Disciplinary power in corporate governance: a Foucauldian analysis of the emergence and development of proxy advisors

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Abstract

Prior research in corporate governance has extensively investigated the mechanisms through which a variety of actors (financial analysts, investment managers, shareholder activists) monitor and discipline corporate executives. However, one recently emerged actor has received little attention so far: the proxy advisory firm. Mobilising Foucault’s concept of disciplinary power, this study uses historical analysis to examine the role of proxy advisors in corporate governance. This article shows that proxy advisors actively contributed to developing and implementing disciplinary mechanisms. This involves (1) hierarchical observations of corporations and their executives on a global scale. These observations are made available to institutional investors on proxy advisors’ voting platforms which have Panopticon-like features; (2) normalisation of judgements through the provision of generic voting policies, generic voting recommendations and corporate governance ratings prepared by proxy advisors and delivered to many institutional investors; (3) ritualised examination of the performance of corporations and of their executives during the annual general meeting, including record-keeping of all past voting results.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalAccounting History
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • corporate governance
  • disciplinary power
  • proxy advisor
  • surveillance

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