Ulrich Seibert of the Federal Ministry of Justice pointed out the delisting trend at the German Supervisory Board Congress (DART) in November: More and more companies are saying goodbye to the stock market. And this is not just because private equity investors are swimming in money and buying up companies. Another major cause is the pressure from impatient investors, which in our view is a fire hazard: Time and again, listed companies have to postpone future investments in favour of dividend payments or share buybacks. The crucial question is therefore: How can the pressure from investors be reduced without trampling on shareholder and owner rights?
Independent supervisory boards as a bulwark against activists
This is not an issue for governance gourmets: it is about nothing less than turning the stock market from a playground for speculators into a marketplace for co-owners. In other words, a place where entrepreneurs receive capital without having to hand themselves over to financial capitalists. We therefore advocate a paradigm shift, which the Association of Supervisory Boards in Germany (VARD) has called for as early as 2017 for the Scale stock exchange segment: Deutsche Börse should make governance standards – especially independent supervisory boards – a listing requirement. Then it would be more difficult for aggressive investors to send vassals to the controlling bodies and to push through high dividends or special distributions. In combination with an upgrading of the profession and more “personal governance”, this would be a big step towards #FutureGoodGovernance. We therefore appeal to the future chairman of the supervisory board, Martin Jetter, and CEO Theodor Weimer to launch a corporate governance initiative – and we will be happy to be available for discussion.