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The Review of Financial Studies (RFS) was established following discussions at the 1986 WFA meetings between Michael Brennan, George Constantinides, Jon Ingersoll, Chester Spatt, and Joseph Williams. These individuals recognized that the finance profession would benefit from the establishment of a journal that would publish relevant new research without regard to level of technical difficulty; that would be especially sensitive to the needs and interests of the younger members of the profession; that would limit the tenure of the editorial board in order to ensure sensitivity to new ideas; that would not be tied to any one university, and that would be owned by the profession rather than by commercial interests.

Michael Brennan, who had already served as the editor of the Journal of Finance, agreed to be the first editor of the new journal. Mark Weinstein was recruited to help organize the non-profit organization that would own the journal, and the Society for Financial Studies (SFS) was incorporated in California in 1987. The founding officers of the SFS were Joseph Williams (President), George Constantinides (Vice President), Mark Weinstein (Secretary/Treasurer), and Michael Brennan (Editor of the RFS). With financial backing provided by a committee of Founders (Michael Brennan, George Constantinides, Nils Haakanson, Jon Ingersoll, Robert Litzenberger, Robert Merton, Merton Miller, Richard Roll, Steven Ross, Myron Scholes, Chester Spatt, and Joseph Williams), the SFS was able to negotiate a favorable publishing contract with Oxford University Press in 1987. A call for papers was made and the first issue was published in 1988. Such was the success of the journal that by 1990 the Society was able to repay all of the funds provided by the Founders.

In keeping with the principles on which the journal was founded, a majority of the Associate Editors of the RFS is elected by the current Board of Editors, and the Editor and Associate Editors serve for relatively short terms. For example, the Executive Editor’s term is limited to no more than six years, and thus far the executive editors (Michael Brennan, Chester Spatt, Franklin Allen, Ravi Jagannathan, Maureen O’Hara, Matthew Spiegel, David Hirshleifer, Andrew Karolyi, and Itay Goldstein) have nearly always been affiliated with a different university.