How Independent are Independent Directors? The Case of Italy
In this article, we provide an interpretation for the voluntary independence requirements contained in the Italian Corporate Governance Code (Preda Code) checking them against a proxy for international best practice, the independence criteria provided in the EC Recommendation on non-executive and supervisory directors of 2005. We then check to what extent company disclosure for 2003 allows the verification of the independence of directors qualified as independent by the Italian 40 blue chips. We find that the Preda Code (currently under revision) should be updated in several respects in order to make it abreast with best practice in the European Union. We also find that for two key independence requirements (not to have business relationships with the company and not to have too many concurrent commitments outside of the company) the level of compliance is dramatically low (4% and 16% respectively). Overall, for only 5 out of the 284 directors declared as independent by the Italian blue chips is it possible to verify the respect of all the Italian independence standards (and for only 4 directors with respect to the EC standards). This raises the problem of who should monitor what listed companies declare.
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