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date: 26 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

According to a common narrative, the failure of banks in the financial crisis reflected poor corporate governance practices, as well as inadequate prudential regulatory safeguards. Yet it turns out that the “best” governance practices according to ordinary standards were the ones that did worst during the financial crisis. In the period leading up to the financial crisis, it was believed that regulation would cause banks to internalize the costs of their activities, meaning that what maximized bank shareholders’ returns would also be in the interests of society. Consequently, large banks used the same governance tools as non-financial companies to minimize shareholder-management agency costs, namely independent boards, shareholder rights, the shareholder primacy norm, the threat of takeovers, and equity-based executive compensation. Unfortunately, such tools had the adverse effect of encouraging bank managers to take excessive risks. Consequently, a significant rethink about the way in which banks are governed is required.

Keywords: financial crisis, regulation, banks, governance, executive compensation, independent boards

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