, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 187-202
Date: 18 Feb 2009

Corporate Governance and Codes of Ethics

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As a result of recent corporate scandals, several rules have focused on the role played by Boards of Directors on the planning and monitoring of corporate codes of ethics. In theory, outside directors are in a better position than insiders to protect and further the interests of all stakeholders because of their experience and their sense of moral and legal obligations. Female directors also tend to be more sensitive to ethics according to several past studies which explain this affirmation by early gender socialization, the fact that women are thought to place a greater emphasis on harmonious relations and the fact that men and women use different ethical frameworks in their judgments. The goal of this paper is to determine the influence of these characteristics of the Board in terms of promoting and hindering the creation of a code of ethics. Our findings show that a greater number of female directors does not necessarily lead to more ethical companies. Moreover, within Europe as a continent, board ownership leads to an entrenchment of upper-level management, generating a divergence between the ethical interests of owners and managers. In light of this situation, the presence of independent directors is necessary to reduce such conflicts.