Corporate governance refers to the accountability of the Board of Directors to all stakeholders of the corporation i.e. shareholders, employees, suppliers, customers and society in general; towards giving the corporation a fair, efficient and transparent administration.
Following are cited a few popular definitions of corporate governance:
(1) “Corporate governance means that company managers its business in a manner that is accountable and responsible to the shareholders. In a wider interpretation, corporate governance includes company’s accountability to shareholders and other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, customers and local community.” – Catherwood.
(2) “Corporate governance is the system by which companies are directed and controlled.” – The Cadbury Committee (U.K.)
Certain useful comments on the concept of corporate governance are given below:
(i) Corporate governance is more than company administration. It refers to a fair, efficient and transparent functioning of the corporate management system.
(ii)Corporate governance refers to a code of conduct; the Board of Directors must abide by; while running the corporate enterprise.
(iii)Corporate governance refers to a set of systems, procedures and practices which ensure that the company is managed in the best interest of all corporate stakeholders.
Need for Corporate Governance:
(i) Wide Spread of Shareholders:
Today a company has a very large number of shareholders spread all over the nation and even the world; and a majority of shareholders being unorganised and having an indifferent attitude towards corporate affairs. The idea of shareholders’ democracy remains confined only to the law and the Articles of Association; which requires a practical implementation through a code of conduct of corporate governance.
(ii) Changing Ownership Structure:
The pattern of corporate ownership has changed considerably, in the present-day-times; with institutional investors (foreign as well Indian) and mutual funds becoming largest shareholders in large corporate private sector. These investors have become the greatest challenge to corporate managements, forcing the latter to abide by some established code of corporate governance to build up its image in society.
(iii) Corporate Scams or Scandals:
Corporate scams (or frauds) in the recent years of the past have shaken public confidence in corporate management. The event of Harshad Mehta scandal, which is perhaps, one biggest scandal, is in the heart and mind of all, connected with corporate shareholding or otherwise being educated and socially conscious.
The need for corporate governance is, then, imperative for reviving investors’ confidence in the corporate sector towards the economic development of society.
(iv) Greater Expectations of Society of the Corporate Sector:
Society of today holds greater expectations of the corporate sector in terms of reasonable price, better quality, pollution control, best utilisation of resources etc. To meet social expectations, there is a need for a code of corporate governance, for the best management of company in economic and social terms.
(v) Hostile Take-Overs:
Hostile take-overs of corporations witnessed in several countries, put a question mark on the efficiency of managements of take-over companies. This factors also points out to the need for corporate governance, in the form of an efficient code of conduct for corporate managements.
(vi) Huge Increase in Top Management Compensation:
It has been observed in both developing and developed economies that there has been a great increase in the monetary payments (compensation) packages of top level corporate executives. There is no justification for exorbitant payments to top ranking managers, out of corporate funds, which are a property of shareholders and society.
This factor necessitates corporate governance to contain the ill-practices of top managements of companies.
Desire of more and more Indian companies to get listed on international stock exchanges also focuses on a need for corporate governance. In fact, corporate governance has become a buzzword in the corporate sector. There is no doubt that international capital market recognises only companies well-managed according to standard codes of corporate governance.
Principles of Corporate Governance:
(or major issues involved in corporate governance)
The fundamental or key principles of corporate governance are described below:
Transparency means the quality of something which enables one to understand the truth easily. In the context of corporate governance, it implies an accurate, adequate and timely disclosure of relevant information about the operating results etc. of the corporate enterprise to the stakeholders.
In fact, transparency is the foundation of corporate governance; which helps to develop a high level of public confidence in the corporate sector. For ensuring transparency in corporate administration, a company should publish relevant information about corporate affairs in leading newspapers, e.g., on a quarterly or half yearly or annual basis.
Accountability is a liability to explain the results of one’s decisions taken in the interest of others. In the context of corporate governance, accountability implies the responsibility of the Chairman, the Board of Directors and the chief executive for the use of company’s resources (over which they have authority) in the best interest of company and its stakeholders.
Good corporate governance requires independence on the part of the top management of the corporation i.e. the Board of Directors must be strong non-partisan body; so that it can take all corporate decisions based on business prudence. Without the top management of the company being independent; good corporate governance is only a mere dream.