Corporate governance is the way a corporation polices itself. In short, it is a method of governing the company like a sovereign state, instating its own customs, policies and laws to its employees from the highest to the lowest levels. Corporate governance is intended to increase the accountability of your company and to avoid massive disasters before they occur. Failed energy giant Enron, and its bankrupt employees and shareholders, is a prime argument for the importance of solid corporate governance. Well-executed corporate governance should be similar to a police department's internal affairs unit, weeding out and eliminating problems with extreme prejudice. A company can also hold meetings with internal members, such as shareholders and debtholders - as well as suppliers, customers and community leaders, to address the request and needs of the affected parties.
Principles of Corporate Governance
- Shareholder recognition is key to maintaining a company's stock price. More often than not, however, small shareholders with little impact on the stock price are brushed aside to make way for the interests of majority shareholders and the executive board. Good corporate governance seeks to make sure that all shareholders get a voice at general meetings and are allowed to participate.
- Stakeholder interests should also be recognized by corporate governance. In particular, taking the time to address non-shareholder stakeholders can help your company establish a positive relationship with the community and the press.
- Board responsibilities must be clearly outlined to majority shareholders. All board members must be on the same page and share a similar vision for the future of the company.
- Ethical behavior violations in favor of higher profits can cause massive civil and legal problems down the road. Underpaying and abusing outsourced employees or skirting around lax environmental regulations can come back and bite the company hard if ignored. A code of conduct regarding ethical decisions should be established for all members of the board.
- Business transparency is the key to promoting shareholder trust. Financial records, earnings reports and forward guidance should all be clearly stated without exaggeration or "creative" accounting. Falsified financial records can cause your company to become a Ponzi scheme, and will be dealt with accordingly.
Corporate Governance as Risk Mitigation
Corporate governance is of paramount importance to a company and is almost as important as its primary business plan. When executed effectively, it can prevent corporate scandals, fraud and the civil and criminal liability of the company. It also enhances a company's image in the public eye as a self-policing company that is responsible and worthy of shareholder and debtholder capital. It dictates the shared philosophy, practices and culture of an organization and its employees. A corporation without a system of corporate governance is often regarded as a body without a soul or conscience. Corporate governance keeps a company honest and out of trouble. If this shared philosophy breaks down, then corners will be cut, products will be defective and management will grow complacent and corrupt. The end result is a fall that will occur when gravity - in the form of audited financial reports, criminal investigations and federal probes - finally catches up, bankrupting the company overnight. Dishonest and unethical dealings can cause shareholders to flee out of fear, distrust and disgust.