Fiduciary Duty in Transitional Civil Law Jurisdictions Lessons from the Incomplete Law Theory

43 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2002

See all articles by Katharina Pistor

Katharina Pistor

Columbia University School of Law

Chenggang Xu

University of Hong Kong


In Anglo-American law, fiduciary duty is the core legal concept to address conflicts among directors/managers and shareholders. The concept is developed and constantly refined by courts in the process of adjudication. By contrast, most civil law jurisdictions, including many transition economies, either lack the procedural rules that would enable parties to bring such cases to courts, or have not developed a sufficient body of case law to determine the contents and meaning of this concept. This paper asks, whether courts should be allocated the right to define and enforce fiduciary duty principles. Based on our theory of the incompleteness of law, this paper argues that when law is highly incomplete, but the expected harm can be contained and does not cause externalities, allocating lawmaking and law enforcement to courts is optimal. Breaching fiduciary duty is such an area, as harm is typically limited to shareholders of a given company. While courts in transition economies may have difficulties living up to the task of exercising lawmaking rights in this area, we propose that there are few alternatives and that encouraging an active learning process should therefore be encouraged. We investigate emerging case law on the duty of loyalty in Poland and Russia and draw some comparisons to German case law.

Keywords: incomplete law, transition economies, fiduciary duty, law enforcement

JEL Classification: K10, K23, K40, K42, P3

Suggested Citation

Pistor, Katharina and Xu, Chenggang, Fiduciary Duty in Transitional Civil Law Jurisdictions Lessons from the Incomplete Law Theory. ECGI - Law Working Paper No. 01/2002, Available at SSRN: or

Katharina Pistor

Columbia University School of Law ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States
212-854-0068 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

Chenggang Xu (Contact Author)

University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Pokfulam HK

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