The Story Behind Japan’s Corporate Governance Reforms

Frequent visitors to our blog are likely aware of Japan’s major corporate governance reforms, but not everyone is familiar with the story behind how these reforms were crafted. The eminent Steven K. Vogel (Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley), recently wrote a concise and easy-to-follow history of the major reforms to Japanese corporate governance practices since the 1990s, describing how and why they came to pass.

RIETI Paper: “Corporate Governance, Employment, and Financial Performance of Japanese firms: A cross-country analysis”

Abstract:  “This study examines whether the sustained lower profitability and market valuation of Japanese firms compared to global peer firms can be explained by the structure of insider dominate board of directors and the employment system which hinders flexible employment adjustments by using cross-country data. Firstly we show that level of outside director ratio and flexibility of employment adjustment both differ consistently across 27 countries in the analyzed period. We show that these two factors significantly explain observed variation of financial performance across countries significantly. In addition, we show that not only do these two factors have significant explanation power over the relatively poor performance of Japanese firms, but also over the better financial performance and growth rate of US firms. ”

Authors: ARIKAWA Yasuhiro (Waseda University) / INOUE Kotaro (Tokyo Institute of Technology) / SAITO Takuji (Keio University)

Download the paper:  “Corporate Governance, Employment, and Financial Performance of Japanese firms: A cross-country analysis” 

Related page on RIETI web site:  https://www.rieti.go.jp/en/publications/summary/18120006.html

 

“What do the Japanese think of non-Japanese CEOs of Japanese companies?” – (One Answer)

by Hide Izumi

I have had the honor of working directly with a few, and I think they bring something to the table that is badly lacking right now in this country.

It is a mean but common joke that “world’s strongest army would be run by American generals, German officers and Japanese soldiers.” For me, it really isn’t funny, because it points to a fundamental problem in this country that has been a constant – lack of competent high level leadership.

BDTI/METRICAL CG Research Update: “Linkage between CG Practice and Value Creation”

BDTI and METRICAL collaborate on researching the linkage between CG practices sand value creation. We have recently released our updated analysis as of April 2018 for the roughly 1,800 publicly traded companies with market capitalization exceeding about JPY10 billion.

In this analysis, by examining board practices (CG guidelines, practices, and composition of the Board of Directors) and specific actions (real actions by a company) separately, we try to identify statistically significant correlations with financial performance measures (ROE, ROA, Tobin ‘s q) for each of these respectively – i.e, for, board practices and action respectively.

We have observed a certain degree of improvement in board practices since the introduction of the Corporate Governance Code.  However, assuming that one of the key goals of the corporation is value creation, in order to improve the effectiveness of engagement and stewardship it is very important to regularly analyze the way in which such improvement (and specifically, which improvements) appears to lead to value creation.

We can summarize the results of our recent analysis as follows:

APEC Report: Corporate Governance Plus Market Development

In 2016,  Europacifica Consulting delivered the case study, Financial Services Sector Reform in Japan, for inclusion in the APEC Economic Policy Report, published in November 2016.

In the case study, we argued that corporate governance was a vital area of potential structural reform in PM Abe’s economic agenda, which at the time had yet to show clear results.  Since then, there have been clear signals of improvement in corporate Japan’s balance sheets and governance practices, as well as a rise in Return on Equity among many of Japan’s largest companies.

Signals of bona fide structural reform are comforting, but we underscore the importance of another of the report’s key arguments; that Koizumi-era reforms in the financial sector did not go far enough in engendering self-sustaining financial market reforms.  Both financial reform and investor education may go further to promote households’ move “from savings to investment”, in other words, a move toward greater household participation in financial markets.

The case study may be found in Annex A of the report.  The case study was also prepublished by Columbia University’s APEC Studies Center as well (link to report).

Cross-Shareholdings: “Enjoying the Quiet Life: Corporate Decision-Making by Entrenched Managers”

This excellent working paper by Naoshi Ikeda, Kotaro Inoue and Sho Watanabe describes their research that leads to the conclusion (similar to BDTI’s own research) that cross-shareholdings in Japan negatively impact risk-taking, investment for growth, and the frequency of restructuring activities.  Conversely, when managers are monitored more heavily by investors and independent directors, they are positively affected.

Japan’s Productivity Gap – Employment System Re-examined

Japan’s GDP per hours worked only amounts to just above 60 percent of the level in the US. In a rapidly ageing society, such a situation is no longer tenable. When the employment to population ratio declines, productivity needs to increase in order to preserve the level of welfare.

Compared to other nations, Japan’s adult population is highly educated. Investment in research and development is also among the highest and corporations have access to an abundant amount of financial capital. The low level of productivity can therefore not be explained by lack of skills, technology or capital. Rather, the available resources are simply not employed in the best possible way.

The deficiencies are being acknowledged by the Japanese government, which is pushing for a “productivity revolution”. Besides the classic approach of promoting new technologies and the recent support for start-ups also undertaken in other countries, the emphasis is on corporate governance reform, more flexible labour markets and a change in working practices (hataraki-kata kaikaku, 働き方改革).

”Abenomics & Inclusive Growth” by Aoyagi Chie and Giovanni Ganelli

”In the last few years, policy makers in Japan have embarked on an ambitious effort to decisively get the economy out of deflation and revive growth. This policy approach, which has been dubbed “Abenomics” after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, comprises three so-called “arrows”, namely monetary policy, fiscal policy, and growth enhancing structural reforms. In this article, we seek to evaluate the effects of Abenomics’ reforms in terms of inclusiveness. Inclusive growth is a multidimensional concept and the notion has varying definitions, interpretations and connotations. To study the degree of inclusiveness of the Japanese economy, we will first review trends in equity, and then refer to econometric studies attempting to assess how implementation of Abenomics is expected to affect inclusive growth…..”.

Read full article here.

VIDEO: Global Agenda Debate – ”Abenomics at the Crossroads”

”Nearly 4 years have passed since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched the series of economic policies, dubbed “Abenomics”. It is centered on “three arrows”: Bold monetary policy to end the deflation, Flexible fiscal spending to stimulate the economy through large-scale public works projects, and Growth strategy to nurture industries. Today, Abenomics is drawing both praise and criticism. Though the profits of TSE’s First Section-listed companies hit record high for 3 straight years, the economy is still suffering from low growth rate. The unemployment rate dropped as 1 million jobs were created, but inflation-adjusted wages remain low. With the increasing social security costs due to the aging and shrinking population, government debt is ballooning. Can Abenomics revive the Japanese economy? 5 experts from economics, politics and business attend a Global Agenda forum at The University of Tokyo to discuss how the world rates the policies and what it expects from them……”

”Corporate Governance: Tools for the job” by Arthur Michael Mitchell

Despite the fact that many still doubt how successful the Abenomics corporate governance reforms in Japan that led to the introduction of the Stewardship and Corporate Governance Code and the amendment of the Companies Act, Arthur Mitchell, a senior counselor with White & Case in Tokyo strongly believes otherwise. He writes an insightful article explaining that while the effectiveness of the reforms will largely depend on the way they are implemented, the reforms will certainly enable market participants to change their corporate performance and overall corporate culture. (Note: Arthur Mitchell has taken BDTI’s director training course in Japanese, and currently sits on the board of Mitsui Sumitomo Financial Group.)

Read full article here.