Corporate Governance Failures: The Role of Institutional Investors in the Global Financial Crisis

Corporate Governance Failures: The Role of Institutional Investors in the Global Financial Crisis

Corporate Governance Failures: The Role of Institutional Investors in the Global Financial Crisis

Corporate Governance Failures: The Role of Institutional Investors in the Global Financial Crisis

Synopsis

Corporate governance, the internal policies and leadership that guide the actions of corporations, played a major part in the recent global financial crisis. While much blame has been targeted at compensation arrangements that rewarded extreme risk-taking but did not punish failure, the performance of large, supposedly sophisticated institutional investors in this crisis has gone for the most part unexamined. Shareholding organizations, such as pension funds and mutual funds, hold considerable sway over the financial industry from Wall Street to the City of London. Corporate Governance Failures: The Role of Institutional Investors in the Global Financial Crisis exposes the misdeeds and lapses of these institutional investors leading up to the recent economic meltdown.

In this collection of original essays, edited by pioneers in the field of fiduciary capitalism, top legal and financial practitioners and researchers discuss detrimental actions and inaction of institutional investors. Corporate Governance Failures reveals how these organizations exposed themselves and their clientele to extremely complex financial instruments, such as credit default swaps, through investments in hedge and private equity funds as well as more traditional equity investments in large financial institutions. The book's contributors critique fund executives for tolerating the "pursuit of alpha" culture that led managers to pursue risky financial strategies in hopes of outperforming the market. The volume also points out how and why institutional investors failed to effectively monitor such volatile investments, ignoring relatively well-established corporate governance principles and best practices.

Along with detailed investigations of institutional investor missteps, Corporate Governance Failures offers nuanced and realistic proposals to mitigate future financial pitfalls. This volume provides fresh perspectives on ways institutional investors can best act as gatekeepers and promote responsible investment.

Excerpt

James P. Hawley, Shyam J. Kamath, and Andrew T. Williams

Background

In late 2008 and early 2009, the subject of financial risk was widely debated and discussed among academics and practitioners, in the business press and on blogs, and among the general public, as well as in the U.S. Congress and parliaments abroad. Yet some of us were struck by how little serious attention (indeed, how little attention of any sort) was being paid to the relation of corporate governance to financial risk, especially the role (or lack thereof) of large institutional investors who have dominated corporate governance activities globally over the past two decades or so.

Institutional investors (public and private pension funds, mutual funds, and, in some countries, banks) have long since become the majority holders of not only public equity but other asset classes as well (e.g., bonds, hedge fund and private equity investments, real estate). In prior work two of us (Hawley and Williams) have characterized these large investors as “universal owners” (UOs) because they have come to own a representative cross section of the investable universe, having broadly diversified investments across equities and increasingly all other asset classes. One consequence of UOs dominating the global investment universe is that their financial and long-term economic interests come to depend on the state of the entire . . .

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