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Does the “capstone” of the “comply or explain” system work in practice? Evidence from Athens Stock Exchange

Georgios L. Thanasas (Department of Accounting and Finance, Technologiko Ekpaideutiko Idryma Dytikes Elladas, Mesolonghi, Greece)
Georgia Kontogeorga (International Board of Auditors, NATO Science and Technology Organization, Brussels, Belgium)
George Asterios Drogalas (Department of Business Administration, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 26 April 2018

Issue publication date: 22 October 2018




In recent years, the principle of the “comply or explain” approach has become the trend in corporate governance statements that are not fully compliant with national codes. This is because managers of companies deviating from corporate governance codes try to be lawful, providing reasonable explanations; thus, they reach an impasse, copying explanations from other companies, in a mimetic behavior. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether companies listed in Greek Stock exchange tend to imitate one each other thus to be legitimate in terms of the “comply or explain: approach”.


This study focuses on the “comply or explain” approach in Greek listed companies, analyzing statements by 162 companies (80.2 per cent) listed on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), showing a total of 1,211 deviations from the national code. Therefore, the explanations were classified for analysis, grouping them into three main categories and investigating the degree of imitation.


In total, 96 companies deviating from the Code (56.3 per cent) provided explanations as to their legitimacy practices. Thus, the managers of these companies tried to explain their deviations from the national code in such a way that it could be considered that they tend to imitate each other, striving to be lawful.

Research limitations/implications

Owing to Greece’s ongoing economic crisis, many companies listed on the ASE in previous years have suspended the trading of their shares. An examination of previous years may have led to biased results, owing to the different samples of companies. Another limitation concerns the number of companies in the sample; although it covers almost 80 per cent of listed companies, the actual number of companies is not big enough.

Practical implications

This study tries to investigate whether Greek listed companies comply with or deviate from the National Corporate Governance Code. For that purpose, context analysis was performed on 80.2 per cent of these companies (162 out of 202 companies) for the calendar year 2017. Most companies tried to explain their deviations from the Code in such a way that it could be considered that they tend to imitate each other.

Social implications

Companies that deviate from the corporate governance code tend to imitate each other. This phenomenon occurs mainly in small companies, which, while striving to be lawful, even copy other companies’ phrases verbatim. This study reveals that managers of such companies care to provide an explanation for only deviations from the Code as a logical justification and not to capture the existing situation of their companies.


This study is the first to examine the mimetic behavior on corporate governance statements in Greece. Although the trend of imitation is a fact in developed economies, similar studies never took place on emerge economies. This study contributes to the literature by examining whether the trend of mimetic behavior exists in emerging economies as well.



Thanasas, G.L., Kontogeorga, G. and Drogalas, G.A. (2018), "Does the “capstone” of the “comply or explain” system work in practice? Evidence from Athens Stock Exchange", Corporate Governance, Vol. 18 No. 5, pp. 911-930.



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