By Jonathan G S Koppell (eds.)
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Extra info for Origins of Shareholder Advocacy
The long-lasting, capital-intensive commercial enterprise thus created and the huge proﬁts it generated for most of its existence have led economic and legal historians to consider the governance structure of this company a necessary precondition for its economic success, and an important step in the evolution of the modern corporation. During the early years, however, the company’s policy and corporate governance attracted sharp criticism from shareholders. Within a few years a number of leading shareholders left the board because of disagreements over the direction of operations.
Scholars broadly agree about the legal pedigree of the VOC. The company was essentially a private partnership with additional features, such as the limited liability for directors and for shareholders derived from various older forms of business organization (van Brakel 1908, 1912, 1914, 1917; van der Heijden 1908, 1914; Steensgaard 1982; Asser 1983; De Vries and van der Woude 1997; Den Heijer 2005, 35–36; see however Lehmann 1895 and Mansvelt 1922). 3 Moreover, we think that by looking at the relationship between agents and various principals within the company we can clear up the reigning confusion as to the provenance of these governance features, that is, where exactly the VOC ﬁts in the evolutionary path of Dutch corporate law.
During the nineteenth century, these so-called native banks developed branch networks to provide traveling merchants, based in the inland province of Shanxi, with cash transfers in distant and often dangerous regions. Improbably this made the remote inland province China’s paramount banking center of the time. The ﬁrst and largest Shanxi bank, the Rising Sun Bank, developed unique corporate governance and contract enforcement systems that let it, and its imitators, ﬂourish in a corrupt and essentially lawless commercial environment.