What is Corporate Governance?



Impact of Corporate Governance

The positive effect of corporate governance on different stakeholders ultimately is a strengthened economy, and hence good corporate governance is a tool for socio-economic development

 

Corporate governance is the set of processes, customs, policies, laws, and institutions affecting the way a corporation (or company) is directed, administered or controlled. Corporate governance also includes the relationships among the many stakeholders involved and the goals for which the corporation is governed. The principal stakeholders are the shareholders, management, and the board of directors. Other stakeholders include employees, customers, creditors, suppliers, regulators, and the community at large.

Corporate governance is a multi-faceted subject.[1] An important theme of corporate governance is to ensure the accountability of certain individuals in an organization through mechanisms that try to reduce or eliminate the principal-agent problem. A related but separate thread of discussions focuses on the impact of a corporate governance system in economic efficiency, with a strong emphasis on shareholders' welfare. There are yet other aspects to the corporate governance subject, such as the stakeholder view and the corporate governance models around the world

In A Board Culture of Corporate Governance, business author Gabrielle O'Donovan defines corporate governance as 'an internal system encompassing policies, processes and people, which serves the needs of shareholders and other stakeholders, by directing and controlling management activities with good business savvy, objectivity, accountability and integrity. Sound corporate governance is reliant on external marketplace commitment and legislation, plus a healthy board culture which safeguards policies and processes'.

O'Donovan goes on to say that 'the perceived quality of a company's corporate governance can influence its share price as well as the cost of raising capital. Quality is determined by the financial markets, legislation and other external market forces plus how policies and processes are implemented and how people are led. External forces are, to a large extent, outside the circle of control of any board. The internal environment is quite a different matter, and offers companies the opportunity to differentiate from competitors through their board culture. To date, too much of corporate governance debate has centred on legislative policy, to deter fraudulent activities and transparency policy which misleads executives to treat the symptoms and not the cause.

It is a system of structuring, operating and controlling a company with a view to achieve long term strategic goals to satisfy shareholders, creditors, employees, customers and suppliers, and complying with the legal and regulatory requirements, apart from meeting environmental and local community needs.
Report of SEBI committee (India) on Corporate Governance defines corporate governance as the acceptance by management of the inalienable rights of shareholders as the true owners of the corporation and of their own role as trustees on behalf of the shareholders. It is about commitment to values, about ethical business conduct and about making a distinction between personal & corporate funds in the management of a company." The definition is drawn from the Gandhian principle of trusteeship and the Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution. Corporate Governance is viewed as ethics and a moral duty.

In the 19th century, state corporation laws enhanced the rights of corporate boards to govern without unanimous consent of shareholders in exchange for statutory benefits like appraisal rights, to make corporate governance more efficient. Since that time, and because most large publicly traded corporations in the US are incorporated under corporate administration friendly Delaware law, and because the US's wealth has been increasingly securitized into various corporate entities and institutions, the rights of individual owners and shareholders have become increasingly derivative and dissipated. The concerns of shareholders over administration pay and stock losses periodically has led to more frequent calls for corporate governance reforms.

In the 20th century in the immediate aftermath of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 legal scholars such as Adolf Augustus Berle, Edwin Dodd, and Gardiner C. Means pondered on the changing role of the modern corporation in society. Berle and Means' monograph "The Modern Corporation and Private Property" (1932, Macmillan) continues to have a profound influence on the conception of corporate governance in scholarly debates today.

From the Chicago school of economics, Ronald Coase's "The Nature of the Firm" (1937) introduced the notion of transaction costs into the understanding of why firms are founded and how they continue to behave. Fifty years later, Eugene Fama and Michael Jensen's "The Separation of Ownership and Control" (1983, Journal of Law and Economics) firmly established agency theory as a way of understanding corporate governance: the firm is seen as a series of contracts. Agency theory's dominance was highlighted in a 1989 article by Kathleen Eisenhardt ("Agency theory: an assessement and review", Academy of Management Review).

US expansion after World War II through the emergence of multinational corporations saw the establishment of the managerial class. Accordingly, the following Harvard Business School management professors published influential monographs studying their prominence: Myles Mace (entrepreneurship), Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. (business history), Jay Lorsch (organizational behavior) and Elizabeth MacIver (organizational behavior). According to Lorsch and MacIver "many large corporations have dominant control over business affairs without sufficient accountability or monitoring by their board of directors."

Since the late 1970's, corporate governance has been the subject of significant debate in the U.S. and around the globe. Bold, broad efforts to reform corporate governance have been driven, in part, by the needs and desires of shareowners to exercise their rights of corporate ownership and to increase the value of their shares and, therefore, wealth. Over the past three decades, corporate directors' duties have expanded greatly beyond their traditional legal responsibility of duty of loyalty to the corporation and its shareowners.

In the first half of the 1990s, the issue of corporate governance in the U.S. received considerable press attention due to the wave of CEO dismissals (e.g.: IBM, Kodak, Honeywell) by their boards. The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) led a wave of institutional shareholder activism (something only very rarely seen before), as a way of ensuring that corporate value would not be destroyed by the now traditionally cozy relationships between the CEO and the board of directors (e.g., by the unrestrained issuance of stock options, not infrequently back dated).

In 1997, the East Asian Financial Crisis saw the economies of Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia and The Philippines severely affected by the exit of foreign capital after property assets collapsed. The lack of corporate governance mechanisms in these countries highlighted the weaknesses of the institutions in their economies.

In the early 2000s, the massive bankruptcies (and criminal malfeasance) of Enron and Worldcom, as well as lesser corporate debacles, such as Adelphia Communications, AOL, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing, Tyco, led to increased shareholder and governmental interest in corporate governance. This is reflected in the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002


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