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2010]

The German Supervisory Board on Its Way to Professionalism

127

II. Mandatory Approval Rights of the Supervisory Board

Under the 2002 amendment, the position of power of the supervisory board was strengthened, as the supervisory board is now obligated to establish a checklist with fundamental decisions to be taken by the management board that the supervisory board shall approve. Thereby, the supervisory board has become more involved in the decision‐ making process on a company’s overall strategic concept and on fundamental management decisions.

The supervisory board’s new obligation deals with an old problem.56 Particularly after the enactment of the Codetermination Act of 1976, the bylaws of companies or the regulations of the management board changed with regard to decisions to be taken by the management board that must be approved by the supervisory board. The powers and responsibilities of the supervisory board were restricted in the way that even most important transactions no longer required the approval of the supervisory board.57 This change in practice was aimed at preventing that employee representatives participated in the decision‐making process of the company.58 Bruno Kropff, one of the fathers of the German Stock Corporation Act of 1965, quoted a CEO of a large public firm with the words: A checklist for management decisions requiring approval by the supervisory board will only be possible “over his dead body”.59 This attitude led to a significant decline of the supervisory board’s position of power, and it weakened its monitoring efficiency as well as the amount and quality of information provided by the management board.60 The management board was able to decide on most important transactions and business measures without the approval of the supervisory board.

Transparenz und Publizität (Transparenz‐ und Publizitätsgesetz), – Diskussion im Gesetzgebungsverfahren und endgültige Fassung, 5 NZG 608, 610 (2002).

56 Regarding the history of and empirical data on approval rights, see, Jan Lieder, Über den Nutzen der Rechtstatsachenforschung zur Verbesserung der Corporate Governance unter besonderer Berücksichtigung historischer Studien, in DIE AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT IM SPIEGEL DER RECHTSTATSACHENFORSCHUNG, 79, 91‐100 (Walter Bayer

ed., 2007).

57

Pistor

(note

43),

184;

BERTELSMANN‐STIFTUNG

&

HANS‐BÖCKLER‐STIFTUNG,

MITBESTIMMUNG

UND

NEUE

UNTERNEHMENSKULTUREN 103 (1998); Lieder (note 56), 95‐98.

58 Wolfgang Schilling, Die Überwachungsaufgabe des Aufsichtsrats – Besprechung der gleichnamigen Schrift von Johannes Semler, 26 AG 341, 343 (1981); Maximilian Schiessl, Deutsche Corporate Governance post Enron, 47 AG 593, 597 (2002); Oliver Lange, Zustimmungsvorbehaltspflicht und Kataloghaftung des Aufsichtsrats nach neuem Recht, 41 DSTR 376, 380 (2003).

59 Bruno Kropff, Zur Vinkulierung, zum Vollmachtstimmrecht und zur Unternehmensaufsicht im deutschen Recht, in REFORMBEDARF IM AKTIENRECHT, 3, 20 (Johannes Semler et al. eds., 1994); as quoted in LIEDER (note 2), 580.

60 See, Wolfgang Bernhard, Aufsichtsrat – die schönste Nebensache der Welt? Defizite für eine effiziente Aufsichtsratstätigkeit, 159 ZHR 310, 313 (1995).

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