James Hicks

Publications

Do Social Movements Spur Corporate Change? The Rise of "MeToo Termination Rights" in CEO Contracts

Indiana Law Journal 98 (2022) · With Rachel Arnow-Richman and Steven Davidoff Solomon

Can social movements spur corporate change? This Article sheds new empirical and theoretical light on the issue through the lens of CEO contracts. The MeToo movement brought to light a workplace culture permissive of high-level, sex-based misconduct. Companies typically responded slowly and imposed few consequences on perpetrators, often allowing them to depart with lucrative exit packages. Why did companies reward rather than penalize bad actors, and has the movement disrupted this culture of complicity? We find, in the wake of MeToo, a significant and growing rise in the prevalence of what we call “MeToo termination rights”—definitions of cause that permit companies to terminate CEOs without severance pay in cases of harassment or discrimination.

→ Featured in Bloomberg Law; Harvard Forum on Corporate Governance

Copyright and Economic Viability: Evidence from the Music Industry

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 17.4: 696–721 (2020) · With Kristelia García and Justin McCrary

How long should a copyright term last? Copyright provides a limited period of exclusive rights in creative expression, in order to encourage the production of new works. But the extent to which extant law aligns with the incentives of copyright owners has been the subject of vigorous theoretical debate. We investigate the commercial viability of creative content in the music industry, using a novel dataset of sales and streaming counts. We find that the typical sound recording has an extremely short commercial "half-life"—on the order of months, rather than years or decades. Strikingly, we find that decay rates are sharp even for blockbuster songs, and that the patterns persist when we approximate weekly revenue.

The Future or Fancy? An Empirical Study of Public Benefit Corporations

Harvard Business Law Review 11.1: 111–158 (2021) · With Michael Dorff and Steven Davidoff Solomon

The public benefit corporation is one of the most hyped developments in corporate law. PBC directors are required under their fiduciary duties to consider purposes other than profits when making decisions. These new forms are hailed by their champions as a new hope for a reformed capitalism. Critics assail them as unworkable, and a thin disguise for ordinary profit-seeking behavior. What this debate lacks is evidence. We aim to fill the gap by investigating early-stage investment in PBCs. Using our novel dataset, we can discern whether for-profit investment is occurring in PBCs, and if so, whether it is different in kind from traditional venture funding.

→ Featured in Harvard Forum on Corporate Governance

Works in Progress

How Predictable are Patent Validity Decisions? A Computational Approach to Litigation

The outcomes of patent litigation are widely thought to be unpredictable, and prior research has found that characteristics of a patent have no apparent relationship with decisions on its validity. But the conventional wisdom is incomplete. Using computational tools, I show that features of a patent—including the text of its claims—are surprisingly good predictors of an invalidity decision in federal court. The best performing model can correctly predict the outcome of nearly 70% of unseen decisions.

Do Patents Drive Venture Capital Investments?

Are patents an important factor for venture capitalists making decisions about where to invest? Evidence on this question is mixed, but several leading empirical studies find a relationship between IP ownership and investment. However, it is difficult to tease out the effect of the patent, as distinct from the quality of the invention. Using a novel quasi-experiment, I introduce new evidence on the role that patents play in for investment in startup companies.