Since the beginning of the 21st century, a few serious financial scandals and many
cases of corporate mismanagement have driven scholars and politicians to devote increasing
attention to corporate governance, in a close relation with business ethics issues.
In academic literature, as well as in public policy debates, corporate governance
is nowadays acknowledged as a critical factor in economic development and financial
markets stability. The evolution in the nature of the firm is among the major causes
for the crisis of established corporate governance models. The traditional manufacturing
companies - vertically integrated and capital intensive - which emerged at the beginning
of the last century and had since then prevailed - have been challenged by new organizational
structures, based on intangible assets and networks, more appropriate to a dynamically
changing environment, where competition is driven by the availability of distinctive
competencies, based on firm-specific knowledge.
This paper, building on the resource based view of the firm, but also on stakeholder
approach to strategic management, explores how the growing importance of intangible
assets is reshaping, in many industries, the basic conditions of corporate governance.
The aim is twofold: i) to explain logically why intangible assets modifies the allocation
of residual claims, as company performance can substantially affect the wealth of
other stakeholders ii) to determine which constituencies should be considered as
relevant stakeholders and contribute, to some extent, to the corporate governance.