From The Economist:
FOR years, discussions of America’s public markets have usually featured a lament for their dwindling appeal. According to Jay Ritter of the University of Florida, the number of publicly listed companies peaked in 1997 at 8,491 (see chart). By 2017 it had slumped to 4,496. True, many of the companies that went public in the internet’s early days should never have done so. But the decline worries anyone who sees public markets as the best way for ordinary investors to benefit from the successes of corporate America.
The mood right now is more buoyant. ... “There are plenty of signs that IPO activity is about to surge,” says Kathleen Smith of Renaissance Capital, a research firm.
The question is whether one quarter a revival makes. ...
Underlying these concerns is an older one—that the vast and varied costs of first bringing shares to market, and then remaining public, are just too high. These costs include bankers’ and lawyers’ fees, the risk of class-action litigation, the need to reveal commercially sensitive information that could benefit rivals, and the prospect of fights with corporate raiders who want juicier returns for shareholders and social activists who want executives to pay heed to their values. Added to all these are public reporting and tax requirements that private companies can often avoid.
Mr Ritter attributes much of the decline in the number of companies that are listed to the difficulty of being a small public company.
Hello? Haven't I been saying that for years? See, e.g., Corporate Governance and U.S. Capital Market Competitiveness (October 22, 2010). UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 10-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1696303
This essay was prepared for a forthcoming book on the impact of law on the U.S. economy. (The American Illness: Essays on the Rule of Law) It focuses on the impact the corporate governance regulation has had on the global competitive position of U.S. capital markets.
During the first half of the last decade, evidence accumulated that the U.S. capital markets were becoming less competitive relative to their major competitors. The evidence reviewed herein confirms that it was not corporate governance as such that was the problem, but rather corporate governance regulation. In particular, attention focused on such issues as the massive growth in corporate and securities litigation risk and the increasing complexity and cost of the U.S. regulatory scheme.
Tentative efforts towards deregulation largely fell by the wayside in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Instead, massive new regulations came into being, especially in the Dodd Frank Act. The competitive position of U.S. capital markets, however, continues to decline.
This essay argues that litigation and regulatory reform remain essential if U.S. capital markets are to retain their leadership position. Unfortunately, the article concludes that federal corporate governance regulation follows a ratchet effect, in which the regulatory scheme becomes more complex with each financial crisis. If so, significant reform may be difficult to achieve.