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The German Supervisory Board on Its Way to Professionalism


shareholders in German companies are sufficiently protected by the sophisticated German law of corporate groups.86

Furthermore, considering major shareholders to be dependent would overshoot the mark. The standards of independence as they are stipulated in the European Commission’s 2005 recommendation have been elaborated in view of the one‐tier system. The role model was the Combined Code in the UK.87 It is convincing that a corporate governance system with a single management body (one‐tier system) requires strong rules of independence in order to avoid conflicts of interests such as to impair the judgement of the board members. On the other hand, the institutional separation of the management board and the supervisory board, including the associated rules and standards is the main feature of the German two‐ tier system. This institutional separation of management and supervision leads per se to a higher level of independence of the supervisory board members in the German dual board system. In this regard, a stricter independence standard in a one‐tier system is aimed at compensating for the lack of such an institutional separation of management and supervision like in a two‐tier system. Therefore, the European standards on independence, to some extent, overshoot the mark concerning a two‐tier system, such as the supervisory board system in Germany.88 As a result, there is no need to transplant the European Commission’s recommendation as to an alleged lack of independence of major shareholders into German law.

III. Limitation to an Adequate Number of Independent Board Members

A further advantage of Section 5.4.2 GCGC is its limitation to “an adequate number” of independent board members. In particular, it is not recommended that the supervisory board consists of a majority or a super‐majority of independent members.89 A supervisory board consisting of three members complies with Section 5.4.2 GCGC even if only one board member can be considered independent.90

86 Mathias Habersack, Der Aufsichtsrat im Visier der Kommission, 168 ZHR 373, 377‐378 (2004); Lieder (note 83), 571; see also, Diekmann & Bidmon (note 84), 1090.

87 See, Silja Maul & Georg Lanfermann, EU‐Kommission nimmt Empfehlungen zu Corporate Governance an – Schaffung unabhängiger und transparenter Aufsichtsräte – Vergütung von Organmitgliedern, 57 DB 2407, 2409 (2004); Lieder (note 83), 570.

88 Lieder (note 83), 570; see also, Walter Bayer, Aktuelle Entwicklungen im Europäischen Gesellschaftsrecht, 59 BB 1, 7 (2004); Habersack (note 86), 375‐379; Michael Hoffmann‐Becking, Organe: Strukturen und Verantwortlichkeiten, insbesondere im monistischen System, 33 ZGR 355, 359‐360 (2004).

89 See, Gerald Spindler, Empfehlungen der EU für den Aufsichtsrat und ihre deutsche Umsetzung im Corporate Governance Kodex, 26 ZIP 2033, 2040 (2005).


See, Lieder (note 83), 572.

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