Magazine article European Business Forum

Corporate Governance Reform in Switzerland: The Following Is a Summary of the Highlights of the Debate, Attended by 40-50 Senior Executives from Leading Swiss and International Companies and Advisory Firms

Magazine article European Business Forum

Corporate Governance Reform in Switzerland: The Following Is a Summary of the Highlights of the Debate, Attended by 40-50 Senior Executives from Leading Swiss and International Companies and Advisory Firms

Article excerpt

On 13th September 2002, a workshop entitled 'Corporate Governance: empirical results and best practice' was held at the First International HSG Alumni Conference in Interlaken, Switzerland, in association with EBF.

The workshop was led by Dr Winfried Ruigrok, Professor of International Management, University of St Gallen and an associate editor of EBF, and Dr Peter Weibel, Senior Partner and CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Switzerland and a Director of EBF.

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Interest in Corporate Governance in Switzerland has been fuelled this year by new sets of guidelines from economiesuisse (the Swiss Federation of Business) and the Swiss Stock Exchange. The earlier demise of Swissair and controversy surrounding the recent rights issue and poor results of Zurich Financial Services gave the discussion a particularly topical edge. Five key themes emerged:

* The nature of corporate governance--is it a set of legal requirements or an opportunity to improve the efficiency and dynamism of a company? Several participants interpreted corporate governance in somewhat defensive terms, one going so far as to say that only a showcase trial involving a high profile company would fully demonstrate the additional and sometimes onerous responsibilities which directors now have to assume. It was acknowledged that the legal constraints and the growing obligations on boards could discourage a sufficient flow of good quality independent directors. More positively, however, many agreed that corporate governance represents a challenge (often overdue) to revise the leadership structure of an organisation.

* The specific situation of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs may not be listed on a public exchange or even have many external shareholders. So the question is whether the principles of corporate governance really need to be fully applied to these sorts of businesses. …

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