Globalization has led to a remarkable resurgence in the study of comparative corporate governance. This area of scholarship had been largely the domain of taxonomists, intent on cataloguing the central characteristics of national corporate governance systems, and then classifying different systems based on the specified attributes. The result was an interesting, if perhaps somewhat dry, enterprise. We learned that national corporate governance systems differed dramatically along a number of seemingly important dimensions. Some corporate governance systems, notably those of the United States and other Anglo-Saxon countries, are built on the foundation of a stock market-centered capital market. Other systems, like those of Germany and Japan, rest on a bank-centered capital market. Some systems are characterized by large groupings of related corporations, like the Japanese keiretsu, Korean chaebol, or European holding company structures. Still others are notable for concentrated family control of large businesses, including Canada, Italy and, notably, Germany. Management styles also differ across national systems. In the United States and France, managerial power is concentrated, by practice in the US and with statutory support in France, in an imperial-style American chief executive officer or French présidente directeur générale.
The explosive decompression of trade barriers that gave rise to global competition also had an impact on academics. We learned that the institutions of all national systems were shaped not only by efficiency, but also by history and politics.
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