Document Type


Publication Date



shareholders, capital markets, investors, financial legislation, securities fraud


Under the dominant account, securities fraud by public firms harms the firms’ shareholders and, more generally, capital markets. Recent financial legislation—the JOBS Act and the Dodd-Frank Act—as well as the influential 2011 D.C. Circuit decision in Business Roundtable v. SEC reinforce that same worldview. This Article contends that the account is wrong. Misreporting distorts economic decision-making by all firms, both those committing fraud and not. False information, coupled with efforts to hide fraud and avoid detection, impairs risk assessment by providers of human and financial capital, suppliers and customers, and thus misdirects capital and labor to lower-value projects. If fraud is caught, managers externalize part of the cost of litigation and enforcement to employees, creditors, suppliers, and the government as the insurer of last resort. Mounting empirical evidence suggests that harm to non-shareholders dwarfs that suffered by defrauded shareholders. Moreover, unlike investors, who can limit their exposure to securities fraud by diversifying their holdings and demanding a fraud discount, other market participants cannot easily self-insure. The Article supplies both theoretical and empirical support for the assertion that defrauded investors are not the only victims of securities fraud. In conclusion, the Article outlines and assesses some alternative fraud deterrence and compensation mechanisms.

Publication Citation

54 William and Mary Law Review (2013).


Securities Law