Oecd Principles of Corporate Governance
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Pursuant to Article 1 of the Convention signed in Paris on 14th December 1960, and which came into force on 30th September 1961, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shall promote policies designed: – to achieve the highest sustainable economic growth and employment and a rising standard of living in member countries, while maintaining financial stability, and thus to contribute to the development of the world economy; – to contribute to sound economic expansion in member as well as non-member countries in the process of economic development; and – to contribute to the expansion of world trade on a multilateral, non-discriminatory basis in accordance
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The following countries became members subsequently through accession at the dates indicated hereafter: Japan (28th April 1964), Finland (28th January 1969), Australia (7th June 1971), New Zealand (29th May 1973), Mexico (18th May 1994), the Czech Republic (21st December 1995), Hungary (7th May 1996), Poland (22nd November 1996), Korea (12th December 1996) and the Slovak Republic (14th December 2000). The Commission of the European Communities takes part in the work of the OECD (Article 13 of the OECD Convention). Publie en francais sous le titre : Principes de gouvernement d’entreprise de l’OCDE 2004 © OECD 2004 Permission to reproduce a portion of this work for non-commercial purposes or classroom use should be obtained through the Centre francais d’exploitation du droit de copie (CFC), 20, rue des Grands-Augustins, 75006 Paris, France, tel. (33-1) 44 07 47 70, fax (33-1) 46 34 67 19, for every country except the United States.
In the United States permission should be obtained through the Copyright Clearance Center, Customer Service, (508)750-8400, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923 USA, or CCC Online: www. copyright. com. All other applications for permission to reproduce or translate all or part of this book should be made to OECD Publications, 2, rue Andre-Pascal, 75775 Paris Cedex 16, France. 3 Foreword The OECD Principles of Corporate Governance were endorsed by OECD Ministers in 1999 and have since become an international benchmark for policy makers, investors, corporations and other stakeholders worldwide. They have advanced the corporate governance agenda and provided specific guidance for legislative and regulatory initiatives in both OECD and non OECD countries.
The Financial Stability Forum has designated the Principles as one of the 12 key standards for sound financial systems. The Principles also provide the basis for an extensive programme of cooperation between OECD and non-OECD countries and underpin the corporate governance component of World Bank/IMF Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC). The Principles have now been thoroughly reviewed to take account of recent developments and experiences in OECD member and non-member countries. Policy makers are now more aware of the contribution good corporate governance makes to financial market stability, investment and economic growth. Companies better understand how good corporate governance contributes to their competitiveness.
Investors – especially collective investment institutions and pension funds acting in a fiduciary capacity – realise they have a role to play in ensuring good corporate governance practices, thereby underpinning the value of their investments. In today’s economies, interest in corporate governance goes beyond that of shareholders in the performance of individual companies. As companies play a pivotal role in our economies and we rely increasingly on private sector institutions to manage personal savings and secure retirement incomes, good corporate governance is important to broad and growing segments of the population. The review of the Principles was undertaken by the OECD Steering Group on Corporate Governance under a mandate from OECD Ministers in 2002.
The review was supported by a comprehensive survey of how member countries addressed the different corporate governance challenges they faced. It also drew on experiences in economies outside the OECD area where the OECD, in co-operation with the World Bank and other sponsors, © OECD 2004 4 – OECD PRINCIPLES OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE organises Regional Corporate Governance Roundtables to support regional reform efforts. The review process benefited from contributions from many parties. Key international institutions participated and extensive consultations were held with the private sector, labour, civil society and representatives from non-OECD countries.
The process also benefited greatly from the insights of internationally recognised experts who participated in two high level informal gatherings I convened. Finally, many constructive suggestions were received when a draft of the Principles was made available for public comment on the internet. The Principles are a living instrument offering non-binding standards and good practices as well as guidance on implementation, which can be adapted to the specific circumstances of individual countries and regions. The OECD offers a forum for ongoing dialogue and exchange of experiences among member and non-member countries. To stay abreast of constantly changing circumstances, the OECD will closely follow developments in corporate governance, identifying trends and seeking remedies to new challenges.
These Revised Principles will further reinforce OECD’s contribution and commitment to collective efforts to strengthen the fabric of corporate governance around the world in the years ahead. This work will not eradicate criminal activity, but such activity will be made more difficult as rules and regulations are adopted in accordance with the Principles. Importantly, our efforts will also help develop a culture of values for professional and ethical behaviour on which well functioning markets depend. Trust and integrity play an essential role in economic life and for the sake of business and future prosperity we have to make sure that they are properly rewarded. Donald J. Johnston OECD Secretary-General
© OECD 2004 OECD PRINCIPLES OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE – 5 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my appreciation to members of the Steering Group and its Chair, Ms. Veronique Ingram, whose dedication and expertise made it possible to complete the review so effectively in a short period of time. I would also thank all those officials and experts from around the world who participated in our consultations, submitted comments or otherwise contributed to ensuring the continued relevance of the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance in changing times. Special thanks are due to Ira Millstein and Sir Adrian Cadbury who have contributed so much since OECD’s
corporate governance work first began and indeed to all the participants in the two high level gatherings I convened in Paris and other distinguished experts who contributed to the review, including: Susan Bies, Susan Bray, Ron Blackwell, Alain-Xavier Briatte, David Brown, Luiz Cantidiano, Maria Livanos Cattaui, Peter Clifford, Andrew Crockett, Stephen Davis, Peter Dey, Carmine Di Noia, John Evans, Jeffrey Garten, Leo Goldschmidt, James Grant, Gerd Hausler, Tom Jones, Stephen Joynt, Erich Kandler, Michael Klein, Igor Kostikov, Daniel Lebegue, Jean-Francois Lepetit, Claudine Malone, Teruo Masaki, Il-Chong Nam, Taiji Okusu, Michel Pebereau, Caroline Phillips, Patricia Peter, John Plender, Michel Prada, Iain Richards, Alastair Ross Goobey, Albrecht Schafer, Christian Schricke, Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, Christian Strenger, Barbara Thomas, Jean-Claude Trichet, Tom Vant, Graham Ward, Edwin Williamson, Martin Wassell, Peter Woicke, David Wright and Eddy Wymeersch.
This task was entrusted to the OECD Steering Group on Corporate Governance, which comprises representatives from OECD countries. In addition, the World Bank, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were observers to the Group. For the assessment, the Steering Group also invited the Financial Stability Forum, the Basel Committee, and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) as ad hoc observers. In its review of the Principles, the Steering Group has undertaken comprehensive consultations and has prepared with the assistance of members the Survey of Developments in OECD Countries.
The consultations have included experts from a large number of countries which have participated in the Regional Corporate Governance Roundtables that the OECD organises in Russia, Asia, South East Europe, Latin America and Eurasia with the support of the Global Corporate Governance Forum and others, and in co-operation with the World Bank and other non-OECD countries as well. Moreover, the Steering Group has consulted a wide range of interested parties such as the business sector, investors, professional groups at national and international levels, trade unions, civil society organisations and international standard setting bodies. A draft version of © OECD 2004 10 – OECD PRINCIPLES OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE the Principles was put on the OECD website for public comment and resulted in a large number of responses.
These have been made public on the OECD web site. On the basis of the discussions in the Steering Group, the Survey and the comments received during the wide ranging consultations, it was concluded that the 1999 Principles should be revised to take into account new developments and concerns. It was agreed that the revision should be pursued with a view to maintaining a non-binding principles-based approach, which recognises the need to adapt implementation to varying legal economic and cultural circumstances. The revised Principles contained in this document thus build upon a wide range of experience not only in the OECD area but also in non-OECD countries. © OECD 2004 11 Preamble
The Principles are intended to assist OECD and non-OECD governments in their efforts to evaluate and improve the legal, institutional and regulatory framework for corporate governance in their countries, and to provide guidance and suggestions for stock exchanges, investors, corporations, and other parties that have a role in the process of developing good corporate governance. The Principles focus on publicly traded companies, both financial and non-financial. However, to the extent they are deemed applicable, they might also be a useful tool to improve corporate governance in non-traded companies, for example, privately held and stateowned enterprises.
The Principles represent a common basis that OECD member countries consider essential for the development of good governance practices. They are intended to be concise, understandable and accessible to the international community. They are not intended to substitute for government, semi-government or private sector initiatives to develop more detailed “best practice” in corporate governance. Increasingly, the OECD and its member governments have recognised the synergy between macroeconomic and structural policies in achieving fundamental policy goals. Corporate governance is one key element in improving economic efficiency and growth as well as enhancing investor confidence.
Corporate governance involves a set of relationships between a company’s management, its board, its shareholders and other stakeholders. Corporate governance also provides the structure through which the objectives of the company are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance are determined. Good corporate governance should provide proper incentives for the board and management to pursue objectives that are in the interests of the company and its shareholders and should facilitate effective monitoring. The presence of an effective corporate governance system, within an individual company and across an economy as a whole, helps to provide a degree of confidence that is necessary for the proper functioning of a market economy.
As a result, the cost of capital is lower and firms are encouraged to use resources more efficiently, thereby underpinning growth. © OECD 2004 12 – OECD PRINCIPLES OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE Corporate governance is only part of the larger economic context in which firms operate that includes, for example, macroeconomic policies and the degree of competition in product and factor markets. The corporate governance framework also depends on the legal, regulatory, and institutional environment. In addition, factors such as business ethics and corporate awareness of the environmental and societal interests of the communities in which a company operates can also have an impact on its reputation and its long-term success.
While a multiplicity of factors affect the governance and decisionmaking processes of firms, and are important to their long-term success, the Principles focus on governance problems that result from the separation of ownership and control. However, this is not simply an issue of the relationship between shareholders and management, although that is indeed the central element. In some jurisdictions, governance issues also arise from the power of certain controlling shareholders over minority shareholders. In other countries, employees have important legal rights irrespective of their ownership rights. The Principles therefore have to be complementary to a broader approach to the operation of checks and balances.
Some of the other issues relevant to a company’s decision-making processes, such as environmental, anti-corruption or ethical concerns, are taken into account but are treated more explicitly in a number of other OECD instruments (including the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Transactions) and the instruments of other international organisations. Corporate governance is affected by the relationships among participants in the governance system. Controlling shareholders, which may be individuals, family holdings, bloc alliances, or other corporations acting through a holding company or cross shareholdings, can significantly influence corporate behaviour.
As owners of equity, institutional investors are increasingly demanding a voice in corporate governance in some markets. Individual shareholders usually do not seek to exercise governance rights but may be highly concerned about obtaining fair treatment from controlling shareholders and management. Creditors play an important role in a number of governance systems and can serve as external monitors over corporate performance. Employees and other stakeholders play an important role in contributing to the long-term success and performance of the corporation, while governments establish the overall institutional and legal framework for corporate governance.
The role of each of these participants and their interactions vary widely among OECD countries and among nonOECD countries as well. These relationships are subject, in part, to law and regulation and, in part, to voluntary adaptation and, most importantly, to market forces. © OECD 2004 OECD PRINCIPLES OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE – 13 The degree to which corporations observe basic principles of good corporate governance is an increasingly important factor for investment decisions. Of particular relevance is the relation between corporate governance practices and the increasingly international character of investment. International flows of capital enable companies to access financing from a much larger pool of investors.
If countries are to reap the full benefits of the global capital market, and if they are to attract long-term “patient” capital, corporate governance arrangements must be credible, well understood across borders and adhere to internationally accepted principles. Even if corporations do not rely primarily on foreign sources of capital, adherence to good corporate governance practices will help improve the confidence of domestic investors, reduce the cost of capital, underpin the good functioning of financial markets, and ultimately induce more stable sources of financing. There is no single model of good corporate governance. However, work carried out in both OECD and non-OECD countries and within the Organisation has identified some common elements that underlie good corporate governance.
The Principles build on these common elements and are formulated to embrace the different models that exist. For example, they do not advocate any particular board structure and the term “board” as used in this document is meant to embrace the different national models of board structures found in OECD and non-OECD countries. In the typical two tier system, found in some countries, “board” as used in the Principles refers to the “supervisory board” while “key executives” refers to the “management board”. In systems where the unitary board is overseen by an internal auditor’s body, the principles applicable to the board are also, mutatis mutandis, applicable.
The terms “corporation” and “company” are used interchangeably in the text. The Principles are non-binding and do not aim at detailed prescriptions for national legislation. Rather, they seek to identify objectives and suggest various means for achieving them. Their purpose is to serve as a reference point. They can be used by policy makers as they examine and develop the legal and regulatory frameworks for corporate governance that reflect their own economic, social, legal and cultural circumstances, and by market participants as they develop their own practices. The Principles are evolutionary in nature and should be reviewed in light of significant changes in circumstances.
To remain competitive in a changing world, corporations must innovate and adapt their corporate governance practices so that they can meet new demands and grasp new opportunities. Similarly, governments have an important responsibility for shaping an effective regulatory framework that provides for sufficient flexibility to allow markets to function effectively and to respond to © OECD 2004 14 – OECD PRINCIPLES OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE expectations of shareholders and other stakeholders. It is up to governments and market participants to decide how to apply these Principles in developing their own frameworks for corporate governance, taking into account the costs and benefits of regulation. The following document is divided into two parts.
The Principles presented in the first part of the document cover the following areas: I) Ensuring the basis for an effective corporate governance framework; II) The rights of shareholders and key ownership functions; III) The equitable treatment of shareholders; IV) The role of stakeholders; V) Disclosure and transparency; and VI) The responsibilities of the board. Each of the sections is headed by a single Principle that appears in bold italics and is followed by a number of supporting sub-principles. In the second part of the document, the Principles are supplemented by annotations that contain commentary on the Principles and are intended to help readers understand their rationale. The annotations may also contain descriptions of dominant trends and offer alternative implementation methods and examples that may be useful in making the Principles operational.