Research / BFI Working PaperMar 17, 2020

Boards of a Feather: Homophily in Foreign Director Appointments Around the World

John Barrios, Pietro A. Bianchi, Helena Isidro, Dhananjay Nanda

We examine whether similarities in legal, sociological, and cultural characteristics between countries (country-pair homophily) affect foreign director appointments. Our results from estimating a gravity model, which includes economic and geographic country characteristics, indicate that country-pair homophily is associated with foreign director appointments to corporate boards. Country-pair homophily plays a more significant role in the foreign director market than in other cross-border exchange, such as trade, migration, and foreign investment, consistent with homophily being more important in bilateral voluntary human exchange. We use the international IFRS adoption and the gender-quota adoption in Norway as regulatory interventions to assess the role of country-pair homophily in new foreign director appointments. We find that both events led firms to appoint directors from countries that were, prior to the regulation, less institutionally, socially and culturally similar, attesting to the importance of homophily in foreign director appointments. Overall, we identify an impediment to the effectiveness of foreign director appointments driving global governance practice convergence.

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