After a slow start, the European Company (Societas Europaea – SE) has become increasingly popular. Besides documenting the growth of this new company type, we examine whether firms choose to incorporate in the SE corporate form because they engage in ‘legal arbitrage’ by exploiting differences in legal rules between jurisdictions. We specify a number of hypotheses on particular legal arbitrage motives. To validate our hypotheses, we use a broad telephone survey among SE users in Germany as well as a simple country-level regression model based on a unique, hand-collected dataset on SE incorporations. We find strong evidence that firms use the SE to mitigate the effect of mandatory codetermination rules. Establishing a one-tier board structure (in jurisdictions that impose a two-tier structure on their national public companies) and taking advantage of the SE's mobility for tax purposes also seem to be driving SE formations. By contrast, our analysis fails to support the suggestion that firms use the SE to shop for the most favourable national company law to fill the gaps in the SE Regulation.
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