Program Contact Information

Alice Neffe
Coordinator
Faculty of Law
P.O. Box 4
FI-00014 University of Helsinki
Visiting address: Yliopistonkatu 3, P456
+358 (0)2941 22858; +358 (0)503199620
alice.neffe@helsinki.fi

The research seminar "Who are the Stakeholders? Comparative Perspectives on Corporate Governance and Employees’ Role in the Corporation" offered a venue for dialogue between labour law and company law scholars

The second seminar organized by the Academy of Finland Research Project ‘Employee Participation and Collective Bargaining in the Era of Globalization – Nordic and Chinese Perspectives’ gave a unique opportunity to labour law and company law scholars to jointly discuss issues of Corporate Governance and the role of Employees in it. The seminar held on 7-8 May 2015 in Helsinki was co-organized with the Faculty of Law at the University of Turku.

The event was hosted by Ulla Liukkunen, Professor of Private International Law and Labour Law at the University of Helsinki, and Professor Jukka Mähönen, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Turku.

The idea behind the seminar was to bring together the perspective of company law scholars and labour law scholars to reach a more comprehensive understanding of the reality and complexity of issues related to corporate governance and employee participation. Such event was surely needed as speakers, coming from various European countries, United States and China, underlined the importance of a holistic approach to the tackled issues and called for more interconnection between company law and labour law perspectives.

Professor Katherine StoneThe tone was set by the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Distinguished Professor of Law Katherine Stone (UCLA School of Law), who in her keynote speech presented the transformation to which work has been subjected and put in perspective the identification of the stakeholders. Indeed, Professor Stone encourraged participants to ask whether employees are still stakeholders in company in the "digital era" where work became flexible, where it seems that there is no employees or employers and a crisis of "worker" identity can be described.

The discussion continues with the labour law perspective in the first panel session “Comparative Perspectives on Employee’s Role in the Professor Xie Zengyi, Professor Bernd Waas, Professor Ulla Liukkunen, Professor Teemu RuskolaCorporation”. Professor Bernd Waas (Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main) has explained the principles of  co-determination on enterprise-level in the light of the German Works Constitution Act and so-called “joint participation” of the Co-determination Act. Further, Professor Ulla Liukkunen (University of Helsinki) draw the attention towards an emerging normative transnational framework for work councils that is expanding the EU legislation. Associate Professor Xie Zengyi (CASS, Institute of Law) presented employee representation system at board level that has been established in China and its own characteristics.

The afternoon of the first day of the seminar was dedicated to the company law approach. In the session “Stakeholders and Constituencies in the Corporation”, first Professor Lorraine Talbot (University of York) discussed the limits of the neoliberal domination of the study of companies among English Company law scholars since the financial crisis. Professor Beate Sjåfjell (University of Oslo) continues presenting various approaches to the company showing how employees are perceived in relation with the company and what corporate board should do to promote the sustainable long-term interest of the company. Lastely, Professor Teemu Ruskola (Emory University Law School) try to answer whom Chinese enterprises are serving by a comparative analysis of the governance of Township-and -Village Enterprises and State-Owned Enterprises.

The Chinese State-Own Enterprises were not forgotten in the following session on “Comparative Perspectives on Corporate Governance” as Professor Shen Wei (Shanghai Jiao Tong University Law School) reminded the regained dominance and popularity of this type of comapanies after latest financial crisis and questioned the strategy that should be follow to continue the corporate reform. In his speech, Robbert van het Kaar (University of Amsterdam, Member of the European Commission Informal Company Law Expert group) has explained the interconnection between corporate law and labor law and what interpretations have the shareholders and stakeholders over the role of employees in company. Professor Jukka Mähönen ended the day discussion by introducing and explaining the concept of shareholder activism as a path through which shareholders can influence a corporation's behavior by exercising their rights as owners.

 

The second day was focused on China. Post-Doctoral Researcher Zhang Yihong (University of Helsinki) opened the fourth session “China and the Globalization of Corporate Governance and Labour Practices”. She discussed the role of the Communist Party in the corporate governance and employee participation mechanisms of State-owned Enterprises.   Associate Professor Xia Xiaoxiong (CASS, Institute of Law) spoke about director’s fiduciary duty in Chinese company from the point of view of company legislation and judicial practice, while Associate Professor Chen Yifeng (Peking University Law School) focused on the empirical challenges for Chinese multinational companies (MNCs) to ensure employee participation.

The seminar took place in a friendly atmosphere and the mutual respect enabled a genuine exchange of ideas. The insightful presentations gave a great starting point for lively and fruitful discussion that engaged not only speakers but also the audience constituted of scholars and practitioners.