Corporate Governance in Australia After Hih and Globalisation

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In the light of various corporate scandals, regulatory bodies and corporate governance were placed under pressure by shareholders and stakeholders to form a tighter grip in governing corporation’s conduct. The obligations, roles and responsibilities of company’s stewards are under scrutiny of Corporations Act, listing rules, country’s code of corporate governance, ethics as well as social standards.

At the same time, advocates of market forces as a replacement to regulations and legislation continue to pursue for market deregulation and liberalisation based on the believe that government intervention will only distort resources allocation and hinder market growth.

The collapse of Australian company HIH Insurance Ltd (HIH) in 2001 was analysed in terms of its conduct and compliance to the Corporations Act, listing rules as well as code of corporate governance as released by the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) Corporate Governance Council (CGC). Reforms in regulations and the Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations 2007 by ASX CGC were used to recommend best practices in corporate governance that should have taken place in HIH.

Lastly, the effect of globalization and challenges to good corporate governance resulting from globalization were discussed from the perspective of national government, regulatory bodies as well as the corporation itself.
Justice Neville Owen, The Royal Commissioner in the HIH Royal Commission Report described corporate governance as the framework of rules, relationships, systems and processes within and by which authority is exercised and controlled in corporations, and the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) Corporate Governance Council added that corporate governance relates to and influences how the objectives of the company are set and achieved, how risk is monitored and assessed, and how performance is optimized (The HIH Royal Commission, 2003; ASX Corporate Governance Council, 2007).

The meaning of corporate governance has evolved over time but, in the strictest sense, is linked to the legislation that allows its existence. The law sets forth a company’s rights and responsibilities but this can differ from country to country. However, it is generally accepted that corporate governance extends beyond the law to include a consideration of best practices and business ethics (Birt, Chalmers, Beal, Brooks, Byrne, & Oliver, 2008). The structure of corporate governance as put forth by Farrar (2005) and represented in the figure below illustrates the relationship within the corporate governance structure:

Figure: The structure of corporate governance (Farrar, 2005). The issues surrounding the rights and responsibilities of corporations are complex and ever changing as financial markets become more global, corporations become larger and more powerful, and society’s perception of the corporate role changes. A school of thoughts advocates for market forces to be the regulator of the financial market. The neo‐liberals assume that factor markets work efficiently without government intervention if property rights and competition are guaranteed. They considered government interventions as less efficient than market‐based solutions and stresses that government interventions hamper private sector development and that government should concentrate on improving the enabling of business environment through deregulation (Emeseh, Ako, Okonmah, Obokoh, & Ogechukwu, 2010).

Neo-liberalism challenges the conventional structuralist orthodoxy of government intervention by highlighting the negative effects of “financial repression” on economic growth and development. They refer financial repression to be the set of government legal restrictions preventing financial intermediaries in the economy from functioning at their full capacity. The distortion of domestic financial markets through rules and legislation is claimed to have negative impact on economic...
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