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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 From Individuals to Organizations: The Puzzle of Organizational Liability in Tort Law

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 2 2015
Keywords organizational liability, tort law, organizational design, organizational wrongdoing, law and economics
Authors Klaus Heine and Kateryna Grabovets
AbstractAuthor's information

    Organizational accidents have two generic sources: individual wrongdoings and organizational failures. Economic analysis of tort law is methodologically based on the “fiction” (Gordon 2013) of a rational individual, from which “simple rules for a complex world” (Epstein 1995) are derived. As a result, organizational wrongdoing boils down to a simple principal-agent problem, neglecting the complexity of organizational reality. We shed more light on organizational factors as a separate trigger of organizational wrongdoing. We take an interdisciplinary perspective on the problem, which challenges traditional economic analysis of tort law with insights drawn from organizational science. Moreover, we demonstrate how tort law and economic analysis can be enriched with these insights.


Klaus Heine
Prof. Dr. Klaus Heine (Corresponding author), Jean Monnet Chair of Economic Analysis of European Law, Erasmus School of Law – RILE, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, Room J6-59, Postbus 1738, NL-3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Tel: 0031 (0)10 4082691; Fax: 0031 (0)10 4089191.

Kateryna Grabovets
Dr. Kateryna Grabovets, Rotterdam Business School (RBS), Rotterdam University of​Applied‍ Sci‍ences,‍ Kralingse Zoom 91, Room C3.121, 3063 ND Rotterdam; P.O. Box 25035, 3001 HA Rotterdam, The Netherlands.​Tel:‍ 0031‍ (0)10‍ 7946243. k.a.grabovets@hr.nl
Article

Access_open The 2015 Proposal for an EU Directive on the Societas Unius Personae (SUP)

Another Attempt to Square the Circle?

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 2 2015
Keywords EU law harmonisation, single member private companies, Proposed SUP Directive, European ‘trade mark’
Authors Stephan Rammeloo
AbstractAuthor's information

    Stimulating business throughout the Single Market, not in the least for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), is one of the key priorities of the EU’s ten-year growth strategy, ‘Europe 2020’. One of the strategies to achieve this goal is the recently developed legal concept of a ‘European trademark’ for single member private limited liability companies duly established under the laws of any EU Member State and complying with preconditions required by a draft Proposal for a Directive on the Societas Unius Personae (SUP). The 2015 Compromising text, having replaced the initial 2014 Draft for a Directive requires to be analysed in view of its ‘scope’ (functional and geographical reach). Furthermore, attention is given to matters of formation and ‘long distance’ registration, share capital, internal organization and functioning of company organs, the functioning of SUP’s as stand alone companies or SUP’s embedded in company group or chain structures. Critical observations inter alia focus on relinquished provisions on the SUP’s seat as well as the powers of SUP organs and on ‘national law’ creeping in the Proposed Directive more and more at the cost of legal certainty and legal coherence between EU law instruments relevant to private limited liability companies.


Stephan Rammeloo
Associate Professor EU Company Law, Private International Law and Comparative Law, Maastricht University.
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.
Article

Access_open Independent Supervisory Directors in Family-Controlled Publicly Listed Corporations

Is There a Need to Revisit the EU Independence Standards?

Journal The Dovenschmidt Quarterly, Issue 1 2015
Keywords corporate governance, board independence, independent non-executive or supervisory directors, listed family businesses, minority expropriation problem
Authors Fabian Imach
AbstractAuthor's information

    This contribution analyzes whether the current focus of the EU regulator on empowering independent directors is effective in corporations with a concentrated (family) ownership structure. The basic hypothesis of this contribution is that, contrary to the excessively optimistic expectations of the EU regulator, there are serious inefficiencies in the concept of independent directors when it comes to concentrated (family) ownership structures. The contribution relies on a series of empirical studies indicating a positive correlation between operating performance and family influence in European stock corporations.


Fabian Imach
Fabian Imach is management consultant at Societaet CHORVS AG, Gesellschaft für disruptive Wettbewerbsgestaltung in Düsseldorf. He has previously worked for BMW AG, JAFFÉ Rechtsanwälte Insolvenzverwalter (Lawyers and Insolvency Administrators) and Porsche Consulting GmbH. He holds a Master degree from Maastricht University, Faculty of Law.
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