The influence of board independence on dividend policy in controlling agency problems in family firms

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Purpose – This study investigates the impact of board independence on the cash dividend payments of family firms listed on the Borsa Istanbul (BIST) in balancing controlling families’ power to mitigate agency problems between family and minority shareholders in the post-2012 period. We focus on this period because Turkish authorities implemented mandatory regulations on the employment of independent directors on boards from fiscal year 2012.

Design/methodology/approach – The research model uses a panel dataset of 153 BIST-listed family firms over the period 2012–2017, employs alternative dependent variables and regression techniques, and is applied to various sub-groups to improve robustness.

Findings – The empirical results show a strong positive effect of board independence on dividend decisions. We further detect that family directorship exhibits a negative effect, whereas both board size and audit committees have positive influences but CEO/duality has had no significant impact on the dividend policies of Turkish family firms since the new compulsory legal requirements in the Turkish market.

Research implications – Our findings suggest that independent directorship and dividend policy are complementary governance mechanisms to reduce agency conflicts between families and minority shareholders in Turkey, which is a civil law-based emerging country characterized by high family ownership concentration.

Practical implications – We present evidence that Turkish family firms’ corporate boards have evolved, to some extent, from being managerial rubber stamps to more independent boards that raise opposing voices in family decision making. However, independent directors’ preference for dividend-induced capital market monitoring implies that their direct monitoring is less effective than it is supposed to be. This suggests a need to revise the Turkish Corporate Governance Principles to enhance independent directors’ monitoring and supervisory power.

Originality value – This is thought to be the first study to provide insights on how board independence influences dividend policy in controlling agency problems in Turkish family firms since Turkish authorities introduced compulsory rules on the employment of independent directors on boards.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Accounting and Information Management
Early online date22 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jul 2021


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