Corporate governance

Corporate governance

Need of corporate governance

Over the last two decades, corporate governance has attracted a great deal of public interest because of its apparent importance for the economic health of corporations and society in general. The headlines of the previous two years in particular portrayed a sad story of corporate ethics (or lack thereof).

Falling stock markets, corporate failures, dubious accounting practices, abuses of corporate power, criminal investigations indicate that the entire economic system upon which investment returns have depended is showing signs of stress that have undermined investor’s confidence. Some corporations have grown dramatically in a relatively short time through acquisitions funded by inflated share prices and promises of even brighter futures (many of these corporations have now failed). In others, it seems as if the checks and balances that should protect shareholder interests were pushed to one side, driven by a perception of the need to move fast in the pursuit of the bottom line. While some failures were the result of fraudulent accounting and other illegal practices, many of the same companies exhibited actual corporate governance risks such as conflicts of interest, inexperienced directors, overly lucrative compensation, or unequal share voting rights.

Corporate governance covers a large number of distinct concepts and phenomenon as we can see from the definition adopted by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – “Corporate governance is the system by which business corporations are directed and controlled. The corporate governance structure specifies the distribution of rights and responsibilities among different participants in the corporation, such as, the board, managers, shareholders and other stakeholders and spells out the rules and procedures for making decisions in corporate affairs. By doing this, it also provides the structure through which the company objectives are set and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance” .

Corporate governance is the mechanisms, processes and relations by which corporations are controlled and directed. Governance structures and principles identify the distribution of rights and responsibilities among different participants in the corporation (such as the board of directors, managers, shareholders, creditors, auditors, regulators, and other stakeholders) and includes the rules and procedures for making decisions in corporate affairs. Corporate governance includes the processes through which corporations’ objectives are set and pursued in the context of the social, regulatory and market environment. Governance mechanisms include monitoring the actions, policies, practices, and decisions of corporations, their agents, and affected stakeholders. Corporate governance practices are affected by attempts to align the interests of stakeholders. Interest in the corporate governance practices of modern corporations, particularly in relation to accountability, increased following the high-profile collapses of a number of large corporations during 2001–2002, most of which involved accounting fraud; and then again after the recent financial crisis in 2008.

Principles of corporate governance

Rights and equitable treatment of shareholders: Organizations should respect the rights of shareholders and help shareholders to exercise those rights. They can help shareholders exercise their rights by openly and effectively communicating information and by encouraging shareholders to participate in general meetings.

Interests of other stakeholders: Organizations should recognize that they have legal, contractual, social, and market driven obligations to non-shareholder stakeholders, including employees, investors, creditors, suppliers, local communities, customers, and policy makers.

Role and responsibilities of the board: The board needs sufficient relevant skills and understanding to review and challenge management performance. It also needs adequate size and appropriate levels of independence and commitment.

Integrity and ethical behavior: Integrity should be a fundamental requirement in choosing corporate officers and board members. Organizations should develop a code of conduct for their directors and executives that promotes ethical and responsible decision making.

Legal and Ethical Compliance Mechanisms

Legal Compliance Mechanisms

The difficulty with legal compliance mechanisms is that many abuses that have enraged the public are entirely legal, for example, companies can file misleading accounting statements that are in complete compliance with generally accepted accounting principles.laws regulating companies are ambiguous, that judiciary have a hard time grasping abstract and sophisticated financial concepts .

Although the accounting profession has always had a strong focus on internal controls, recent spectacular business failures, which have undermined auditors’ credibility in their reporting function, have eroded public confidence in the accounting and auditing profession.

Ethical Compliance Mechanisms

Study found that specific characteristics of legal compliance programs matter less than broader perceptions of the program’s orientation toward values and ethical aspirations. They found that what helped the most are consistency between policies and actions as well as dimensions of the organization’s ethical climate such as ethical leadership, fair treatment of employees, and open discussion of ethics. On the other hand, what hurts the most is an ethical culture that emphasizes self-interest and unquestioning obedience to authority, and the perception that legal compliance programs exist only to protect top management from blame.

It has been observed that despite certain congruities and convergences, there are some very important differences in the character and content of ethical and legal requirements which can help us understand why ethics is accorded a normative primacy in practical affairs and legality is to be judged by reference to ethics (not vice versa). Specifically, law is concerned primarily with conduct and ethical requirements are centrally concerned with reasons, motives, intentions, and more generally with the character that expresses itself in conduct. Ethics therefore is concerned with what we are and not just what we do. Also, law is jurisdictionally limited since what is legitimately required in one state or country may differ from another, whereas ethical values are inclined to be more universal.

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