EC Company Law Directives and Regulations: How Trivial are They?

66 Pages Posted: 27 May 2005

See all articles by Luca Enriques

Luca Enriques

University of Oxford Faculty of Law; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2005


What role does EC legislation in the corporate law area play within the EU? How much does it shape Member States' corporate laws? And how relevant is it for the corporate governance of EU companies and their management? At first sight, the EC appears to have played and to be playing a central role in shaping EC corporate law, with the high number of directives and regulations covering a wide range of corporate law issues. One might then think that EC institutions have a strong influence upon Member States' corporate laws, whether because they have intervened in the area or because they may do so. Quite to the opposite, EC company law directives and regulations appear to have had thus far very little impact on national company laws and, more to the point, on EU businesses' governance and management. First, EC corporate law does not cover core corporate law areas such as e.g. fiduciary duties and shareholder remedies. Second, EC corporate law rules are underenforced. Third, in the presence of very sporadic judiciary interpretation by the European Court of Justice, EC corporate law tends to be implemented and construed differently in each Member State, i.e. according to local legal culture and consistently with prior corporate law provisions. Fourth, when it has introduced new rules, it has done so with respect to issues on which Member States would have most probably legislated even in the absence of an EC mandate. Last but not least, most EC corporate law rules can be categorized as optional, market mimicking, unimportant or avoidable. To the contrary, national corporate laws contain core corporate law rules, which do have an impact upon EU companies' governance and management. There are, of course, due qualifications to the triviality thesis. First of all, a few rules or sets of rules indeed have had or are bound to have a meaningful impact upon companies and their operations. Second, EC corporate law has increased the regulatory burden of corporate laws across the EU, correspondingly securing higher rents for certain interest groups. Third, secondary EC corporate law has had and will continue to have an impact on the evolution of European corporate laws and the dynamics of regulatory competition. Finally, its production has become an industry itself, employing many EC and national functionaires and lobbyists, and creating occasions for rent extraction by politicians.

Keywords: European Union, EC company Law, regulatory competition, interest groups

JEL Classification: G34, G38, K22

Suggested Citation

Enriques, Luca, EC Company Law Directives and Regulations: How Trivial are They? (May 2005). ECGI - Law Working Paper No. 39/2005. Available at SSRN: or

Luca Enriques (Contact Author)

University of Oxford Faculty of Law ( email )

St Cross Building
St Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UL
United Kingdom

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

B-1050 Brussels

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