European Company Law and Corporate Governance
In recent years the issue of corporate governance has become a highly politicized policy area with great relevance for employees and society as a whole. At stake is the issue of who runs our companies and what strategies and goals these companies pursue. Since the 1990s corporate governance reform in Europe has been dominated by the ‘shareholder value’ model of the firm, which prioritizes the interests of shareholders. However, in the wake of the financial crisis, increasing dissatisfaction with this model is leading to the search for an alternative which gives stakeholders a stronger ‘voice’ in company affairs and focuses on long-term sustainability.
This section provides an overview of the European company law directives which have been passed to date. It also provides a more detailed discussion of those directives with provisions for worker information, consultation and participation, as well as current proposals for directives which would have particular significance for worker involvement. It also contains information on other issues in European company law, such as the European Cooperative Society or the European Private Company (SPE). Both have significant implications for employees’ rights.
The concept of corporate governance is defined in different ways. The narrow definition focuses on the control of management by shareholders. The broader definition looks at the role of stakeholders in making and implementing strategic decisions in the company. Corporate governance must be understood as a system in which there is an interplay of different regulations and market forces. Therefore corporate governance deals with multiple issues in the field of corporate law, securities regulation, corporate finance and industrial relations. In 17 of the 27 EU member states and in Norway employees are represented in the companies' supervisory or administrative board.
In recent years the European Court of Justice has, in a series of decisions, established some principles of law in the context of freedom of establishment (Art. 43, 48 EC Treaty) and the transfer of a company’s de facto head office to other member states that have had a profound impact on national regulation of legal conflicts (incorporation theory and seat theory). The leading cases in this context are the following: Daily Mail, Centros, Überseering, Inspire Art and Cartesio. The main outcome of these decisions is the possibility for companies to transfer their de facto head office to the member state of their choice.
GoodCorp is a network of researchers and trade unionists concerned with corporate governance issues. It was established in 2005 by the ETUI and has a threefold mission.
The Sustainable Company: a stakeholder perspective. Vol. III (Sigurt Vitols, ed.)