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La structure juridique des entreprises (corporate governance)


  • Alain Couret


Corporate governance as a normative concept appears to be directly linked to economic globalisation to the extent that it equally fits all internationally operating enterprises, that it is recommended by international institutions, and that it corresponds to the interests and responsibilities of international investors, in particular institutional investors interested in the primacy of « shareholder value ». The report analyses the meaning and the importance of the concept of corporate governance by examining, in a first part, the international spread of the principles of corporate governance, and, in a second part, the limits of the influence which the concept may exercise on the rules and practice of national corporate law. As regards, first, the international acceptance of the principles of corporate governance, a distinction is made between, on the one hand, the voluntary introduction of corporate governance, in particular by way of establishing professional standards and codes of conduct or by recommendation of public authorities or trade associations, and, on the other, by – mostly national rather than European – legislative action. In general, the latter only transforms existing or desirable « best practice » into legal rules, but, in some regard also takes legislative leadership, e.g. as regards the division of control within a corpora~tion or as regards transparency of remuneration of board members. Finally, principles of corporate governance may be imposed or enforced by regulatory action, in particular by the agency in charge of regulating the stock market or by the courts, when they rule on matters of corporate organisation or responsibility. Second, as regards the factors limiting general acceptance of the principles of corporate governance, they may be of an economic nature such as the high concentration of stock ownership on the Continent, or they may be of a political nature such as principled resistance to capitalist liberalism. In legal terms, however, the principal limitations are due to divergent national concepts of the role and function of enterprises in that they may combine in different ways shareholder interests with those of labor, e.g. by a variety of forms of codetermination, or with the protection of the environment or with other societal interests. In addition, principles of corporate governance are less easily accepted by corporations whose stocks are not listed at the stock exchange. In sum, therefore, corporate governance is a hallmark of globalisation with a considerable effect of harmonization and of enhancing the efficiency of corporate structures, but there is still and there will remain quite some diversity of rules and of conduct under the various national systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Alain Couret, 2002. "La structure juridique des entreprises (corporate governance)," Revue internationale de droit économique, De Boeck Université, vol. 0(2), pages 339-367.
  • Handle: RePEc:cai:riddbu:ride_162_0339

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    Cited by:

    1. Chassagnon, Virgile, 2012. "Une analyse historique de la nature juridique de la firme," Revue de la Régulation - Capitalisme, institutions, pouvoirs, Association Recherche et Régulation, vol. 12.

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