Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

2019 Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

Audit Committees

  • Patrick VelteEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7753-2_74


A profound international competition between corporate governance and corporations constitutions systems has been going on since the middle of the last century (La Porta et al. 2002, p. 1147). A basic categorization has been made with regard to the ratio between internal and external corporate governance as well as to the management and supervising structure of publicly owned firms (one-tier and two-tier system). Amongst others, a partial convergence of both constitutional models indicates a high acceptance of audit committees in both systems of corporation’s constitutions. However, the committee’s competences are different in the one- and two-tier system as well as the main motives of their implementation. Within the two-tier system, the audit committee has been implemented to support and relieve the supervisory board in preparing various tasks. In addition the committee is expected to strengthen corporate governance as a consequence of the high number of supervisory board members. Moreover, the appointment of financial experts as audit committee members is to counteract the lack of respective knowledge in the supervisory board. In contrast, the one-tier system is by trend forcing a stronger personal separation between executive and nonexecutive directors in the board. In addition, major importance is placed on the independence of the committee members in the one-tier system which is usually symptomatic for the separation of functions within the two-tier system. As with the example of audit committees, it becomes clear that both models try to use the advantages of the respective constitutional systems. However, a general superiority of one system cannot be concluded.

The aim of the present analysis is to provide an overview of empirical survey results with regard to the acceptance of audit committees on the capital market and the influence of audit committees on corporate governance. Major attention is paid to a statistically proven relation between certain corporate governance variables and the implementation of audit committees, especially with regard to the independence and financial expertise of its members. The German stock corporation law will be used as an example to demonstrate the importance of audit committees within the two-tier system. Similarly, the US-American capital market with its particular regulations of the stock exchange commission will be used for the one-tier system.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leuphana UniversityLüneburgGermany