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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.
Article

Access_open How to Regulate Cooperatives in the EU?

A Theory of Path Dependency

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 4 2014
Keywords cooperative law, company law, EU harmonization, business form, governance
Authors Ger J.H. van der Sangen
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this article, the phenomenon of path dependency has been addressed in view of the harmonization of cooperative law in the EU. The question is raised whether and how the legislative harmonization has an impact on co-operators in their efforts of setting up and maintaining efficient cooperative organizations and whether in this respect the Statute for the European Cooperative Society (hereinafter: SCE) is a helpful tool to facilitate the enhancement of national statutes on cooperatives as well as to provide the legal infrastructure to facilitate cross-border cooperation amongst and reorganizations of cooperatives in the EU.
    The case for the cooperative as a viable business form gained momentum in the EU policy debate with the development of the SCE Statute in 2003, the outbreak of the financial and economic crisis in 2008 and with the endorsement of the cooperative business concept by the United Nations and the International Labour Organization in 2012. If the sound development of cooperatives as an alternative legal business form vis-à-vis investor-owned firms is considered a policy instrument to enhance societal business activities – notably in the field of agriculture and social economy – it raises the question how cooperatives should be regulated to fulfil their function in this respect.
    The key argument presented in this article is that due to strong tendencies of path dependency a top-down approach of EU law-making was and is not a feasible option. The cooperative as a multifaceted institution requires a multifaceted approach taking into account the historical legislative developments of distinctive jurisdictions as well as the historical economic development of cooperative organizations in their specific jurisdiction. However, the existence of path dependency and the lack of regulatory arbitrage as well as regulatory competition prevent the market from generating efficient model statutes for cooperatives taking into account the specific needs of cooperatives and their co-operators.


Ger J.H. van der Sangen
Dr Ger J.H. van der Sangen is Associate Professor Company Law and Securities Law at Tilburg Law School, Department Business Law. He was part of the research team of the EU-funded project Support for Farmers’ Cooperatives. He would like to express his gratitude to all the members of the research team for sharing their insights and discussions during conference meetings in Brussels (November 2011 and 2012) and in Helsinki (June 2012), in particular J. Bijman, C. Gijselinckx, G. Hendrikse, C. Iliopoulos and K. Poppe.
Article

Access_open Can Corporate Law on Groups Assist Groups to Effectively Address Climate Change?

A Cross-Jurisdictional Analysis of Barriers and Useful Domestic Corporate Law Approaches Concerning Group Identification and Managing a Common Climate Change Policy

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 3 2014
Authors Tineke Lambooy and Jelena Stamenkova van Rumpt
Author's information

Tineke Lambooy
Tineke Lambooy is Professor Corporate Law at Nyenrode Business University and Associate Professor Corporate Social Responsibility at Utrecht University.

Jelena Stamenkova van Rumpt
Jelena Stamenkova van Rumpt, LLM, is Advisor Responsible Investment at PGGM (Dutch Asset Manager for Pension Funds).
Article

Access_open Parental Liability for Externalities of Subsidiaries

Domestic and Extraterritorial Approaches

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 3 2014
Keywords company law, group liability, comparative approach, liability matrix, statutory/judicial approaches
Authors Linn Anker-Sørensen
AbstractAuthor's information

    This paper offers a structural tool for examining various parental liability approaches for the externalities of its subsidiaries, meaning in the context of this paper, the negative environmental impact of their operations. In order to conclude that the parent is liable for externalities of subsidiaries, one must be able to bypass the corporate privileges of separate legal personality and limited liability, either within traditional company law or within alternative approaches offered by notably tort and environmental law. The overall acceptance of companies within groups as single entities, instead of recognition of their factual, often closely interlinked economic relationship, is a well-known barrier within traditional company law. The situation is exacerbated by the general lack of an extraterritorial liability approach and of enforcement of the rare occurrences of such liability within the traditional company law context. This paper explores various liability approaches found in jurisdictions worldwide mainly based on mapping papers from the international Sustainable Companies Project. The author introduces a matrix in order to systemize the different approaches, distinguishing between three levels: domestic and extraterritorial, statutory and judicial and indirect and direct liability. A proper distinction between the different liability approaches can be valuable in order to identify the main barriers to group liability in regulation and in jurisprudence.


Linn Anker-Sørensen
Research assistant in the Research Group Companies, Markets, Society and the Environment and its Sustainable Companies Project, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo (jus.uio.no/companies under Projects).
Article

Access_open The EU Response to the Trade in Conflict Minerals from Central Africa

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 1 2014
Keywords corporate social responsibility, conflict minerals, private regulation, public regulation, European Union
Authors Tomas Königs, Sohail Wahedi and Tjalling Waterbolk
AbstractAuthor's information

    The trade in conflict minerals has led to the eruption and conservation of conflicts and gross violations of human rights, in particular in the central African region. In response, various public and private entities have taken measures to counter this development. The purpose of this essay is to analyze how the European Union, in light of its promotion of corporate social responsibility, should regulate the behaviour of multinational companies dealing with minerals from conflict-ridden areas. In light of recent initiatives taken by the UN, the United States and the mineral-extraction industry, it is examined whether the EU should adopt public regulation or whether it should continue its promotion of private self-regulatory regimes. The authors argue that the EU should promote regulation at the level that provides the strongest incentive for companies to comply with their duties. This article shows that both private and public regulation have their limitations in regulating the trade in conflict minerals and that the EU should thus adopt a mix of both. In doing so, the development of transparency norms can be delegated to companies, stakeholders and other affected parties, while the EU could provide for an effective accountability mechanism to enforce these norms.


Tomas Königs
Tomas Königs is a graduate student of the Legal Research Master (LLM) at Utrecht University.

Sohail Wahedi
Sohail Wahedi is a graduate student of the Legal Research Master (LLM) at Utrecht University.

Tjalling Waterbolk
Tjalling Waterbolk is a graduate student of the Legal Research Master (LLM) at Utrecht University.

Jan Eijsbouts
Prof. A. Jan A.J. Eijsbouts, Institute for Corporate Law, Governance and Innovation Policies, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University.
Article

Access_open Multinationals and Transparency in Foreign Direct Liability Cases

The Prospects for Obtaining Evidence under the Dutch Civil Procedural Regime on the Production of Exhibits

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 3 2013
Keywords foreign direct liability, corporate social responsibility, transparency document disclosure, Dutch Shell Nigeria case
Authors Liesbeth F.H. Enneking
AbstractAuthor's information

    On 30 January 2013, the The Hague district court rendered a final judgment with respect to a number of civil liability claims against Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) and its Nigerian subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) that had been pursued by four Nigerian farmers and the Dutch NGO Milieudefensie in relation to various oil spills from SPDC-operated pipelines in the Nigerian Niger Delta. This case is the first Dutch example of a broader, worldwide trend towards similar transnational civil liability procedures against multinational corporations for harm caused to people and planet in developing host countries. This worldwide trend towards so-called ‘foreign direct liability cases’ and the Dutch Shell Nigeria case in particular raise many interesting socio-political as well as legal questions. This article will focus on the question what the prospects are for plaintiffs seeking to pursue such claims before a Dutch court when it comes to obtaining evidence under the Dutch civil procedural regime on the production of exhibits. This is a highly relevant question, since the proceedings in the Dutch Shell Nigeria case seem to indicate that the relatively restrictive Dutch regime on the production of exhibits in civil procedures may potentially impose a structural barrier on the access to remedies before Dutch courts of the victims of corporate violations of people and planet abroad.


Liesbeth F.H. Enneking
Liesbeth Enneking is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UCALL, Utrecht University’s multidisciplinary Centre for Accountability and Liability Law, and an Assistant Professor of Private International Law at Utrecht University’s Molengraaff Institute for Private Law. The author would like to thank prof. I. Giesen for comments on an earlier version of this article.
Article

Access_open The Conflict Minerals Rule

Private Alternatives?

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 3 2013
Keywords corporate social responsibility, conflict minerals, codes of conduct, contract law
Authors A.L. Vytopil
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article discusses Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act in respect of the transparency certain American companies are to provide in respect of conflict minerals and the Rule drawn up by the Securities and Exchange Commission following this legislation. It explains the requirements it poses on companies. Moreover, it highlights some of the societal criticism in respect of the Securities and Exchange Commission Rule, the legal challenge of this Rule and the subsequent court verdict by the District Court for the District of Columbia. Finally, it elaborates upon private regulatory initiatives that could provide viable alternatives to conflict minerals legislation, and it concludes that for the Netherlands, private regulation would probably be more effective than legislation comparable to Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act.


A.L. Vytopil
Louise Vytopil, LL.B MA MSc, is a Ph.D.-candidate and assistant-professor at Utrecht University’s Molengraaff Institute for Private Law.
Article

Access_open The Opacity of a Multinational Company’s Organization, Legal Structure and Power

What Type of Corporate Information Must a Multinational Company Make Public Pursuant to Dutch Law? Options for Improving Dutch Law: Better Access to Corporate Information for Stakeholders

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 3 2013
Keywords transparency, CSR disclosure, corporate legal structure, legal framework for corporate reporting, integrated reporting
Authors Tineke E. Lambooy, Rosalien A. Diepeveen, Kim Nguyen e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article describes the types of information that a multinational company must make public pursuant to Book 2 of the Dutch Civil Code, the Act on Financial Supervision and the Commercial Registers Act. We ascertain that: (i) the Dutch Trade Register fails in providing adequate information about the foreign parts of a group; (ii) the annual reporting laws fail to require companies to provide an insight in the group legal structure, the business organization and the corporate social responsibility profile of a multinational company; and (iii) the Act on Financial Supervision fails to include disclosure requirements regarding the corporate social responsibility profile of a listed company. Different possible legislative amendments are provided in this article that could enhance transparency concerning a Dutch multinational company’s business organization, the legal structure and its corporate social responsibility profile, so that corporate information is better accessible for stakeholders. We conclude that most of these improvements are not limited to the Dutch legal system, but can be seen in the light of a global trend of increased corporate transparency. With this article, we hope to contribute to a new mind-set whereby transparency is stimulated, by offering concrete (policy) tools.


Tineke E. Lambooy
Dr. T.E. Lambooy, LL.M., is an associate professor at Utrecht University’s Molengraaff Institute for Private Law and at Nyenrode Business University’s Center for Sustainability. She is the author of Corporate Social Responsibility. Legal and Semi-Legal Frameworks Supporting CSR (Kluwer, 2010).

Rosalien A. Diepeveen

Kim Nguyen
P.K. Nguyen obtained her LL.M. degree at Utrecht University Law School.

Sander van ’t Foort
R.A. Diepeveen and S. van ’t Foort are currently pursuing an LL.M. degree at Utrecht University Law School. The authors are very grateful to R. Hordijk, LL.M., for supporting them in the research on this topic and to K. Hooft, LL.M., for reviewing the draft contribution.
Article

Access_open The Regulation of Rating Agencies in Europe

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 2 2013
Keywords Credit Rating Agencies, Regulation No. 1060/2009, ESMA, sovereign ratings, complex products ratings
Authors Edith Weemaels
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article presents the current and future statutory framework for ratings agencies in Europe. The recent financial and economic crises dealt a fatal blow to this practice and the EU clearly intends to progress as quickly as possible when it comes to the regulation of credit rating agencies. This article examines the possibility that new EU framework serve to strengthen the position of credit rating agencies through the elimination of their unquestioned role in the markets. The author also presents existing and future European regulations and analyses the establishment and implementation of prudential supervision of the rating activity.


Edith Weemaels
Lawyer – Brussels Bar, Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick (Brussels), e.weemaels@liedekerke.com.
Article

Access_open Regulating Credit Rating Agencies in the European Union

Lessons from Behavioural Science

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 1 2013
Keywords behavioural economics, credit rating agenies, lulling effect, neuroeconomics, due diligence
Authors Fabian Amtenbrink and Klaus Heine
AbstractAuthor's information

    Since the beginning of the global financial and economic crisis, the search for its causes has been in full flight on both sides of the Atlantic. Inter alia, fundamental failures in the evaluation of risk and the role that Credit Rating Agencies (CRAs) play in the assessment of credit risk are discussed. More specifically, the question is raised as to what the role of CRAs is in the financial markets, why this role may be problematic and how the main weaknesses of the present system can be addressed in the European Union (EU) and elsewhere. This contribution does not aim to provide a discussion of all theoretical aspects that might be involved in an economic analysis of CRAs, but to better understand the main behavioural economics and normative arguments that may be related. Thereby, the current EU regulatory framework on CRAs and credit ratings will be scrutinized. The basic hypothesis of this contribution is that the current and proposed future EU regulatory framework does not fully succeed in effectively tackling failures in the CRA market, because insights from behavioural economics are widely neglected.


Fabian Amtenbrink
Dr. Amtenbrink is Professor of European Union Law at the Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He is also Visiting Professor at the College of Europe (Bruges).

Klaus Heine
Dr. Heine is Professor of Law and Economics and Jean Monnet Chair of Economic Analysis of European Law at the Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Article

Access_open Law and China’s Economic Growth

A Macroeconomic Perspective

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 1 2012
Keywords China, economic imbalance, factor markets, economic policies, law and regulations
Authors Guangdong Xu
AbstractAuthor's information

    China is now stuck in an investment-driven growth pattern that has helped it achieve excessive economic growth in the short run but at the cost of environmental quality, ordinary citizens’ welfare, and long-term economic health. Two main factors can be identified as responsible for the formation and continuation of the current growth pattern. One is economic policy, especially fiscal and financial policies, which contribute to the decline in household consumption by depressing household disposable income and reducing social services provided by the government. The other is the law and regulations that the government has used to subsidize investment and production by distorting factor markets, including markets for capital, land, labor, energy, and environment. A systematic legal and institutional reform whose purpose is to liberalize factor markets is therefore required to rebalance China’s economy.


Guangdong Xu
China University of Political Science and Law.
Article

Access_open Public and Private Regulation

Mapping the Labyrinth

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 1 2012
Keywords private regulation, regulatory impact assessment, standard-setting, voluntary certification, sustainabbility reporting, effectiveness indicators, governance indicators
Authors Fabrizio Cafaggi and Andrea Renda
AbstractAuthor's information

    Private governance is currently being evoked as a viable solution to many public policy goals. However, in some circumstances it has shown to produce more harm than good, and even disastrous consequences like in the case of the financial crisis that is raging in most advanced economies. Although the current track record of private regulatory schemes is mixed, policy guidance documents around the world still require that policymakers award priority to self- and co-regulation, with little or no additional guidance being given to policymakers to devise when, and under what circumstances, these solutions can prove viable from a public policy perspective. With an array of examples from several policy fields, this paper approaches regulation as a public-private collaborative form and attempts to identify possible policy tools to be applied by public policymakers to efficiently and effectively approach private governance as a solution, rather than a problem. We propose a six-step theoretical framework and argue that IA techniques should: (i) define an integrated framework including both the possibility that private regulation can be used as an alternative or as a complement to public legislation; (ii) Involve private parties in public IAs in order to define the best strategy or strategies that would ensure achievement of the regulatory objectives; and (iii) Contemplate the deployment of indicators related to governance and activities of the regulators and their ability to coordinate and solve disputes with other regulators.


Fabrizio Cafaggi
European University Institute, Fiesole Università di Trento (F. Cafaggi).

Andrea Renda
LUISS Guido Carli, Rome; Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels; European University Institute, Fiesole (A. Renda).
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