Year

2014

Degree Name

Master of Accountancy - Research

Department

School of Accounting and Finance

Abstract

Corporate governance has been a key focus over recent times for Australian companies, particularly following the collapse of some large organisations which resulted in losses of billions of dollars along with the jobs, investments and the livelihoods of many Australians. This thesis investigates the impact of the ASX Principles of Good Corporate Governance which were introduced in 2003 to strengthen corporate governance in Australia in response to community concerns over the causes of those corporate collapses. This study examines the characteristics of directors of Australian listed companies on the ASX 50 index, particularly in relation to the characteristics of non-executive directors, the number, gender, and qualifications of directors, and the average age of directors.

This thesis applies a positivist social science approach to analyse and to examine the characteristics of non-executive directors. A representative sample of Australian companies listed on the ASX 50 index, which represents the 50 largest listed stocks on the ASX and covers all major industry sectors, was selected, and the research data was extracted from this sample. The research method of content analysis is applied to the research data to identify and determine changes to board composition and structure over the period 1999 to 2009, which covers the period of time of the introduction of the ASX Principles of Good Corporate Governance as well as the period of the initial implementation and revision of the principles.

The theoretical framework of this research is based on institutional theory which explains adaptive changes which reshape an institution’s values, practices and corporate governance structures. The theoretical framework of this research discusses and explains the findings of the analysis of this study. This is because the aim of using institutional theory in this thesis is to explain the results from content analysis.

The primary findings of this research are that the ASX Principles have resulted in minimal change in the characteristics of boards of directors; rather, it appears the companies already operated in a manner that accorded with the ASX Principles. The main contribution of this study is in regard to the literature on corporate governance with a particular focus on independent directors. This study contributes in specific areas such as the proportion of non-executive directors, the size of directors, gender of directors, their level of qualifications, the number of other directorships held and the average age of directors.

This study has a number of limitations particularly due to the relatively small sample of Australian listed companies. There is scope for further research to be carried out that looks at the greater impact of the ASX Principles on the corporate governance of other companies so that a larger body of evidence about the impact of the Principles can be obtained and analysed. A larger sample size would increase the quality of the data collected and in turn would better to address the research question.

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