Discussion paper

DP17843 Investing in Influence: Investors, Portfolio Firms, and Political Giving

Institutional ownership of U.S. corporations has increased ten-fold since 1950. We examine whether these new concentrated owners influence portfolio firms’ political activities, as a window into the larger question of whether institutional investors can wield their control to extract benefits from portfolio firms. We find that after the acquisition of a large stake, a firm’s political action committee (PAC) giving mirrors more closely that of the acquiring investment management company (in our preferred specification, a 31 percent increase in comovement). This pattern is observed for acquisitions driven by new index inclusions, which suggests that our findings result from a causal effect of acquisitions rather than other correlated shifts in political agendas. We argue that investors drive the convergence in giving - the effects are driven by more “partisan” investors, and we show that firms shift their giving more around acquisitions than investors do. Overall, our findings suggest that corporations’ political business strategies are likely dictated by broader considerations than simple profit, and modeling corporate influence should take into account how corporations are governed.


Bertrand, M, M Bombardini, R Fisman, F Trebbi and E Yegen (2023), ‘DP17843 Investing in Influence: Investors, Portfolio Firms, and Political Giving‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17843. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17843