Corporate Governance Ideology: A Missing Part of the Puzzle

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 2:15 PM-3:45 PM
CLM.2.06 (Clement House)
Andreas Jansson, Linnaeus University, Vxj, Sweden
Karin Jonnergard, Linnaeus University, Vxj, Sweden
Ulf Larsson-Olaison, Linnaeus University, Vxj, Sweden
A question that has been asked repeatedly in corporate governance research the last two decades is ‘why does not ownership of listed corporations disperse in large parts of the world?’ Roe (2001) claimed that the reason that ownership did not disperse in large parts of Europe was social democracy, thus leaning towards ideology as a factor determining the conditions for corporate governance. In this paper it is argued that Roe was not wrong in principle; certainly, social democracy could explain the organization of many European nations, however not the business society in these countries. What distinguish social democracy from socialism (as historically found in eastern and central Europe) is that business society was partly left to itself, thus the ideology explaining corporate governance is more likely the ideology of the business society itself, rather than that of the surrounding society. In this paper it is argued that conservatism is the ideology of European corporate governance, an ideology that favor concentration of ownership, and thus power, in contrast to the market liberal ideology of the Anglo-American corporate governance systems that has produced ownership dispersion.

In this paper we develop and test this thesis using cases from the country perhaps most associated with social democratic thinking, while simultaneously tolerating one the most unequal distribution of power in business society (Högfeldt, 2004): i.e. Sweden. The ownership structure in Sweden is built on ownership concentrated into the hands of a few families and inherited power. In this paper we test whether this structure is supported by the Swedish society through the outcome of regulation. The cases are explored by discourse analysis addressing how parallel corporate governance scandals are portrayed, as well as an analysis of the material outcome of the scandals, i.e. the regulation. The first case is from the mid-1980, when the two major scandals in Swedish business society were LEO and Fermenta, with the material regulatory outcome of the LEO-law. The second case is from the early 2000, with major scandals in ABB and Skandia, leading to the Swedish corporate governance code. The aim is to through the discourse analysis (i) build a conceptual framework of how to access corporate governance ideologies and (ii) convey the type of ideology underlying regulation in the Swedish business society in order to (iii) contribute to our understanding of the importance and materialization of ideology in corporate governance.