Corporate Governance in Italy after the 1998 Reform: What Role for Institutional Investors?
Working Paper No. 43
50 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2000
Date Written: January 2001
In February 1998 the Italian Government passed an Act reforming the law on financial services, stock exchanges and listed companies. With regard to listed companies, the reform was intended to strengthen minority shareholders' rights. The idea behind the new rules on corporate governance was that active institutional investors would make use, if necessary, of these rights in their monitoring of listed companies. A reduction of the agency costs stemming from the separation between ownership and control in listed companies would follow, with beneficial effects for shareholders' wealth and for the Italian economy as a whole. This paper tries to answer two questions: first, whether the changes in the law resulting from the 1998 reform encourage institutional investor activism in Italy; and second, whether, legal rules aside, it is reasonable to expect significant institutional investor activism in Italy. We provide, then, both an empirical analysis of the factors affecting institutional investor activism in Italy and a legal analysis of the most relevant changes in the Italian mutual funds and corporate laws, following the 1998 reform. The former analysis shows that institutional shareholdings and investment strategies are compatible with the hypothesis that institutional investors can play a significant role in the corporate governance of Italian listed companies. However, a curb to their playing such an active role may derive from the predominance of mutual fund managers belonging to banking groups (giving rise to conflicts of interest) and from the prevailing ownership structure of listed companies, which are still dominated by controlling shareholders holding stakes higher than, or close to, the majority of the capital (implying a weaker bargaining power of institutions vis-a-vis controllers). The analysis of the legal changes prompted by the 1998 financial markets and corporate law reform indicates that the legal environment is now definitely more favorable to institutional investor activism than before. However, the Italian legal environment proves still to be little favorable to institutional investor activism, when compared to that of the U.S. or the U.K.
JEL Classification: G3, K2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation