Frank Partnoy


This Essay argues that the short-termism debate would benefit from greater clarity and specificity regarding time horizons. I make four points. First, optimal time horizons vary in discernible ways. Second, the potential mismatch between actual and optimal time horizons should generate a range of responses. Third, investors and managers can discern and disclose estimates of actual and optimal time horizons (e.g., using categories such as preconscious, fast conscious, slow conscious, and discounting). Fourth, market participants, policy makers, and scholars should use such estimates to be more precise about time horizons. For example, critics of hedge fund activism could recognize that activists’ time horizons have been in the range of one or more years, instead of simply describing them generically as short-term.