Description: The corporate form that developed in the early 20th century created enormous pressure for corporate governance mechanisms to curb the power of corporate managers. Berle and Means, legal pluralists, warned about concentrating economic power in the hands of a small but powerful class of professional managers. They claimed this "new form of absolutism" required governmental oversight and viewed boards of directors as part of management, rather than monitors for shareholders. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed that corporations establish a special board committee, made up of "nonofficer members" in response to the McKesson & Robbins scandal of the late 1930s. My dissertation examines the evolution of the U.S. corporate audit committee through three specific time periods: (1) 1920-1954; (2) 1955-1986; and (3) 1987 to the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. My purpose is to determine if evolution of the audit committee throughout these periods has been a reform continually couched in symbolism or whether the audit committee concept has evolved into real reform, allowing proper corporate governance and mitigation of unchecked corporate power. My analysis is a traditional empirical analysis, relying on both primary and secondary sources to develop a coherent ordering of facts. I use narrative in a narrow sense as my historical methodology, examining patterns that emerge and interpreting facts to develop a clear understanding of demands for and uses of audit committees. I use a holistic approach in studying the data, using narrative to show how these patterns ensue from the historical data.
Date: August 2010
Creator: Teed, Dan Graham