The crystallizing structure of ownership rights and corporate governance is important both for the post-privatization development of enterprises and for the economy in general due to a whole range of considerations:
- because the optimal organization of the ownership rights system in a corporation (as well as the delegation of those rights) provides an incentive for the restructuring and upgrading the efficiency at the micro-level;
- the historically (or traditionally) formed structure of the distribution of ownership in a corporation defines the specific national models of corporate governance and, respectively, the concrete legislative concepts and models of the government regulation;
- “transparent” (clearly defined) model of corporate governance where the rights of all types of investors (shareholders, creditors) are protected is one of the key conditions which are to be complied with in order to attract investment at the micro-level;
- the model of the corporate governance and the structure of the capital market (operating through the specific types of the market economy) stipulate the differences in the forms of organization and financing of the corporations, structure of the branches of industry and the relationship between the employers and employees;
- at the micro-level the model of the corporate governance is one of the major institutional components of economic growth.
From the standpoint of the market economy’s operation it’s the clearly – defined ownership rights and not the changes in their distribution which are crucially important (Coase, 1960). In the present day economic writings the clarity, stability and predictability of the ownership rights are regarded as a major factor of the economic growth and are closely linked to the successful economic development (North, 1978). Nevertheless, the role of the clearly defined ownership rights may vary depending upon the size of entities, whether they are public or private, the access to information etc. (Arrow, 1974; Stiglitz, 1994; others).
The importance of this element of the institutional environment for the transitional model of the corporate governance and the respective government regulation can’t be overrated. Thus, under the socialist economic system there was a system of legal sanctions and enforcement for the protection of the public property. In the transitional Russian economy the zone of uncertainty in the field of the ownership rights has become wider since the system of protection of the public property is eroded and a new clear system of the private ownership rights is yet non-existent. The erosion of the ownership rights also leads to the paralysis of the corporations’ investment activity because the better defined are the ownership rights the less are the risks at the capital market (Grossman, Hart, 1982, 1986). At the same time there are still no clear economic and legal boundaries between the public and private property with all the resultant problems (including the protracted absence of the bankruptcies as the mechanism of the corporate control). The problems in the field of ownership relations stemming from the imperfect information are also apparent.
If we interpret a firm as an institution, organization or network of contracts (Alchian, Demsetz, 1982; Williamson, 1985, and others (and apply a corresponding approach to the corporate governance we can also make broad practical conclusions for the transitional economy. In particular, the absence of the developed system, long-standing culture and clear standardized mechanism of contract implementation as the channels for the transfer of the authority (ownership rights) clusters leads to the mass-scale violations of the shareholders’ rights, a single case-tailored enforcement for the political purposes, development of the non-market relationships between the economic players, growth of the rent-oriented activity, corruption.
Conflicts between the managers and outside shareholders (both large and small) within the framework of the “principal-agent” relationship become very sharp. Problems related to the monitoring of managers by the shareholders, and consequences thereof, are aggravated by the fact that the managers, either directly or through proxy, are acting both as insiders and outsiders of the corporation in accordance with all possible interpretations of these terms.1 The problem of the issuer’s transparency becomes a crucial one not only for the potential investors but also for the de-facto outside shareholders of the corporation.
The corporate governance problem is no less important from the standpoint of the financial system which is understood as the certain institutional arrangements providing for the transformation of savings into investments and allocating resources among alternative users within the industrial sector (Tobin, 1984). Under the conditions of the transition economy it’s the development of an efficient system of financial institutions, primarily banks, within the overall framework of the financial system which becomes especially important for the shaping of the national model of the corporate governance and financing of industrial corporations.
Their weakness in Russia became especially apparent during the financial crisis of 1998 and the theoretical discussion about the principal character of the national model of the corporate governance (the American model versus the German one) became groundless. Correspondingly, the potential role of banks as an alternative mechanism of the corporate control under the conditions when the other mechanism which may force the managers to act not only in their own interests are of limited use (Stiglitz, 1991, pp. 77-78, 189-190) also turns out to be of little relevance
From the standpoint of the applied analysis of the corporate control issues the situation in the transitional economy is ambiguous. On the one hand, according to the tradition of the “manager’s revolution’ concept known since 1930s (Berle, Means, 1932) there are reasons to put the managers outside the framework of the real authority relationships involving control and management in the Russian joint stock companies. This is especially typical for the first post-privatization years before the law “On joint-stock companies” was enacted. On the other hand, there are also reasons to claim that there is such a link as “ownership – corporate control – corporate governance”. The latter makes sense in the cases when it’s possible to identify different types of the” solid cores” of the shareholders excersizing the direct control or affiliated structures (“coalitions” in the terms of the organizations theory). In this connection the key problem is to identify the hubs of real control (Aghion, Tirole, 1996) in a corporation under the formally dispersed ownership structure.
It should also be pointed out under the conditions of the non-liquid market the problem of choice between the mechanism of “vote” and the mechanism of “exit” loses its dichotomic nature (Hirschaman, 1970, pp. 15-54) since in essence there is no alternative: if it’s impossible to sell one’s shares than it’s necessary to upgrade the role of the “vote” mechanism. One of the potential ways of this mechanism’s implementation in the transition economy is offered by the self-sustaining model of the corporate governance (Black, Kraakman, Tarasova, 1997; Black, Kraakman, Hay, 1996).
In the end it’s necessary to make several methodological conclusions of a more general nature. The term “institutional changes” is usually applied to the specific “institutional arrangements (institutions)” but, as a rule, never to the whole “institutional structure” as the totality of the “institutional arrangements” (Lin, Nugent, 1995, p. 2307).
The specific character of the transitional economy is such that the “institutional changes”, as opposed to the generally accepted approach, not only can but should be analyzed comprehensively, i.e. within the framework of the overall “institutional structure” of the economy. Such an approach to the same extent also applies to the problem of the emergence of the corporate governance model and control in the transition economy.
The specifics of the emerging model of the corporate governance and control as an independent “institutional arrangement” may be understood only within the framework of the whole totality of the “institutional changes” in the transition economy. At the same time the problem is that it’s impossible to analyze globally all the “institutions” (in one study) even in respect of a relatively narrow issue of the corporate governance and control development.2
It’s obvious that the two above-mentioned conclusions to some extent contradict each other. It was exactly due to this reason that the author on purpose limited the analysis to the singling out of the key aspects taking into consideration the Russian specifics. Below we would attempt to review three major blocks of the problems in their interrelationship.
First, the evaluation of the major stages in the ownership rights redistribution in Russia as the basis for the understanding of the emerging national model of the corporate governance.
Second, assessments of the>
Third, the analysis of the present-day (post-crisis) stage of the ownership rights redistribution, its specific features and instruments. The key feature here is the conclusion about the growing uncertainty (instability) in the field of the ownership rights and rights of the shareholders. This, in its turn, leads to the conservation (at least, in the medium-term perspective) of the unstable and intermediate nature of the national model of the corporate governance and control in Russia. This conclusion is also important in the context of the previous one concerning the objective need to strengthen the government regulation (law and enforcement) in this field.
Sections 3 and 4 of the present study to a considerable degree complement each other in providing the review of the to-day’s mechanisms of the ownership rights redistribution.
The present study mostly focused on the open joint-stock companies set up in the industrial sector of Russia on the basis of the medium and large public enterprises in the course of their corporatization and privatization. The actual data used for the analysis of the specific to-day’s trend was taken as of March 1, 1999.
The author is grateful to the chairman of the Federal Commission on the Securities Market (FCSM)D.V. Vasiliev, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences R.M.Entov and the director of the Russian branch of the Salomon Brothers in 1996-1998. V.V.Kuznetsov for their valuable advice and comments.
2. Major stages and results of the redistribution of the ownership rights in the present-day Russia
The following major stages of the ownership rights redistribution may be identified in the modern history of Russia:
Spontaneous privatization process (1987-1991);
Mass privatization (1992-1994);
Post-privatization redistribution of ownership (concentration of the dispersed stocks of the privatized enterprises since 1993 as the most common process, loans for shares schemes of 1995, the “oligarchs” wars of 1997, transition from the wildest forms of redistribution to the legal procedural technologies of the corporate control and redistribution of the equity in 1996-1998).
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