Investor Protection and Firm Governance: Substitutes or Complements?
| Peter Klein |
The new institutional economics often treats the institutional environment and institutional arrangements as substitutes. In countries with stable legal institutions, relatively efficient courts, and reasonable default rules for contract terms, for example, contracts tend to be less complete. If contracting parties can trust the courts to fill in the gaps, why bother to write out every contingency? Likewise, if a country has an efficient external capital market, firms can be small and specialized, relying on the capital markets to allocate resources among business units, but if the external capital market performs poorly, diversified business groups may arise to exploit their internal capital markets.
It is thus surprising to learn, from a new paper by Reena Aggarwal, Isil Erel, René Stulz, and Rohan Williamson, that firms tend to establish better mechanisms for corporate governance in countries that already have strong rules for investor protection. “[O]ur evidence suggests that firm-level governance attributes are complementary to rather than substitutes for country-level investor protection, so that better country-level investor protection makes it optimal for firms to invest more in internal governance.” The better the institutional environment, in this case, the more effort agents put into designing efficient institutional arrangements.
Clearly more work is needed to understand the interactions between “macro” and “micro” institutions. What are some other good papers in this area?