The Myth of the Main Bank: Japan and Comparative Corporate Governance
In this essay on Masahiko Aoki's recent study of Japanese corporate governance, we argue that he and others misdescribe Japan on several fundamental dimensions. First, Japanese firms and employees choose neither to arrange implicit life-time employment contracts nor to invest heavily in firm-specific skills. Instead, firms keep employees employed during economic downturns only because interventionist courts do not let them lay their employees off. Second, Japanese firms do not organize themselves into keiretsu corporate groups, do not exchange shares with other alleged group members, and do not necessarily use the money-center bank attributed to the group as their "main bank." Last, Japanese "main banks" neither agree in advance to rescue troubled debtors nor monitor firms on behalf of other creditors.
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