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Interlocking directorates can encourage innovation, cooperation, and adherence to best practices or can contribute to collusion, corruption, and the stagnation of ideas. Research has identified the contingent nature of director networks, with outcomes dependent on the nature of the tie; the firms and individuals involved; and the institutional, sociopolitical, and cultural context. Distinguishing between helpful and harmful interlocks thus requires understanding the foundations on which they were built. This article is the first systematic, longitudinal analysis of the antecedents of interlocking directorates in Australia, complementing substantial international efforts to understand and compare director networks across the twentieth century. The network has been characterized by a relatively consistent long-run level of connection but substantial variation in the causes of interlocks. The director network in Australia has responded to the pragmatics of the board member occupation, with corporate governance regulations, the progress of the professions, banking and prudential practices, and the form of large organizations encouraging ties that were built on professional expertise and geographic proximity. These findings are important for policy makers, regulatory bodies, and scholars, highlighting the importance of understanding the contextual foundations of interlocks when assessing their potential for harm.
This paper discusses how a Norwegian entrepreneurial state has performed over more than seventy years, based on an analysis of state involvement in Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk/the Kongsberg Group from 1945 and to 2015. Mariana Mazzucato has argued that bold technological investments by the state has long-term beneficial effects. The development of the Kongsberg companies adds nuance to this picture. On the one hand, the defense company Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk failed as a company in 1987 and was unbundled into a number of new companies independent of one another. On the other hand, some of the successor companies have been very successful, both in the oil and gas sector and within defense. Taking the defense and oil and gas company the Kongsberg Group as a case, this paper argues that a new style of entrepreneurial state developed in the 1990s and that it proved very successful. The old entrepreneurial state was heavy-handed, bold, and very long-term in its aims; the new entrepreneurial state was cautious, many-headed, and worked through the management of the company. The new entrepreneurial state combined state ownership, stock listing, and procurement considerations and was supported by both the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Defense. This new governance structure facilitated a stable corporation that over time integrated other Norwegian maritime electronics companies, which themselves had a checkered history under the old entrepreneurial state. A new corporate governance regime emerged and managed both to protect old and established product lines and to facilitate innovation both in defense and maritime electronics.
Unequal voting rights arrangements under dual class share structures are increasingly favoured by entrepreneurs and founders of technology companies, in order to retain a degree of control over the company that is disproportionate to their equity shareholdings. The rise of such share structures around the world has put competitive pressure on the UK Government and the country's financial regulator to relax the one share, one vote principle in the premium listing regime of the London Stock Exchange, to ensure the UK equities market remains world-leading and fit for the future development of the economy. There is, however, a long tradition of institutional investors’ distaste for dual class share structures. In fact, the near extinction of dual class listings in the UK capital markets can be largely attributed to the opposition of large British institutions. Therefore, this paper will critically discuss the conflict between the demands to attract listings from high-tech and innovative companies and concerns of a race to the bottom in the UK context. It rebuts criticisms based on investor protection and argues that if dual class companies were permitted to list in the Premium Segment, the higher level of regulatory protection provided in the premium listing regime would help enhance minority shareholder protection and shareholder engagement. The additional safeguarding measures, as we have seen from other global financial centres, would also help to restrain the potential abuse of controllers’ weighted voting power. Together with the market mechanism, permitting dual class listings in the Premium Segment should be welcomed.
How has America’s political economy changed from the long post-war “Fordist” era to the contemporary post-Fordist or knowledge economy? How has this shift affected economic growth and inequality of income and regions? Most analyses focus on specific aspects, like aggregate income inequality, or the rise of a shareholder value model for corporate governance, or increased trade competition (aka globalization), or the financial sector’s disproportionate power and profitability (aka financialization).
For too long, students of the political economy of corporate governance have been enthralled by the language of ownership and control. This language stems from Berle and Means (1932), who observed that trust-busting policies and the diversification of robber-baron fortunes had dispersed stock ownership in the United States, while concentrating corporate control in the hands of a small class of managers.1 Jensen and Meckling’s (1976) agency theory, while reiterating the notions of shareholder dispersion and weakness, conceptualized shareholders as principals – the only actors with a strong material interest in the economic performance of the corporation. Offering a simple solution to what Berle and Means had considered a complex political problem, agency theory reduced corporate governance to the problem of protecting outside minority shareholders against “expropriation” by insiders, namely corporate managers and workers (La Porta et al. 2000: 4).
Big Tech has flourished on the US public markets in recent years with numerous blue-chip IPOs, from Google and Facebook, to new kids on the block such as Snap, Zoom, and Airbnb. A key trend is the burgeoning use of dual-class stock. Dual-class stock enables founders to divest of equity and generate finance for growth through an IPO, without losing the control they desire to pursue their long-term, market-disrupting visions. Bobby Reddy scrutinises the global history of dual-class stock, evaluates the conceptual and empirical evidence on dual-class stock, and assesses the approach of the London Stock Exchange and ongoing UK regulatory reforms to dual-class stock. A policy roadmap is presented that optimally supports the adoption of dual-class stock while still protecting against its potential abuses, which will more effectively attract high-growth, innovative companies to the UK equity markets, boost the economy, and unleash the true potential of 'founders without limits'.
Under current business law, it is already possible to give legal personhood, or a very close surrogate of it, to software systems of any kind (from a simple automated escrow agent to a more hypothetical, truly smart artificial intelligence). This means that, for example, robots could enter into contracts, serve as legal agents, or own property. Ultimately, entire companies could actually be run by non-human agents. This study argues that this is not as scary as it might sound at first. Legal theorist and noted software developer Shawn Bayern argues that autonomous or zero-person organizations offer an opportunity for useful new types of interactions between software and the law. This creative contribution to the theory and practice of law and technology explores the social and political aspects of these new organizational structures and their implications for legal theory.
The corporation is the most complex, adaptive, and resilient model of organizing economic activity in history. In an era of globalization, the transnational corporation has significant power over society. While its rights are specified through private ordering, and choice of jurisdictional home, in the event of conflict of laws, the corporation's duties and responsibilities remain contested. Notwithstanding the argument in institutional economics that all transactions take place within governance and legal frameworks, underpinned by a 'non-calculative social contract,' the terms are notoriously difficult to define or enforce. They are made more so if regulatory dynamics preclude litigation to a judicial conclusion. This Element situates the corporation – its culture, governance, responsibility, and accountability – within a broader discourse of duty. In doing so, it addresses the problem of the corporation for society and the corporation's problem in aligning its governance to changing community expectations of obligation.
The stockholder/stakeholder dilemma has occupied corporate leaders and corporate lawyers for over a century. In addition to the question of whose interests should managers prioritize in discharging their fiduciary duties, the question of how those interests could or should be balanced has proven equally difficult. To address the latter challenge, this paper advances a doctrinal innovation that is both new and time-honored—to implement a duty of impartiality with regard to directors’ discretion over stakeholder interests. A sub-component of trustees’ duty of loyalty, the duty of impartiality regulates settings in which several beneficiaries have conflicting interests without dictating substantive outcomes, especially not equal treatment. This paper proposes an analogous process-oriented impartiality duty for directors to consider the interests of relevant stakeholders. Stakeholder impartiality is a lean duty whose main advantage lies in its being workable. It can be implemented in legal systems that have different positions on the objectives of the corporation, from Canada’s and India’s open-ended stakeholderist approaches to Delaware’s staunch shareholderism.
In 2006, the Japanese law of nonprofits underwent a major reform. Notably, the reform involved a shift in the governance mechanism from external governmental oversight to a structure that emphasizes internal fiduciary governance. As the Japanese law in this area has historically been marked by various strands of fiduciary rules derived from different sources, the event presents a valuable case study on how the shift to a fiduciary governance approach can impact the operation of those entities that are subject to the reform. This chapter will begin with a historical account of the evolution of Japanese nonprofit law that involves complex interactions among the indigenous nonprofit tradition, the civil law influence, American fiduciary principles, and the English-style charity commission. After discussing the major components of the 2006 reform against the backdrop of major events that created the reform momentum, this chapter will use available empirical evidence to critically examine the reform’s achievements and consider any remaining issues that pose ongoing challenges.
This chapter examines two modalities of equitable intervention in corporate governance in cases of shareholder conflict. The first involves the extension of fiduciary duties to controlling shareholders, and the second judicial review on the grounds of oppression. Both forms of intervention are intended to be responsive to pathologies inherent in majoritarian governance in organizations featuring enfranchised members. Notwithstanding long-settled authority in Delaware and other American states for the proposition that controlling shareholders are fiduciaries of minority shareholders, I argue that fiduciary regulation is an inapt modality of equitable intervention given the nature of the problems generated by majority rule in corporations. By comparison, the oppression remedy—favored in commonwealth jurisdictions—enables more apt and effective tailored responses to these problems. The choice between these modalities of intervention implicates a choice between equity’s supplemental contributions to first-order law and its corrective, second-order intervention in first-order law. The chapter concludes with some general reflections on the place of equity in contemporary law.
This introduction traces aspects of the history of fiduciary duties in business law and scholarship. Despite fiduciary law’s centrality to business law, the chapter describes how the contractarian revolution of the 1980s contributed to the marginalization of fiduciary duties, both in theory and doctrine. However, subsequent developments, both in case law and in scholarship, have questioned some of the core assumptions of the early wave of contractarian theory. The introduction outlines three critiques that scholars have levied against the early contractarians’ view of fiduciary duties, and connects these critiques to the eighteen chapters in the volume. The introduction also provides a roadmap of our contributors’ arguments.
The ongoing convergence of the various corporate governance systems in the world is reflected by the increasingly important institute of the independent director. Even legal systems, like Germany, which require a dualistic board structure and thus have no or less need for independent directors have introduced independent directors. The paper examines the approach taken in Delaware and Germany and compares them. The comparison shows that while the concept of the independent director is the same in both jurisdictions, it has been implemented rather differently. The legal comparison may, thus, provide suggestions for improving the determination of independence of directors.
Courts, practitioners, and academics alike have long considered corporate officers and directors to be fiduciaries of the public corporation and its shareholders. As corporate law has evolved, however, with the business judgment rule strengthening, the duties of care and loyalty narrowing in scope, and executive compensation schemes further introducing self-interest into corporate decision making, the fiduciary paradigm is no longer an accurate description of the nature of the relationship between corporate managers and the corporation. Corporate officers and directors have significant latitude to make decisions that take into consideration their self-interest while still satisfying their duties to the corporation. Further, the “best interests” of the corporate entity and its multitude of stakeholders are highly variable and often ill-defined, such that it would be impractical to pursue those interests as a singular goal. This Article argues that corporate officers and directors are not governed by fiduciary duties in the truest sense of the term. This misconceptualization inhibits an accurate understanding of the dynamics underlying corporate decision
In this Chapter, we survey the common law’s adventures with creditor protection over the course of American history with a special focus on Delaware. We examine the evolution of the equitable doctrines that judges have used to answer a question that arises time and again: What help, if any, should the common law be to creditors that suffer losses due to the purported carelessness or disloyalty of corporate directors and officers? Judges have struggled to answer that question, first deploying Judge Story’s “trust fund doctrine” and then molding fiduciary duty law to fashion a remedy for creditors. This reached a high point in the early 2000s as judges flirted with recognizing a “deepening insolvency.” Delaware’s judges effectively abandoned this project in a series of important decisions around the time of the financial crisis. In this “third generation,” judges told creditors to look to other areas of law to protect themselves from opportunistic misconduct, such as bankruptcy law, fraudulent transfer law, and their loan contracts. The question has arisen time and again and today’s “settled” law is unlikely to represent the end of history in creditor protection.
The goal of the business corporation traditionally has been understood to be the maximization of shareholder wealth. A growing demand for social enterprise has led to the creation of various new forms of business organization, including the benefit corporation, that have the goal of creating both shareholder wealth and other public benefits. Although benefit corporations were developed to overcome the shareholder wealth maximization norm, it is not fair to say that they also overcome shareholder primacy. Properly understood, benefit corporations are shareholder-centric: they exist to allow shareholders to pursue altruistic goals rather than to require them to do so. This essay demonstrates this from the history and structure of the Model Benefit Corporation Act and argues that benefit corporation legislation ought to remain essentially enabling rather than mandatory in nature.
Concluding that even if economists cannot agree why shareholders should have priority, they are nevertheless agreed that this is the case, the chapter goes on to examine the legal position of different stakeholders in the context of the company by referring to the thorough reform process observed in the UK some two decades ago. Noting then that, despite such a comprehensive debate, the enlightened shareholder value solution (ESV) arrived at remains controversial, and recognising that, in any case, such formal statutory provisions by no means exhaust the arrangements in place for corporate governance, the chapter goes on to look at the hugely influential development of essentially self-regulatory, best-practice based arrangements that are now a feature of stock markets throughout the world. Insofar as the experience of the jurisdiction from which this approach emerged has not been uniformly positive, the chapter proceeds to examine the alternative approach of a strict rule-based approach to corporate governance, taking the US as an example. Despite the problems associated with any alternative, these apparent limits perhaps explain the ongoing and indeed intensified interest in the notion of corporate social responsibility. The chapter goes on to seek clarity in a definition of CSR which draws a distinction between what society requires corporations to do and what it is willing to regard as optional. Noting, however, that encouraging legislators to take firm action in the face of the fear of capital flight can be difficult in the absence of some clear evidence of a problem (and even then, in some recent cases), the question is then whether the recent enthusiasm for environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting is a reasonable way forward.
The scholarship on fiduciary duties in business organizations is often pulled in two directions. While most observers would agree that business organizations are one of the key contexts for the application of the fiduciary obligation, corporate law theorists have often expressed disdain for the role of fiduciary duties, with the result that fiduciary law and theory have been out of step with the business world. This volume aims to rectify this situation by bringing together a range of scholars to analyze fiduciary relationships and the fiduciary obligation in the business context. Contributing authors examine fiduciary obligations in fields ranging from entity structure to bankruptcy to investment regulation. The volume demonstrates that fiduciary law can inform pressing corporate governance debates, including discussions over stakeholder models of the corporation that move beyond shareholder interests.
Since the late seventeenth century, trust offices (administratiekantoren) that repackage securities have been a central institution in Dutch finance. Their basic form and functioning have remained largely the same, but over time, the repackaging has come to serve different purposes. Originally set up for administrative convenience, they helped to create liquidity, notably for foreign securities. From the 1930s, their primary purpose became to shield directors of large corporations from shareholder influence and hostile takeover threats. Subsequently, the trust offices evolved from general-purpose administrative units into dedicated foundations closely tied to individual companies and increasingly popular with foreign corporations as cheap anti-takeover devices. Their reincarnation as foundations also turned them into vehicles for the tax-efficient routing of international revenue flows via the Netherlands.
This paper presents a detailed historical account of the Bank of Twente (Twentsche Bankvereeniging), launched in 1861 and, for most of the subsequent decades, the largest, fastest-growing, and most profitable bank in the Netherlands. It follows the narrative analysis approach to illustrate that the circumscribed use of a limited partnership was rooted in the organizational form having a flaw of its own that, under particular circumstances, created serious agency costs. As the bank grew, so did the agency costs, finally forcing the bank to incorporate in 1917.