann. 2016. “Can Simple Mechanism Design Results be Used to Implement the Proportionality Standard in Discovery?: Comment.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 172, Pp. 227-231. SSRN versionAbstract
In this comment on Gelbach (JITE 2016), I make two points. First, I support Gelbach’s application of mechanism design (MD) to legal design because it takes information requirements and other constraints seriously. MD derives the best rule under the stated constraints. This rigorously confirms the existing rule’s optimality, reveals a superior alternative, or, if the MD solution appears unrealistic, uncovers additional constraints that any real solution must satisfy. Second, I consider implementing the social optimum, rather than the private optimum. In Gelbach’s discovery example, even a court with limited information can objectively implement some social goals; for other social goals, the court can at least do the best it can according to its subjective beliefs.
Holger Spamann and Lars Klöhn. 2016. “Justice is Less Blind, and Less Legalistic, Than We Thought: Evidence from an Experiment with Real Judges.” Journal of Legal Studies, 45, Pp. 255-80. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We experimentally investigate the determinants of judicial decisions in a setting resembling real-world judicial decision-making. U.S. federal judges (N=32) spend 55 minutes judging a real appeals case from an international tribunal, with minor modifications to accommodate the experimental treatments. The fictitious briefs focus on one easily understandable issue of law. Our 2×2 between-subject factorial design crosses a weak precedent and legally irrelevant defendant characteristics. In a survey, law professors predicted that the precedent would have a stronger effect than the defendant characteristics. In actuality, the precedent has no detectable effect on the judges’ decisions, whereas the two defendants’ affirmance rates differ by 45% (p<.01). Judges’ written reasons, on the other hand, do not mention defendant characteristics at all, focusing instead on the precedent and other legalistic and policy considerations.
Replication files Appendix
Holger Spamann. 2016. “Monetary Liability for Breach of the Duty of Care?” Journal of Legal Analysis, 8, Pp. 337-373. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article clarifies why optimal corporate governance generally excludes monetary liability for breach of directors’ and managers’ fiduciary duty of care. In principle, payments predicated on third-party investigations of directors’ and managers’ business decisions could usefully supplement payments predicated on stock prices or accounting figures in the provision of performance incentives, including risk-taking incentives. Consequently, the reason not to use liability incentives is not absolute but a cost-benefit trade-off: Litigation is expensive, while the benefits from refining incentives are limited. The analysis rationalizes many existing exceptions from non-liability but also leads to novel recommendations, particularly for entities other than public corporations.

Holger Spamann. 2016. “The US Crime Puzzle: A Comparative Perspective on US Crime & Punishment.” American Law and Economics Review, 18, 1, Pp. 33-87. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper compares actual U.S. crime and incarceration rates to predicted rates from cross-country regressions. Global cross-country regressions of crime and incarceration on background characteristics explain much of the variation between other countries. But the estimated models predict only one-fourth of U.S. incarceration and not all of U.S. crime. The coincidence of the non-negative U.S. crime residuals with the very large positive U.S. incarceration residual constitutes a puzzle. The two pieces fit together only if the residual U.S. incarceration does not contribute to a reduction in crime, except to the extent an omitted criminogenic factor pushes up U.S. crime. The paper quantifies this relationship. Drawing on additional evidence from comparative and U.S.-specific data, it argues that the puzzle's most plausible solution combines low effectiveness of mass incarceration with omitted criminogenic factors such as U.S. neighborhood segregation.
Replication files Appendix
2015
Holger Spamann. 2015. “Empirical Comparative Law.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 11, Pp. 131-153. Publisher's VersionAbstract
I review the empirical comparative law literature with an emphasis on quantitative work. After situating the field and surveying its main applications to date, I turn to methodological issues. I discuss at length the obstacles to causal inference from comparative data, and caution against inappropriate use of instrumental variables and other techniques. Even if comparative data cannot identify any single causal theory, however, they are extremely important in narrowing down the set of plausible theories. I report progress in measurement design and suggest improvements in data analysis and interpretation using techniques from other fields, particularly growth econometrics.
James Naughton and Holger Spamann. 2015. “Fixing Public Sector Finances: The Accounting and Reporting Lever.” UCLA Law Review, 62, Pp. 572-620. SSRNAbstract
The finances of many states, cities, and other localities are in dire straits. In this Article, we argue that partial responsibility for this situation lies with the outdated and ineffective financial reporting regime for public entities. Ineffective reporting has obscured and continues to obscure the extent of municipal financial problems, thus delaying or even preventing corrective actions. Worse, ineffective reporting has created incentives for accounting gimmicks that have directly contributed to the dramatic decline of public sector finances. Fixing the reporting regime is thus a necessary first step toward fiscal recovery. We provide concrete examples of advisable changes in accounting rules and advocate for institutional changes, particularly Securities and Exchange Commission involvement, that we hope will lead to better public accounting rules generally.
2014
Holger Spamann. 10/15/2014. “Derivatives Trading and Negative Voting”. SSRNAbstract
This paper exposits a model of parallel trading of corporate securities (shares, bonds) and derivatives (TRS, CDS) in which a large trader can sometimes profitably acquire securities with their corporate control rights for the sole purpose of reducing the corporation's value and gaining on a net short position created through off-setting derivatives. At other times, the large trader profitably takes a net long position. The large trader requires no private information beyond its own trades. The problem is most likely to manifest when derivatives trade on an exchange and transactions give blocking powers to small minorities, particularly out-of-bankruptcy restructurings and freezeouts.
2011
Dan Klerman, Paul Mahoney, Holger Spamann, and Mark Weinstein. 2011. “Legal Origins or Colonial History?” Journal of Legal Analysis, 3, 2, Pp. 379-409. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Economists have documented pervasive correlations between legal origins, modern regulation, and economic outcomes around the world. Where legal origin is exogenous, however, it is almost perfectly correlated with another set of potentially relevant background variables: the colonial policies of the European powers that spread the “origin” legal systems through the world. We attempt to disentangle these factors by exploiting the imperfect overlap of colonizer and legal origin, and looking at possible channels, such as the structure of the legal system, through which these factors might influence contemporary economic outcomes. We find strong evidence in favor of non-legal colonial explanations for economic growth. For other dependent variables, the results are mixed.
Replication files
2010
Lucian Bebchuk and Holger Spamann. 2010. “Regulating Bankers' Pay.” Georgetown Law Journal, 98, Pp. 247-287. SSRNAbstract

This paper seeks to make three contributions to understanding how banks’ executive pay has produced incentives for excessive risk-taking and how such pay should be reformed. First, although there is now wide recognition that pay packages focused excessively on short-term results, we analyze a separate and critical distortion that has received little attention. Equity-based awards, coupled with the capital structure of banks, tie executives’ compensation to a highly levered bet on the value of banks’ assets. Because bank executives expect to share in any gains that might flow to common shareholders, but are insulated from losses that the realization of risks could impose on preferred shareholders, bondholders, depositors, and taxpayers, executives have incentives to give insufficient weight to the downside of risky strategies. 

Second, we show that corporate governance reforms aimed at aligning the design of executive pay arrangements with the interests of banks’ common shareholders - such as advisory shareholder votes on compensation arrangements, use of restricted stock awards, and increased director oversight and independence -cannot eliminate the identified problem. In fact, the interests of common shareholders could be served by more risk-taking than is socially desirable. Accordingly, while such measures could eliminate risk-taking that is excessive even from shareholders’ point of view, they cannot be expected to prevent risk-taking that serves shareholders but is socially excessive. 

Third, we develop a case for using regulation of banks’ executive pay as an important element of financial regulation. We provide a normative foundation for such pay regulation, analyze how regulators should monitor and regulate bankers’ pay, and show how pay regulation can complement and reinforce the traditional forms of financial regulation.

Holger Spamann. 2010. “The Antidirector Rights Index Revisited.” Review of Financial Studies, 23, Pp. 467-486. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The “antidirector rights index” has been used as a measure of shareholder protection in over a hundred articles since it was introduced by La Porta et al. (“Law and Finance.” 1998, Journal of Political Economy 106:1113–55). A thorough reexamination of the legal data, however, leads to corrections for thirty-three of the forty-six countries analyzed. The correlation between corrected and original values is only 0.53. Consequently, many empirical results established using the original index may not be replicable with corrected values. In particular, the corrected index fails to support three widely influential claims: that shareholder protection is higher in common than in civil law countries; that shareholder protection predicts stock market size or ownership dispersion; and that weak corporate governance explains the extent of exchange rate depreciation during the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998.
Replication files and appendix
Holger Spamann. 2010. “Contemporary Legal Transplants – Legal Families and the Diffusion of (Corporate) Law.” BYU Law Review, 2009, Pp. 1813-1877. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper empirically documents the continued importance of the legal families (common law and civil law) for the diffusion of formal legal materials from the core to the periphery, and some possible channels of diffusion, in post-colonial times. This raises the possibility that substantive differences between countries of different families around the world, such as those documented in the legal origins literature, continue to be the result of separate diffusion processes rather than of intrinsic differences between common and civil law.
Using the example of corporate and securities law, the paper documents the frequent and often exclusive use of legal materials and models from the respective legal family's core countries in treatises and law reform projects in thirty-two peripheral and semi-peripheral countries. Most authors of these treatises and projects were trained in the respective core countries. Data on the activities of national legal development and cooperation organizations, trade and investment flows, and student migration confirm the close legal family ties and provide some evidence of possible channels through which materials may continue to diffuse within their legal families after decolonization.
The diffusion of formal legal materials need not imply that the substantive development of law is affected by foreign influences, at least not in ways that induce substantive differences between periphery countries of different legal families. Various theories from comparative law, sociology, political science, and economics provide reasons, however, why the content of law in the periphery might continue to be influenced by core country models of the same legal family, as the evidence of formal diffusion suggests they are. Such diffusion theories fit the available data better than other theories put forward in the literature.
Holger Spamann. 2010. “Legal Origins, Civil Procedure, and the Quality of Contract Enforcement.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 166, Pp. 149-165. SSRNAbstract
This paper empirically compares civil procedure in common-law and civil-law countries. Using World-Bank and hand-collected data, and unlike earlier studies that used predecessor data sets, this paper finds no systematic differences between common- and civil-law countries in the complexity, formalism, duration, or cost of procedure in courts of first instance. The paper further finds that by a subjective measure, contract enforceability in common-law countries is higher than in French, but lower than in German and Scandinavian, civil-law countries. Given civil procedure’s central role for the common–civil-law distinction, these findings challenge the distinction’s economic relevance.
Replication files and appendix
Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Holger Spamann. 2010. “The Wages of Failure.” Yale Journal on Regulation, 27, Pp. 257-282. SSRNAbstract

The standard narrative of the meltdown of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers assumes that the wealth of the top executives of these firms was largely wiped out along with their firms. In the ongoing debate about regulatory responses to the financial crisis, commentators have used this assumed fact as a basis for dismissing both the role of compensation structures in inducing risk-taking and the potential value of reforming such structures. This paper provides a case study of compensation at Bear Stearns and Lehman during 2000-2008 and concludes that this assumed fact is incorrect. 

We find that the top-five executive teams of these firms cashed out large amounts of performance-based compensation during the 2000-2008 period. During this period, they were able to cash out large amounts of bonus compensation that was not clawed back when the firms collapsed, as well as to pocket large amounts from selling shares. Overall, we estimate that the top executive teams of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers derived cash flows of about $1.4 billion and $1 billion respectively from cash bonuses and equity sales during 2000-2008. These cash flows substantially exceeded the value of the executives’ initial holdings in the beginning of the period, and the executives’ net payoffs for the period were thus decidedly positive. The divergence between how the top executives and their shareholders fared implies that it is not possible to rule out, as standard narratives suggest, that the executives’ pay arrangements provided them with excessive risk-taking incentives. We discuss the implications of our analysis for understanding the possible role that pay arrangements have played in the run-up to the financial crisis and how they should be reformed going forward.

Replication files
2009
Holger Spamann. 2009. “Large Sample, Quantitative Research Designs for Comparative Law?” American Journal of Comparative Law, 57, 797, Pp. 810. SSRNAbstract
A substantial body of comparative legal scholarship considers statements applicable to large, conceptually infinite numbers of countries. Such statements gain in credibility if they are supported by evidence from large samples of countries. Processing such vast evidence requires quantitative methods. Designing the requisite numerical measures of law is not straightforward, but an important insight from statistics suggests that this problem can be overcome by appropriate research design. While in practice considering more countries comes at the expense of less information per country, on balance large sample, quantitative research designs promise to yield interesting insights for comparative law.
2006
Holger Spamann. 2006. “The Myth of 'Rebalancing' Retaliation in WTO Dispute Settlement Practice.” Journal of International Economic Law, 9, Pp. 31-79. SSRNAbstract
It is generally assumed that trade retaliation under the WTO performs some kind of ‘rebalancing’ by allowing the injured Member to suspend ‘concessions and obligations’ vis-à-vis the violating Member of a level equivalent to the level of ‘nullification and impairment’ suffered by the injured Member. This article argues that this perception is misguided. The article first questions if a sensible comparator exists with which equivalence for purposes of ‘rebalancing’ could be evaluated. It then argues that WTO arbitration decisions do not even succeed in their limited goal of providing for retaliation that will affect trade in the same amount as the WTO-inconsistent measure at issue. One reason is the use of an asymmetric and underspecified trade effects comparator. The other reason is very significant miscalculation of the trade effects of the violation, as shown by detailed legal-economic analysis of all relevant arbitration decisions. The decisions concerning countermeasures against prohibited export subsidies do not make any attempt at ‘rebalancing’ in the first place. The article considers political explanations of arbitration decisions. It concludes with some suggestions for improvement.

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