Islamic Financial Institutions and Corporate Governance: New Insights for Agency Theory
American University of Beirut - Olayan School of Business
November 19, 2008
Corporate Governance: An International Review, Forthcoming
Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World Paper No. 09-57
This paper highlights variations of agency theory in the unique and complex context of Islamic banks mainly stemming from the need to comply with Sharia and the separation of cash flow and control rights for a category of investors. The paper provides insights that agency structures in the context of Islamic banking might give rise to trade-offs between Sharia compliance and mechanisms protecting investors' rights. Alternative models of idiosyncratic governance might be effective in balancing the two cornerstones of the agency dynamic. In practice, we find that most of the surveyed Islamic banks appear to recognize the value of governance and institute some basic mechanisms. Nonetheless, some governance flaws relating to audit, control and transparency are noticed, a situation further exacerbated by the fact that investment account holders (IAH) are not represented on the board, and are not granted control or monitoring rights. This opens for discussions on the tradeoff between the benefits and costs of such a practice.
This study contributes to the agency theory literature by providing theoretical propositions highlighting challenges to this theory whereby mechanisms with the purpose of mitigating agency problems might lead to a divergence from Islamic principles of Sharia. The paper motivates Islamic banks to improve governance practices currently in place. It alerts policy makers to the need to tailor the regulations as to safeguard the interests of all investors without violating the principles of Sharia.
Keywords: Corporate Governance, Islamic Financial Institutions, Agency Theory
Date posted: November 21, 2008 ; Last revised: February 27, 2009