The Law of Contingent Control in Venture Capital

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Alvaro Pereira


Contingent control (CC) is a key enabler of startup growth and venture capital. To preserve adequate incentives and mitigate risks, venture finance deals distribute startups’ governance rights among investors and founders based on performance measures at different points in time. For example, granting greater decision-making powers to outperforming founders or depriving them of such prerogatives when they underperform. Crucially, these rights are distributed ex ante, through carefully designed contracts and securities, avoiding the costs and potential failure of future negotiations. This paper shows how corporate law determines the structure of CC: higher costs of structuring CC through bespoke securities, such as restricted shares or convertible preferred stock, incentivize the use of shareholders’ agreements and shadow governance structures in VC-backed companies. These findings demonstrate that cross-country differences in security design and capital structures are not only explained by the characteristics of transacting parties and deals or by tax regulation, but also by the regulation of non-listed companies, which has been evolving in the blind spot of legal and financial scholarship. The paper argues that corporate laws in entrepreneurial economies should be recalibrated to facilitate security design and discourage the disproportionate use of shareholders’ agreements.

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How to Cite
Pereira, A. (2024). The Law of Contingent Control in Venture Capital. Columbia Business Law Review, 2023(2).