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A Japanese CalPERS or a New Model for Institutional Investor Activism: Japan's Pension Fund Association and the Emergence of Shareholder Activism in Japan

NYU Journal of Law & Business, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2011

70 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2009 Last revised: 4 Aug 2011

Bruce E. Aronson

Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy

Date Written: April 15, 2011

Abstract

If activist institutional investors are arguably the primary external monitors of management under leading corporate governance systems in the United States and the United Kingdom, who might assume that role in other countries. And, more importantly, what activist shareholder strategies may be possible under different corporate governance systems and operating environments that are generally less supportive of shareholder activism than the United States and the United Kingdom.

This Article seeks to address that question through a comparison of the well-known strategy of CalPERS with that of a rare, real-world example of institutional investor activism outside of the “Anglo-Saxon” model - Japan’s Pension Fund Association (the “PFA”). It examines how institutional investors adopt activist strategies to fulfill their corporate governance role within two important sets of constraints: (1) resource and expertise constraints, and (2) constituency constraints.

It finds that similar resource and expertise constraints lead to basically similar investment portfolio strategies: diversified, passive index investing and a corresponding reliance on proxy voting. However differences in constituency constraints produce corresponding differences in strategic focus and “style.” CalPERS, which is supported and encouraged by its members and broader constituencies, stands out as a high profile and sometimes adversarial activist that acts as a “catalyst” for management accountability. In Japan the PFA, which is less supported by its member corporate pension funds and broader constituencies, acts as a “reluctant activist.” It has adopted objective, performance-based proxy voting guidelines and non-adversarial measures that emphasize and promote good governance rather than criticize poor governance.

Keywords: corporate governance, Japan,comparative, shareholder activism, proxy voting, pension funds

JEL Classification: K22, G23, G34

Suggested Citation

Aronson, Bruce E., A Japanese CalPERS or a New Model for Institutional Investor Activism: Japan's Pension Fund Association and the Emergence of Shareholder Activism in Japan (April 15, 2011). NYU Journal of Law & Business, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1488201

Bruce E. Aronson (Contact Author)

Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy ( email )

2-1-2 Hitotsubashi, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 101-0003, Chiyoda-ku 101-8439
Japan
81-3-4212-3138 (Phone)
81-3-4212-3149 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.ics.hit-u.ac.jp

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