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Article

Access_open The Norm of Integrity in Corporate Governance Codes: Could It Be Made Enforceable?

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 2 2015
Keywords corporate governance, integrity, legal strategies, Goldman Sachs
Authors B.T.M. Steins Bisschop
AbstractAuthor's information

    The faring of Goldman Sachs during the financial crisis of 2008 is discussed against the background of legal instruments that were employed to avoid its failure. This discussion leads to the conclusion that in this case, the limits of classical legal instruments were reached. To further good corporate governance, the legal relevance of the term ‘integrity’ is explored. It is concluded that the legal term of integrity is used universally in corporate governance codes, but is not operational and therefore not enforceable. An attempt is made to redefine this general principle into a more operational term. This is tested in the case of Goldman Sachs’ executive Jon Winkelried. It is assumed that he has violated the standard of integrity but also that there were no enforceable legal means to sanction his behaviour. The conclusion is that the more operational interpretation of the term integrity could, in this case, have resulted in an enforceable legal instrument to sanction behaviour that is contrary to the norm of integrity. This operational term of integrity could aid in the debate on furthering good corporate governance through enforceable legal strategies.


B.T.M. Steins Bisschop
Prof. Dr. Bas T.M. Steins Bisschop holds a chair Corporate Law and Governance at the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University and a chair Corporate Law at Nyenrode Business University. He is partner of a boutique law firm in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Article

Access_open Directors’ Disqualification in the Netherlands

An International Comparative Re-Evaluation of an Amended Disqualification Proposal

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 1 2015
Keywords directors’ disqualification, directors’ liability, fraud, company law, insolvency law
Authors Tom Reker
AbstractAuthor's information

    In response to the effects of the global financial crisis on bankruptcy tendencies and the role of fraudulent company directors within that context, the Dutch government has introduced a proposal for a civil law directors’ disqualification instrument. This proposal aims to prevent both fraudulent conduct (by barring directors) and financial harm to corporate stakeholders, as well as to safeguard competitiveness and the trust which is necessary for effective trade. The fact that Dutch criminal law already allows for disqualification of directors in certain circumstances, which are partly similar to those in the proposal, raises doubts about the necessity of a civil law equivalent. This article concludes that the current proposal seems to have lost value vis-à-vis an earlier draft due to alterations to the disqualification and exculpation criteria, which may result in an overlap of the civil law and criminal law instruments. Consequently, there is a more pressing need for demarcation and reallocation of certain aspects of the proposal. By comparing the proposal with foreign (UK, US, Australian and German) counterparts, several suggestions are formulated to both counteract the overlap which the proposal may cause in Dutch law and to contribute to a model of effective disqualification instruments in general.


Tom Reker
Tom Reker recently graduated from the Leiden Law School, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands. Email: tomreker_1@hotmail.com.
Article

Access_open Corporate Social Responsibility via Shareholders’ Proposals

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 1 2015
Keywords corporate social responsibility, shareholders, Rule 14a-8, social proposals, strategy
Authors Maria Paz Godoy Uson
AbstractAuthor's information

    Can shareholders’ proposals be considered as a mainstream alternative to incorporate social and environmental policies into the core businesses strategy? Proposing non-financial resolutions at the general meeting of shareholders is a form of shareholders’ activism that is shaping company’s direction. The American court case Lovenheim v. Iroquois Brands, Ltd. confirms that social and environmental issues, when significantly related to the core business, can give rise to new business directions firmly promoted by shareholders, resting authorial power to the board of directors in conducting the company’s direction. The US SEC Rule 14a-8 is widely used by social activists and institutional investors to influence the direction of business in becoming more sustainable. In virtue of the American Rule 14a-8, shareholders may include proposals in the company’s proxy materials and, thereby, compel a vote on the issue at the annual shareholders’ meeting. The result is that American shareholders’ proposals are being considered as an effective gateway to improve corporations’ social and environmental behaviour. This article examines, from a comparative perspective, the further developments of shareholders’ social proposals with the attempt to incorporate social and environmental policies into the core business. The article also suggests that the increasing demand of social proposals promoted by American shareholders versus the limited activity of shareholders’ proposals in Continental European jurisdictions is precipitating the process of converge between the main corporate governance models; the shareholder-oriented model and the stakeholder-oriented model, respectively. The issue of CSR via shareholders’ proposals as presented here is primarily based on literature and various cases related to SEC 14a-8, more in particular on lessons drawn from Lovenheim v. Iroquois Brands, Ltd.


Maria Paz Godoy Uson
PhD Fellow Maastricht University.
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