Learning from Toyota’s Troubles: The Debate on Board Oversight, Board Structure, and Director Independence in Japan
Bruce E. Aronson
Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy
February 16, 2011
Journal of Japanese Law, Vol. 15, No. 30, 2010
This Article considers the potential significance of Toyota’s recent troubles for Japanese corporate governance by examining two sets of issues. First, it looks at the relevant fiduciary duty of Toyota’s directors, i.e., the general duty of oversight in Japan as set forth in case law in the Daiwa Bank shareholder derivative litigation (2000) and the related subsequent statutory duty to establish a system of internal controls provided in the Companies Act (2005). Potential director liability would depend on the filing of a shareholders derivative suit and the discovery of facts which show director’s negligence in devising, implementing, and monitoring specific measures to carry out the board’s existing overall policy on internal controls.
Second, it considers the Toyota case in light of the ongoing debate in Japan during the last decade between competing board structures: the traditional company auditor (kansayaku) structure with no required outside directors and the newer alternative board committee structure with a required majority of outside directors. The potential role of independent directors remains controversial and is currently the hottest topic in Japanese corporate governance. The recent failures of Toyota, a highly successful champion of the traditional Japanese governance system, might help make Japan more receptive to calls by international and domestic institutional investors to take measures to increase board independence.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 21
Keywords: corporate governance, comparative law, Japan, independent director, oversight, Toyota
JEL Classification: K22
Date posted: July 9, 2010 ; Last revised: August 4, 2011