Corporate Governance in Germany: The Role of Banks and Ownership Concentration
Posted: 18 Apr 2001
The German system of corporate governance is often thought to be effective at addressing problems arising in large firms. In addition to the usual emphasis on the role of German banks, it is increasingly recognized that the German system also involves a high concentration of the ownership of large firms. We analyse the relative significance of these two features of the German system and conclude that high ownership concentration is more important. Although banks may influence corporate governance via their control of proxy votes, positions on supervisory boards, and provision of loan finance, in practice they do not play a role in the governance of large German firms which is distinct from that of other types of large shareholders. Any case for the superiority of German corporate governance of large firms must therefore be based on high ownership concentration rather than a special role of banks, and must consider the costs of ownership concentration as well as the benefits.
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