Corporate Governance, Competition, and Political PartiesExplaining Corporate Governance Change in Europe

Corporate Governance, Competition, and Political PartiesExplaining Corporate Governance Change in Europe

Roger M. Barker

Print publication date: 2010

ISBN: 9780199576814

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

The corporate governance systems of continental Europe have traditionally been quite different to those of the liberal market economies (e.g., the United States and the United Kingdom). Company ownership has been dominated by incumbent blockholders, with a relatively minor role for minority shareholders and institutional investors. However, since the mid‐1990s, European corporations have adopted many of the characteristics of the Anglo‐American shareholder model. Furthermore, such an increased shareholder orientation has coincided with a significant role for the Left in European government. This presents a puzzle, as conventional wisdom does not conceive of the European Left as the natural ally of pro‐shareholder capitalism. This book provides an analysis of this paradox by arguing that the postwar support of the European Left for the prevailing blockholder‐dominated corporate system depended on the willingness of blockholders to share economic rents with employees, both through higher wages and greater employment stability. However, during the 1990s, product markets became more competitive in many European countries. The sharing of rents between social actors became increasingly difficult to sustain. In such an environment, the Left chose to relinquish its traditional social partnership with blockholders and embraced many aspects of the shareholder model. The hypothesis is initially explored through a panel data econometric analysis of fifteen non‐liberal market economies. Subsequent case study chapters examine the political economy of recent corporate governance change in Germany and Italy.