An Admiralty for Asia: Isaac Le Maire and Conflicting Conceptions About the Corporate Governance of the VOC
52 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2010
Date Written: 24 2010 6,
The Dutch East India Company or VOC in 1602 showed many characteristics of modern corporations, including limited liability, freely transferable shares, and well-defined managerial functions. However, we challenge the notion of the VOC as the precursor of modern corporations to argue that the company was a hybrid, combining elements from traditional partnerships with a governance structure modeled on existing public-private partnerships. The company’s charter reflected this hybrid structure in the preeminent position given to the Estates General as the VOC’s main principal, to the detriment of shareholders’ interests. Protests by Isaac le Maire and Willem Usselinx about the board’s disregard for shareholders rooted in a conviction that it ought to conform to traditional partnerships with their judicious balance between stakeholders’ interests. However, the perceived public interest of a strong military presence in Asia prevented shareholders’ protests from changing the corporate governance.
Keywords: dutch east india company, VOC, corporate governance
JEL Classification: M
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation