Chapter: Business Science - Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Governance - Corporate Social Responsibility And Governance

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Corporate Governance Theories

Corporate Governance Theories: The following theories elucidate the basis of corporate governance: (a) Agency Theory (b)Shareholder Theory (c) Stake Holder Theory (d)Stewardship Theory



Corporate Governance Theories


The following theories elucidate the basis of corporate governance:


(a) Agency Theory

(b)Shareholder Theory


(c) Stake Holder Theory

(d)Stewardship Theory


Agency Theory


According to this theory, managers act as 'Agents' of the corporation. The owners or directors set the central objectives of the corporation. Managers are responsible for carrying out these objectives in day-to-day work of the company. Corporate Governance is control of management through designing the structures and processes.


In agency theory, the owners are the principals. But principals may not have knowledge or skill for getting the objectives executed. The principal authorises the mangers to act as 'Agents' and a contract between principal and agent is made. Under the contract of agency, the agent should act in good faith. He should

protect the interest of the principal and should remain faithful to the goals.


In modern corporations, the shareholdings are widely spread. The management (the agent) directly or indirectly selected by the shareholders (the Principals), pursue the objectives set out by the shareholders. The main thrust of the Agency Theory is that the actions of the management differ from those required by the shareholders to maximize their return. The principals who are widely scattered may not be able to counter this in the absence of proper systems in place as regards timely disclosures, monitoring and oversight. Corporate Governance puts in place such systems of oversight.


Stockholder/shareholder Theory


According to this theory, it is the corporation which is considered as the property of shareholders/ stockholders.


They can dispose of this property, as they like. They want to get maximum return from this property.


The owners seek a return on their investment and that is why they invest in a corporation. But this narrow role has been expanded into overseeing the operations of the corporations and its mangers to ensure that the corporation is in compliance with ethical and legal standards set by the government. So the directors are responsible for any damage or harm done to their property i.e., the corporation. The role of managers is to maximize the wealth of the shareholders. They, therefore should exercise due diligence, care and avoid conflict of interest and should not violate the confidence reposed in them. The agents must be faithful to shareholders.


Stakeholder Theory


According to this theory, the company is seen as an input-output model and all the interest groups which include creditors, employees, customers, suppliers, local-community and the government are to be considered. From their point of view, a corporation exists for them and not the shareholders alone.


The different stakeholders also have a self   interest.    The interest  of  these different stakeholders is at times conflicting. The managers and the corporation are responsible to mediate between these different stakeholders interest. The stake holders have solidarity with each other. This theory assumes that stakeholders are capable and willing to negotiate and bargain with one another. This results in long term self interest.


The role of shareholders is reduced in the corporation. But they should also work to make their interest compatible with the other stake holders. This requires integrity and managers play an important role here.

They are faithful agents but of all stakeholders, not just stockholders.


Stewardship Theory


The word 'steward' means a person who manages another's property or estate. Here, the word is used in the sense of guardian in relation to a corporation, this theory is value based. The managers and employees are to safeguard the resources of corporation and its property and interest when the owner is absent. They are like a caretaker. They have to take utmost care of the corporation. They should not use the property for their selfish ends. This theory thus makes use of the social approach to human nature.


The managers should manage the corporation as if it is their own corporation. They are not agents as such but occupy a position of stewards. The managers are motivated by the principal's objective and the behavior pattern is collective, pro-organizational and trustworthy. Thus, under this theory, first of all values as standards are identified and formulated. Second step is to develop training programmes that help to achieve excellence. Thirdly, moral support is important to fill any gaps in values.


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