The roles of subsidiary boards in multinational enterprisesThe roles of subsidiary boards in multinational enterprises
Faculty of Applied Economics
Accountancy and Finance
Journal of international management
21(2015):3, p. 169-181
University of Antwerp
In recent years, shareholders, regulators, and academics have become increasingly interested in how multinational enterprises (MNEs) can ensure sound corporate governance throughout all entities within a firm. One important mechanism available to MNEs for improving their global governance is the subsidiary board of directors. However, to date scant academic research has focused on the roles of subsidiary boards and the factors that influence their involvement in different roles. Using survey data from a sample of MNE subsidiaries operating in Belgium with headquarters in 14 different countries, we find that a subsidiary board performs four roles: control, strategy, coordination, and service. Further, a subsidiary board is more involved in control, strategy, and service roles if the subsidiary operates only in the local market, independently from the headquarters (the local implementer subsidiary). In particular, the board of the local implementer subsidiary is more involved in strategy and coordination roles when more directors are headquarters country nationals. Our findings collectively suggest that the subsidiary board facilitates a subsidiary's pursuit of its strategic objective and helps to manage the headquarterssubsidiary agency problem. Moreover, subsidiary directors' characteristics influence the subsidiary board's ability to perform its roles.