Edited by Harwell Wells
Chapter 8: German corporate law in the 20th century
Chapter 8 examines German corporate law in the twentieth century, placing the development of the law firmly in the context of Germany’s tempestuous history. The chapter focuses on the Aktiengesellschaft—the large corporation—which entered the twentieth century with its distinctive requirement for both an executive board (now Vorstand) and supervisory board (Aufsichtsrat) already established and with shareholder power—at least in theory—paramount. In 1937, however, the confluence of longstanding attempts at corporate-law reform and Nazi ideology led to a new orientation for German corporation law, with reduced shareholder rights and a sharp separation between executive and supervisory board. The account then moves on to the postwar era, where codetermination, whose roots can be traced back to the nineteenth century, was adopted in stages, beginning in 1951, giving workers and shareholders equal representation on the supervisory board, initially in the mining, iron, and steel industries but later widening to all Aktiengesellachaft above a certain size. With this the essential structural features of present-day German corporate law were in place.
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