Substitutes or complements? A configurational examination of corporate governance mechanisms

Vilmos F. Misangyi, Abhijith G. Acharya

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

444 Scopus citations


We conduct an exploratory qualitative comparative case analysis of the S&P 1500 firms with the aim of elaborating theory on how corporate governance mechanisms work together effectively. To do so, we integrate extant theory and research to specify the bundle of mechanisms that operate to mitigate the agency problem among publicly traded corporations and review what previous research has said about how these mechanisms combine. We then use the fuzzy-set approach to qualitative comparitive analysis (QCA) to explore the combinations of governance mechanisms that exist among the S&P 1500 firms that achieve high (and not-high) profitability. Our findings suggest that high profits result when CEO incentive alignment and monitoring mechanisms work together as complements rather than as substitutes. Furthermore, they show that high profits are obtained when both internal and external monitoring mechanisms are present. At the same time, however, monitoring mechanisms evidently combine in complex ways such that there may be simultaneity of substitution and complementarity among and across the various monitoring and control mechanisms. Our findings clearly suggest that the effectiveness of board independence and CEO non-duality - governance mechanisms widely believed to singularly resolve the agency problem - depends on how each combine with the other mechanisms in the governance bundle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1681-1705
Number of pages25
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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