Tag Archives | Japan

Report from CII Winter Meeting: ESG

CIIEven in Washington, the numbers are impressive. The Council of Institutional Investors, who met in Washington DC this week, represents 23 trillion (with a t) dollars, mostly made up of retirement and other savings of working families. Compare that to the entire budget of the US government, less than two trillion a year. Like most industry group meetings in Washington, this one had presentations on what to expect from Congress and the regulatory agencies and how millennials will change the way the members do business, plus snack breaks and wireless sponsored by firms trying to sell products and services to the attendees. But the a two and a half day session featured repeated agenda topics on climate change and what are called ESG issues, suggesting that pension funds may step in where governments have failed. Continue Reading →

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Women on Corporate Boards: Global Trends for Promoting Diversity

WomenOnBoardsWe last explored the topic of gender diversity on boards, in particular the underrepresentation of women on them, late in 2012, but much has happened globally on the subject since then. More companies have adopted regulation on the issue that range from “comply-or-explain” rules to quotas for the percentage of women on boards.

A 2014 Grant Thornton report, Women in Business: From Classroom to Boardroom, finds more leaders warming to a quota system, with 45% of international business leaders supporting quotas — up from 37% just a year ago.

Below is a brief summary of some of the most recent developments concerning women on boards. Continue Reading →

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Rise of Pseudo-Rights: Proxy Season Review

Paul Marsland photo

Paul Marsland

Guest Proxy Season Review:  Paul Marsland is a regular panelist and contributor to publications on corporate governance issues and has served in a number of senior roles at PIRC Ltd the UK based corporate governance consultancy most recently as Head of Policy.

Time to take stock of the proxy season. The proxy season means February in Seoul, October in Sydney, June in Tokyo and April in Paris so August seems as good a month as any for a review. Continue Reading →

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Is Wall Street Capitalism Really “The Model”?

DavidEllerman

David P. Ellerman

Guest post from David P. Ellerman who works in the fields of economics and political economy, social theory and philosophy, mathematical logic, and quantum mechanics. His undergraduate degree was in philosophy at M.I.T. (’65), and he has Masters degrees in Philosophy of Science (’67) and in Economics (’68), and a doctorate in Mathematics (’71) all from Boston University. He has been in and out of teaching in economics, mathematics, accounting, computer science, and operations research departments in various universities (1970-90), founded and managed a consulting firm in East Europe (1990-2), and worked in the World Bank from 1992 to 2003 where he was an economic advisor to the Chief Economist (Joseph Stiglitz). He is currently a visiting scholar at the University of California/Riverside and a Fellow of the Center on Global Justice at University of California/San Diego.

He has published numerous articles in various fields and five books. The published and draft papers and book manuscripts, including Is Wall Street Capitalism Really “The Model,  are available on his website, David Ellerman. See also his working papers here on the SSRN site. Continue Reading →

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Japan's Example

Will America experience a “lost decade” of economic stagnation like Japan in the 1990s? Will Obama’s strategy of “grow now, ask questions later” to jump-start consumption lead to a sustained uptick or a bigger bubble later? Corporate Governance in the 21st Century: Japan’s Gradual Transformation by Nottage, Wolff and Anderson doesn’t give direct answers, but it provides clues.

Christopher Pokarier argues that Japan is open to being closed. One wonders if Americans will follow the Japanese example and keep savings in cash, rather than mutual funds and stocks. In the 3rd quarter of 2007, capital investments were 11% of Japanese household assets vs. 31% in the US. Cash/savings accounted for 50% in Japan, 13% in the US. Class divisions are hardening and intergenerational transmission of status is increasing.

In the 1980s Japan’s corporate governance system seemed a creditable alternative to the Anglo-American model. Its emphasis on employee welfare, keiretsu interlocks, and bank monitoring provided evidence that independent outside boards weren’t necessarily better… until Japan slumped into a long recession. Massive reforms, many based on shareowner primacy, appear to have moved Japan in the direction of the US. However, the authors represented in this reader see the changes as a more gradual transformation that endures as a unique variety of capitalism. “Everything is changing gradually and in ambiguous directions.”

One example provided is “flexicurity,” a balance between flexibility of working practices (terminate at will) and security of tenure. Wolff concludes lifelong employment was never a Confucian-inspired preference but a tool to ensure the continuity of core employees to meet business needs. Wolff finds the influence of employee stakeholders has been exaggerated and what lifelong employment existed wasn’t progressive but was rooted in inequality and inequality is increasing.

Puchniak’s case study of Japanese banks lending trillions of yen to “zombie” firms at below market rates finds that, contrary to shrinking as the US savings and loan industry did after their period of “creative destruction,” bank influence increased. Banks replaced management and restructured underperforming companies. Primary reliance on banks for financing went from 28% of largest listed companies to 47%.

Matsui’s chapter on closely-held companies or SMEs should find a wide audience in countries where family companies continue to play a large role. He highlights important reforms to company law and judicial decisions aimed at protecting minority shareowners, while maintaining flexibility.

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