Conference on Ownership and Control after the Global Financial Crisise on

01 June 2014
Judge Kent Jordan, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Judge Kent Jordan, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Scholars from North America, India and New Zealand gathered in Auckland in May to consider how to re-frame ownership and control after the Global Financial Crisis.

The two day workshop, hosted by the Auckland Law School, brought together legal, finance, accounting and management academics from the  Indian School of Business, Vanderbilt University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law and Business School, along with practitioners from several top Auckland law  firms.

Judge Kent Jordan, who has served as a United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit of the Court of Appeals since 2006, was the keynote speaker, giving a thought-provoking address on the approach taken by the US courts to the imposition of penalties in cases brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

One consequence of the Global Financial Crisis was a re-questioning of what had previously been treated by many as settled assumptions. In corporate law, the paradigm corporation with dispersed ownership run on behalf of shareholders in the interests of maximising profits for those shareholders was treated as an ideal, with the goal of corporate law considered to be solving the agency problem between shareholders as owners and managers as controllers. But shareholders may no longer be the ideal means of corporate governance and shareholder wealth maximisation, at least in the short term, may not be the ideal ends of corporate governance.

This shift in thinking and other questions were considered during the course of the workshop held at the Auckland Business School.

Conference organiser Professor Susan Watson noted some of the distinctive features of corporate law in New Zealand.

“New Zealanders are globally focussed with laws and cultures influenced by the United Kingdom and North America, but with personal and trade links with China and throughout Asia and India. People from all of those places have settled here."

“The origin of  New Zealand’s corporate law is English, although its most recent Companies Act draws on  the North American Model Business Corporation Act.

“Most New Zealand companies are small and medium enterprises or family-owned businesses and the unique features of the  corporate landscape are the number of listed companies that are partially owned by the State, and the growing number of Maori tribes that are funded from recent settlements of historical injustices. The Maori perspective on sustainable business adds a unique dimension to corporate governance in New Zealand, as sustainability in governance becomes increasingly discussed internationally.

“These factors made Auckland, the commercial centre of New Zealand, an ideal venue for the bringing together of new thinking on ownership and control of corporations.”