Professor Bernard Grossfeld

Geography and semiotics in accounting: The challenge of globalization, focusing on the future of corporate conflict of law rules

Work on “German Corporate Governance”, originating from Muenster in the mid and late 90s, started with a somewhat local basis: “Management structures and workers’ codetermination in Germany with European Perspectives” (Großfeld/Lehmann, Corporate Law Development Series 1 (1994) 41; Jean J. du Plessis, ‘Some Thoughts on the German System of Supervisory Codetermination by Employees’ in Festschrift Bernhard Großfeld (1999), 875). From these localised and humble beginning, a wider “international context to corporate govenance” was later added to the research (Du Plessis/Bernhard Großfeld/Claus Luttermann/Ingo Saenger/Otto Sandrock/Matthias Casper, German Corporate Governance in International and European Context, 2d ed., 2012). Over time this turned into into a “Dialogue of Cultures” (Claus Luttermann, ’Dialog der Kulturen’ in Festschrift für Bernhard Großfeld (1999) 771). So far, the world of corporate governance was still seen as structured by different legal world, giving priority to particular locations.

But the reality of multinational corporations has structured a more general legal world as expressed leading to the concept of “Global Corporate Governance” (Alan Dignam/Michael Galanis, The Globalization of Corporate Governance (2010); Muchlinski, Multinational Enterprises and the Law (2007). These “global” views is accompanied and dramatically increased by the rise of accounting standards as a central part of the corporate structure. The global financial crisis – starting with the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008 – showed financial reporting standards as the core of social corporate control (Bernhard Grossfeld/Hansjoerg Heppe, ‘The 2008 Bankruptcy of Literacy – A Legal Analysis of the Subprime Mortgage Fiasco’, (2009) 15 Law and Business Rev. of the Americas (2009), 713; Bernhard Großfeld, Der Fall Lehmann Brothers and das Bilanzrecht, Recht der Internationalen Wirtschaft (2010), 504). It brought “Global Accounting” to the forefront (Bernhard Grossfeld, ‘Global Accounting: A Challenge for Lawyers’ in Liber Amicorum Mac Lean (2007) 143). Thus, “International Financial Reporting Standards” obtained a central position in an internationalised and globalised world Bernhard Grossfeld, ‘International Financial Reporting Standards: European Corporate Governanc’ in O Direito Do Balanco E As Normas Internacionais De Relato Financeiro (2007) 12).

But the question immediately comes up, how far we can go with “delocalization” in favour of “globalization”. Can and should the rules be the same all over the world? (Bernhard Grossfeld, Core Questions of Comparative Law, translated by Vivian Curran (2004)). Is not geography a vital factor of legal practice (Bernhard Grossfeld, ‘Geography and Law’ (1984) 82 Michigan L. Rev. 1510) and do legal texts evoke similar reactions everywhere? Do signs (numbers) get their geographic environment? Can we make “words mean so many different things” (Alice in Wonderland ). What about the impact of software techniques in information technology? What about comparative legal semiotics (Bernhard Grossfeld, Dreaming Law. Comparative Legal Semiotics, 2010) and (Bernhard Großfeld, Internationales Bilanzrecht, (2012)).