Merton Howard Miller (May 16, 1923 – June 3, 2000) was an American economist, and the co-author of the Modigliani–Miller theorem (1958), which proposed the irrelevance of debt-equity structure. He shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1990, along with Harry Markowitz and William F. Sharpe. Miller spent most of his academic career at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.
Miller was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Joel and Sylvia Miller, an attorney and housewife. He worked during World War II as an economist in the division of tax research of the Treasury Department, and received a Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, 1952. His first academic appointment after receiving his doctorate was Visiting Assistant Lecturer at the London School of Economics.
In 1958, at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), he collaborated with his colleague Franco Modigliani on the paper The Cost of Capital, Corporate Finance and the Theory of Investment. This paper urged a fundamental objection to the traditional view of corporate finance, according to which a corporation can reduce its cost of capital by finding the right debt-to-equity ratio. According to the Modigliani–Miller theorem, on the other hand, there is no right ratio, so corporate managers should seek to minimize tax liability and maximize corporate net wealth, letting the debt ratio chips fall where they will...
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