Devoirs des administrateurs

Acteurs de la gouvernance Cours Cours DRT-7022 Devoirs des administrateurs Normes d'encadrement Objectifs de l'entreprise Valeur actionnariale vs. sociétale

A Legal Basis for Corporate Long-Termism

Petite lecture sur l’ouverture des sociétés par actions au long-terme avec cet article de Arjya Majumdar : « A Legal Basis for Corporate Long-Termism » (Oxford Business Law Blog, 9 Jan 2018).

 

My recent paper attempts to reconcile the divergent positions of the shareholder and stakeholder primacy debate by proposing that directors- acting for the corporation- should preserve intergenerational equity. Three arguments are presented in course of this proposition.

Firstly, there has been a slew of judgments in UK common law which suggest that courts are reticent to recognize fiduciary duties that directors may have towards shareholders. The primary reason for this is that the assets controlled, administered and managed by directors belong to the corporation as a legal entity separate from its shareholders. As a result, directors have a higher fiduciary duty to the corporation and future shareholders, over that of present shareholders.

Secondly, corporations are perpetual in nature or, at least, are designed to be, and their continuing existence is predicated upon the ability of individual owners to transfer their ownership. This aspect of corporate perpetuity is little discussed, but of considerable significance in conjunction with fiduciary duties to corporations.

If directors owe their primary duty to the corporation, they must ensure -to the best of their abilities- that the corporation is maintained in good condition throughout. This forms the legal basis of protection to future shareholders. Since the survival of the corporation is paramount compared to the investment of the shareholder, directors are under an obligation to preserve the corporation.

Finally, in order to safeguard the interests of future shareholders, corporations must necessarily strive to preserve the natural and social environments upon which the future of the corporation and the wealth of future shareholders depends. Businesses must, therefore, either create sustainable methods of harvesting resources, or move to an alternative. Failure to do so would result in non-viability and consequent ‘extinction’ of the business itself.

 

À la prochaine…

Ivan Tchotourian

Acteurs de la gouvernance Blogue Devoirs des administrateurs Normes d'encadrement Objectifs de l'entreprise Valeur actionnariale vs. sociétale

Vien de paraître : Mythes de la gouvernance d’entreprise – osons déboulonner certaines idéologies entourant la gouvernance !

Avec MM. Jean-Christophe Bernier et Charles Tremblay-Potvin (étudiants au CÉDÉ), nous venons de publier dans la Revue internationale de droit économique (RIDE) un article critiquant certaines normes de gouvernance d’entreprise et proposant des alternatives : « Les 5 mythes de la gouvernance d’entreprise: perspective économico-juridique nord-américaine« .

 

Résumé : La gouvernance d’entreprise est aujourd’hui au cœur d’une profonde réflexion et fait l’objet de vifs débats sur le sens et le contenu des règles qui l’encadrent. Cet intérêt pour le sujet n’a rien d’étonnant, compte tenu de la place qu’occupent les entreprises sur l’échiquier mondial, et s’avère encore plus justifié depuis la crise économico-financière de 2007-2008 et les scandales qu’elle a permis de mettre en lumière. Pourtant, encore aujourd’hui, sous l’influence notable d’une culture anglo-américaine largement diffusée dans les cercles intellectuels, le cadre théorique dominant de la gouvernance d’entreprise repose sur une série de présupposés qui semblent relever davantage d’une mythologie que de la réalité objective, et ce, malgré une prétention à la scientificité de la part de ses promoteurs. Le présent texte analyse cinq de ces mythes et montre comment ils sont porteurs d’un message sur le plan idéologique.

 

Abstract : Corporate governance is still, to this day, the topic of the most intense discussions among scholars, especially concerning its legal and regulatory development over the past few years. As most of the current developments are dealing with global concerns about the impact of recent financial crises and their related scandals, the academics have yet been able to settle the score with long dated matters of corporate governance. Indeed, under the significant influence of an Anglo-Saxon culture, largely disseminated among the literature, the prevailing theoretical framework of corporate governance is still based on a series of preposterous presumptions. These presumptions of another time appear to originate more from rhetorical statements rather than deep analysis of the issues characterizing the early era of modern corporate governance. As they fulfilled their task, over the years, of supporting the development of capitalism throughout the industrial world and providing a legitimate rationale for corporate owners to adopt some aggressive and reckless behaviors, those corporate governance assumptions have since been held up as the cornerstones of an efficient social economy, profitable for all and everyone. As global economy has encountered a few unfortunate setbacks over the past decades, it is important to question ourselves on the legal value of these presuppositions, as they might have more to do with unsubstantiated myths than a complete legal and scientific work. As this Article has not the presumption of presenting the paramount truth on this topic, it has the purpose of highlighting the discrepancies between what have always been considered as the foundation of corporate governance and what it should have been if it had not being carried on only to nurture some illegitimate purposes of modern capitalism, such as shareholder primacy or financial profitability. Therefore, this Article is exploring five typical myths of corporate governance: (1) the corporation as a nexus of contracts, (2) the shareholders as owners of the corporation, (3) the shareholders as the only residual creditors of the corporation, (4) the effectiveness of shareholder activism and (5) the corporate governance as a legitimate rationale for shareholder primacy. As the aggregate theory of corporations, asserting that the corporation is nothing less than a nexus of contracts and that it may only benefit the shareholders, has made its way through most of the 20th century, it is now confronted with some more inclusive and realistic theories of unprecedented rigor, such as considering the corporation as an institution pursuing a social purpose. Therefore, considering the shareholders as the owners of the corporation might be of another time as well. Undeniably, what the recent ups and downs on the financial markets have shown the world is that the corporate directors ought to be considered as the center core of the corporation, acting collectively, but independently from the shareholders, and promoting the success of the company throughout the interests of all corporate stakeholders. Consequently, the shareholders cannot still be considered the owners of the corporation, dictating directors as to how they must govern, as the corporation has its own legal personality, effectively managed and controlled by the board of directors. Subsequently, neither they can be considered as the only residual creditors of the corporation, as all the other stakeholders’ investments are also at stake. More importantly, as shareholders became more active over the years, the effectiveness of their implication in the management of the corporation has been questionable, as they often lack a long term vision and considerations for other stakeholders’ interests. Finally, it is quite arguable to still promote shareholders’ primacy in today’s world, as law, jurisprudence and doctrine have, timidly but still, embraced the stakeholder theory which states that the board of directors has to consider the whole corporation interests first, rather than simply focus on short term profitability for the shareholders.

 

À la prochaine…

Ivan Tchotourian

Cours Cours DRT-7022 Devoirs des administrateurs Normes d'encadrement Normes de droit Objectifs de l'entreprise Valeur actionnariale vs. sociétale

À relire : Shareholder Wealth Maximization and Its Implementation Under Corporate Law

Le professeur Bernard S. Sharfman a publié il y a deux ans un article très intéressant sur la primauté de la valeur actionnariale en droit des sociétés : « Shareholder Wealth Maximization and Its Implementation Under Corporate Law », 66 Fla. L. Rev. 389 (2015). À redécouvrir !

 

This Article tackles the question of when courts should intervene in the decision-making of a corporation and review a corporate business decision for shareholder wealth maximization. This Article takes a very traditional approach to answering this question. It notes with approval that courts have historically been very hesitant to participate in the process of determining if a corporate decision is wealth maximizing. Courts have restrained themselves from interfering with board decision-making because they understand that it is the board of directors (the board) in coordination with executive management that has the best information and expertise to determine if a corporate decision meets the objective of shareholder wealth maximization. Nevertheless, the courts have found that they can play a wealth-enhancing role if they focus on making corporate authority accountable when there is sufficient evidence to show that the corporate decision was somehow tainted. Therefore, the courts will interpose themselves as a corrective mechanism when a board decision is tainted with a conflict of interest, lack of independence, or where gross negligence in the process of becoming informed in the making of a business decision is implicated.

When judicial review veers from this traditional approach, the court’s opinion must be closely scrutinized to see if the court had valid reasons for implementing a different approach. Such a veering from the traditional path can be found in the Delaware Chancery case of eBay Domestic Holdings, Inc. v. Newmark, a case where the court, in its review of a shareholder rights plan under the Unocal test, required the directors to demonstrate that the corporate policy being defended by the poison pill enhanced shareholder value. As argued here, the court was wrong in its approach, and in general courts should never be in the position of adding this additional component of analyzing board decisions for shareholder wealth maximization unless the business decision was tainted with a conflict of interest, lack of independence, or gross negligence.

 

À la prochaine…

Ivan Tchotourian

Cours Cours DRT-7022 Devoirs des administrateurs Normes de droit

Article 172 du Company Act : aller plus loin !

La professeure Georgina Tsagas propose un article intéressant sur l’Oxford Business Law Blog : « Section 172 of the UK Companies Act 2006: Desperate Times Call for Soft Law Measures » (1er septembre 2017). Elle fait une proposition originale pour donner du cœur à l’article 172 de la loi anglaise de droit des sociétés.

 

In a recent article (the draft of which is available here), I put forward a proposal to advance an important aspect of UK corporate law in the making, namely by suggesting the use of alternative means available in the soft law sphere that could support a more pluralistic and democratic formation of corporate decision-making. The Corporate Governance Code (the ‘Code’) should make provision for the inclusion of an additional section, Section F, which should stipulate that:

‘Main Principle: There should be a dialogue with stakeholders based on the mutual understanding of objectives. The board as a whole, has responsibility for ensuring that a satisfactory dialogue with stakeholders takes place and that during the board’s decision-making process the board has regard (amongst other matters) to—

(a) the likely consequences of any decision in the long term,

(b) the interests of the company’s employees,

(c) the need to foster the company’s business relationships with suppliers, customers and others,

(d) the impact of the company’s operations on the community and the environment,

(e) the impact of the company’s operations on social and human rights issues,

(f) the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standards of business conduct.’

The proposal put forward aligns with the concept of ‘Environmental, Social and Governance’, which appears in the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and refers to extra-financial material information about the challenges and performance of a company regarding these aspects, enabling shareholders to better assess risks and opportunities.

 

À la prochaine…

Ivan Tchotourian