The conventional view in comparative corporate governance research holds that German corporations are characterized by the prevalence of large blockholders, making it the typical example for a system of concentrated ownership. In my recent paper, Changing Law and Ownership Patterns in Germany: Corporate Governance and the Erosion of Deutschland AG, which has been made publicly available on SSRN, I show that the traditional ownership patterns in German corporations are currently undergoing a major change. The old “Deutschland AG”, a nationwide network of firms, banks, and directors, is eroding along three dimensions: the concentration of ownership is diffusing, the role of banks in equity participations is weakening, and the shareholder body is becoming increasingly international. It appears that these changes are more pronounced the larger the corporation. I present new data to support these developments and explore the consequences in governance and in law that have been taken or that need to be drawn from this finding.
Posts Tagged ‘Globalization’
There has been an exponential growth in interest in comparative company law in recent years. For example, in the period from 2002 to 2011, no fewer than ten monographs or edited collections were published exploring this new field of enquiry. The burgeoning literature was mirrored by an increase in University Postgraduate courses or programs in comparative company law and corporate governance. Moreover, the dissolution of trade barriers and mass cross-border capital flows engendered by the forces of competition and globalization have necessitated legal practitioners to be conversant with the company laws of jurisdictions other than their own.
In Mathias Siems and David Cabrelli (eds.), Comparative Company Law: A Case Based Approach, Hart Publishing, 2013 (publisher’s website; introduction on SSRN) we have aimed to fill an important gap in this field. Existing books on comparative company law tend to focus on the institutional structure of the corporation but this approach risks overlooking specific cases and how the issues arising from disputes are resolved in different jurisdictions. For example, topics related to directors’ liability, creditor protection and shareholders’ rights may best be understood by analyzing how selected hypothetical cases would be solved in different countries.
It should rapidly become clear that my remarks belong only to me because I will be talking about the role of the SEC in an increasingly global financial and regulatory system from the viewpoint of a Chair on Day 18 of her tenure. Already, I find myself emphasizing to some outside the agency that the international aspect of the SEC’s role is not a distraction from our important core domestic duties. Rather, that role must be understood in order to fully appreciate the agency’s whole mission – to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.
And it’s how we’re furthering that mission through our international efforts that I will speak about today.
We in America have been blessed with a wonderful combination of geography, natural resources, and free market principles. These and other factors have allowed our economy and our financial system, including our capital markets, to thrive in the post-World War II era.
Although the United States has suffered its share of financial crises, most recently the one that erupted in 2008, our free market economy and robust capital markets have conferred an enviable prosperity on our people over a period of many years, and few in America can remember a time when the United States did not have strong and competitive capital markets.
However, the very strength and resilience of our capital markets could lead us to fall into the trap of believing that we are somehow entitled to such prosperity. Indeed, such a sense of complacency may well have taken root in our government and may threaten to jeopardize that prosperity. The reality is that we live in a world in which we must be constantly vigilant — sometimes taking affirmative action, but more often choosing not to act — in order to preserve the vitality of our markets.
An important part of my job, and that of my colleagues on the Commission, is to ensure that America’s capital markets remain strong, vibrant, and competitive. That’s not just good for U.S. investors, but also for other investors around the world. And, conversely, the rise of robust capital markets in other parts of the world has the potential to benefit the United States and the American people as well.
We in America often remark that we are blessed by our geography. And there is no doubt that Qataris feel the same about this incredibly unique and beautiful country. In the United States during the post World War II era, our geographical position and natural resources helped our economy develop while others experienced severe disruptions, particularly in Europe. That promoted the development of our capital markets to the great benefit of our citizens, as well as investors foreign and domestic and our partners-in-trade around the world.
It is certainly true that we have suffered our share of economic and financial crises, most recently the crisis that erupted in 2008. Even so, our free market economy and robust capital markets have conferred an enviable prosperity on our people over many years. Indeed, notwithstanding financial crises large and small, it is fair to point out that few in America can remember a time when the United States did not have strong and competitive capital markets.
The risk, however, is that the very resilience of our capital markets has, over time, fostered a latent complacency — a tendency to think strong and competitive markets are, somehow, ours by right — that we are entitled to them when, in reality, we must constantly act — and sometimes decide not to act — in order to preserve the vitality of our markets.
An important part of my job, and that of my colleagues on the Commission, is to ensure that America’s capital markets remain strong and competitive. That’s not just good for U.S. investors, I submit, but equally good for others — for all of you. And, of course, rising global markets are good for the United States.
The second set of meetings in the World Affairs Council of Atlanta’s Global Strategic Leadership Forum series focused on the new challenges facing the boards of directors of contemporary global companies. Setting the stage for the Forum’s discussions was the recognition of the huge changes that have taken place as a result of globalization in tandem with the world financial crisis and economic slow-down. The premise of the Forum was that the expanding and complex issues facing global companies today require a re-examination of the wide set of risks generated by global expansion and the complicated and dynamic matrix of the regulatory environment. These developments have dramatically impacted the relationship between the board and the chief executive officer as they determine strategic direction for the company – a role that is increasingly becoming a joint responsibility.
The general consensus of the Forum’s participants was that in today’s business environment, a global company board needs to ask itself if it is doing all it can and should to evaluate the complicated new risks facing the company, while ensuring that the goals for growth and profitability remain a critical focus. Complicating this escalating level of risk are the increasingly onerous and complex regulatory frameworks, imposed not only by the United States, but by other sovereign jurisdictions. The Forum participants confirmed that many of these regulations have global reach and the Board of Directors has specific oversight responsibility, thus vastly increasing the amount of information that must be examined at the Board level.
In the paper, Financial Globalization and the Rise of IPOs Outside the U.S., which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, my co-authors (Craige Doidge and George Karolyi) and I document dramatic changes in the IPO landscape around the world over the past two decades. U.S. IPOs have become less important and IPOs in other countries have become more important, whether one looks at counts or at proceeds. In fact, U.S. IPO activity has generally not kept pace with the economic importance of the U.S. We show that financial globalization plays a critical role in facilitating the increasing importance of IPOs by non-U.S. Firms.
Anyone involved in the financial reporting process deals daily with the hard realities of complexity and rapid change — whether you are a preparer of financial statements, a board or audit committee member, an investor, an independent or internal auditor, a counselor, or a regulator.
Commercial activity is increasingly global. Some financial instruments and transactions are bafflingly complex with values that can only be estimated. Standard setters in the United States and abroad are moving away from historical cost accounting toward fair value accounting, requiring difficult estimates. There is a plethora of new rules and requirements growing out of the Dodd-Frank and JOBS acts in the United States, and all of this is happening in what since 2008 has been the most difficult global economic environment since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Much as we struggle with these rapid changes and their complexity, regulators also struggle to see around the curve, to be prepared for what is coming tomorrow, and to have tools in their toolbox that will be appropriate for those challenges. In the next session of today’s conference, I will discuss a number of specific initiatives the PCAOB is undertaking to deal with some of these challenges, but in this address I want to focus on one specific area, the challenge of globalization and cross-border financial reporting, auditing and audit oversight.
I would like to focus my remarks on swaps market reform and specifically on how it fits into the international context.
International Swaps Market – Historically Unregulated
As you all know, with just the click of a mouse, risk can spread around the globe. We surely saw this as the financial system failed in 2008.
As the financial system failed in 2008, most of us learned that the insurance giant AIG had a subsidiary, AIG Financial Products, originally organized in the United States, but run out of London. The fast collapse of AIG, a mainstay of Wall Street, was again sobering evidence of the markets’ international interconnectedness. Sobering evidence, as well, of how transactions booked in London or anywhere around the globe can wreak havoc on the American public.
Swaps, now comprising a $700 trillion notional global market, were developed to help manage and lower risk for commercial companies. But they also concentrated and heightened risk in international financial institutions. And when financial entities fail, as they have and surely will again, swaps can contribute to quickly spreading risk across borders.
Leading up to the financial crisis, swaps were basically not regulated in Asia, Europe or the United States.
There were many reasons put forth as to why swaps should not be regulated. Let me touch upon just three of those reasons, as I believe they are relevant to today’s ongoing debates about the proper role of financial regulation.
Fiscal year 2011 witnessed the SBA’s shift from domestic and foreign asset classes, to a combined global equity portfolio, with a heavier international equity weighting and a more balanced U.S. exposure. With the recent structural changes, the proportion of SBA assets invested in foreign equity markets will continue to rise, and a significant proportion may be managed internally. In 1998, for foreign equities was 7.6 percent, rising to 12.7 percent by 2003, and 18.8 percent by the end of fiscal year 2010. Upon completion of the transition to a combined global equity asset class, foreign equities composed 33 percent of FRS assets as of October 2011. As a percent of the equity asset class, foreign shares account for 56 percent and U.S. shares for 44 percent.
Coinciding with this shift, the SBA realigned its international proxy voting practices, bringing foreign voting decisions ”in-house” to match domestic SBA voting practices.
Previously, external asset managers were responsible for voting international proxies associated with SBA shares held in their funds. Since the SBA assumed this responsibility, votes are now cast by SBA staff—based on our own Corporate Governance Principles & Proxy Voting Guidelines and meeting specific research from our proxy research providers.