Corporate Governance and Performance in the Wake of the Financial Crisis: Evidence from US Commercial Banks


Pisun (Tracy) Xu, Reiman School of Finance, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver, 2101 S. University Blvd., Denver, CO 80208-8951. Tel: 303-8714228; Fax: 303-8714580; E-mail:


Manuscript Type: Empirical

Research Question/Issue: Does corporate governance explain US bank performance during the period leading up to the financial crisis? We adopt the factor structure by Larcker, Richardson, and Tuna (2007) to measure multiple dimensions of corporate governance for 236 public commercial banks.

Research Findings/Insights: Findings reveal corporate governance factors explain financial performance better than loan quality. We find strong support for a negative association between leverage and both financial performance and loan quality. CEO duality is negatively associated with financial performance. The extent of executive incentive pay is positively associated with financial performance but exhibits a negative association with loan quality in the long-run. We find a concave relationship between financial performance and both board size and average director age. We provide weak evidence of an association of anti-takeover devices, board meeting frequency, and affiliated nature of committees with financial performance.

Theoretical/Academic Implications: We apply agency theory to the banking industry and expect that the governance-performance linkage might differ due to the unique regulatory and business environment. Results extend Larcker et al. (2007), especially regarding the concave relationship between board size and performance, and the role of leverage. Given the lack of support for our agency theory predictions, we suggest that alternative theories are needed to understand the performance implications of corporate governance at banks.

Practitioner/Policy Implications: We offer contributions to regulators, especially for ongoing financial reforms of capital requirements and executive compensation. Specifically, we show a consistent negative association between leverage and performance, which supports the current debate on Tier I capital limits for banks.