The Corporate Governance Industry


This paper considers the role of the corporate governance industry as a voluntary regulator. The corporate governance industry influences (and in some cases effectively controls) the vote of trillions of dollars of equity, and affects the governance policies and fortunes of thousands of companies through proxy voting recommendations and governance ratings. This paper considers the increasing influence of the corporate governance industry, and argues that potential conflicts of interest within some governance firms cast doubt on the reliability of their proxy advice and governance ratings. Additionally, governance firms may be overstepping their expertise in proxy voting decisions and in governance rating, in part because of their reliance on “good governance metrics” for which there is little evidentiary support. Finally, erroneous governance metrics (and indeed, a reliance on one-size-fits-all governance checklists) promoted by influential governance advisors not only affect important shareholder voting decisions and decisions on whether to invest in or divest from a particular company, but may also have a more general, harmful effect on corporate governance regulation. A number of academics have argued that federal expansion into corporate governance issues has significant negative consequences. Perhaps most importantly, Sarbanes-Oxley mandates specific governance policies rather than setting broad standards, thereby eliminating some vital flexibility in corporate governance. This paper argues that the corporate governance industry may have similarly harmful effects by pressuring companies to adopt a homogenized set of governance rules which may not be suited to the companies’ respective requirements.


Business Organizations Law | Securities Law

Date of this Version

August 2006