Corporate Governance Lessons from the Financial Crisis
32 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2014
Date Written: May 1, 2012
The turmoil that struck financial institutions in 2007 has, by the end of 2011, significantly deteriorated the fundamentals of the global economy, eroding trust in sustainability of the markets, solvency of banks and even the credibility of sovereign states and monetary unions. Whether this is the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression only history will tell, but it is clear by now that the damage to the global economy has been extraordinary. This chapter looks into some of the corporate governance lessons that could prevent this from happening again and presents the main findings and conclusions of the OECD Corporate Governance Committee as reflected in several OECD publications as well as in G.Kirkpatrick (2010).
Corporate governance rules and practices of many of the financial institutions that collapsed have often been blamed to be partly responsible for the crisis. The failures of risk management systems and incentive schemes that encouraged and rewarded high levels of risk taking are key factors in this context. Since reviewing and guiding risk policy is a key function of the board, these deficiencies point to ineffective board oversight. And since boards are accountable to shareholders, they also have been put under the spotlight, as many of them seemed to have no interest in expressing their views on the functioning of companies as long as returns were within targets. Corporate governance failures are surely not the cause of the crisis, but they did not prevent and may have even facilitated some of the risky and misguided corporate practices that had such severe effects once the downturn started. Importantly, much of what we have learnt from the demise of some of these financial institutions can serve as an important lesson for non-financial corporations in general. Some of the key lessons from the corporate governance perspective are described in this article.
This paper is structured as follows. In the first section we describe the macro-economic as well as the corporate governance dimension of the financial crisis, particularly the way remuneration practices, risk management procedures, limited board oversight as well as shareholder passivism contributed to the poor performance of some major banks. The second section explains how existing corporate governance principles and national corporate governance codes have been re-evaluated against this background, and some of the recent developments are presented. We finish offering some general conclusions.
Keywords: corporate governance, fiancial crisis, OECD Principles of Corporate Governance
JEL Classification: G3
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation