College of Business and Law - Doctoral Theses

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    Theorising Irish company law: locating Irish company law within entity theory
    (University College Cork, 2023) Boland, Michael James; Lynch Fannon, Irene; Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology
    In terms of the contribution that this thesis will make to knowledge in the field, it will add three things. First, it will demonstrate the weaknesses in the contractarian and communitarian debate. Second, it will present entity theory as a framework for studying Irish company law and indeed other company law regimes that are built on the doctrines of limited liability and corporate personality. Third, it will show that Irish company law and most corporate law frameworks enable and support managerial discretion which this thesis refers to as the second pillar of entity theory. These findings converge on the conclusion that the core of decision-making in the company is made by management not by or even for shareholders. This is an important insight given that at the heart of the contractarian and communitarian debate is an assumption that the shareholders wield absolute authority and influence over corporate decision-making. It is true that shareholders in general meetings make important and consequential decisions about the governance, finance, activities and future of the company. Hence, the general meeting has aptly been described as the company's "supreme governing body". But the kinds of corporate decisions and actions that have tended to create tension in this debate are operational decisions such as plant closures, redundancies, outsourcing, tax avoidance, workforce welfare, investments, divestments, and others which are the preserve of management. This then leads to the conclusion that it is directorial or managerial primacy rather than shareholder primacy that is the guiding principle of company law. Contractarians and communitarians assume that the latter, shareholder primacy, is the goal around which company law pivots. But, in fact, shareholder primacy has no basis in company law. For instance, agency theory and the nexus of contracts paradigm which provide conceptual scaffolding for shareholder primacy are not products of law but rather of economics. The way in which agency theory and the nexus of contracts paradigm have been used by the contractarian and communitarian schools creates the impression that the 'company' is merely a collective noun denoting all the natural persons who form it, work in it, and do business with it. The effect of this is to overlook the nineteenth century company law doctrine of corporate personality that provides that the company has a legal identity independent of those who formed it. This is referred to in this thesis as the first pillar of entity theory. The theoretical scaffolds on which the shareholder primacy debate has been waged over decades has led to this company law debate disregarding the fundamentals of company law and has, ironically, brought us back to a time when shareholders, as we understand that term today, did not exist as incorporation was still largely State controlled and limited liability was only in the research and development stage. Directorial or managerial primacy, on the other hand, is embedded in Irish company law and in the company law frameworks of other jurisdictions. As stated, this is a product of the separate legal personality of companies and is thus referred to as the second pillar of entity theory. The company as a legal person is run by a body of natural persons, the Board of Directors, who make day-to-day decisions on behalf of the company. The law reserves certain categories of decision-making to shareholders as mentioned above but only mandates that shareholders meet every fifteen months. In fact, the law permits companies to dispense with the requirement to hold general meetings provided that the shareholders sign a resolution confirming that they approve of the company's financial statements and directors' report and that they agree with any proposed reforms needing their consent. Moreover, company law statutes in Ireland, the UK, and across the US explicitly vest the interests of the company in the hands of the directors. In the UK, the directors must "act in the way [they] consider, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company". In the US State of Minnesota, for example, it is the Board of Directors who has discretion to decide what is in the "best interests of the corporation". Like in its UK equivalent, the Minnesota provision, which is typical of similar provisions across the US, contains a non-exhaustive list of constituencies to which directors can have regard in exercising their discretion ranging from employees to "societal considerations". In the context of Ireland, it is the directors who must "act in good faith in what [they] consider to be the interests of the company". It is the directors who are empowered by statute to manage the business of the company - a power that was granted by the governing documents of the company (the articles of association) under the previous company law regime but is now contained in statute thus further codifying directorial discretion in Irish law. And, quite apart from being shareholders' agents as the contractarian and communitarian schools of thought believe, it is the directors who enjoy "the most unfettered of powers" under the Act to refuse to register a shareholder on the register of members subject to the one condition that they exercise that power in good faith in the interests of the company. In fact, with the exception of Section 224 regarding the consideration of employee interests and Sections 228(1)(h) and 228(3) concerning members' interests, there is no reference to the interests of shareholders in the Act and, most definitely, no requirement to maximise shareholder wealth. Even those statutory provisions - Sections 224, 228(1)(h), and 228(3) - support managerial discretion by giving management discretion to consider the welfare of employees if they believe that to do so will add value to the company and, in the case of a nominee director, to consider the interests of their appointer notwithstanding their duty to the company as a whole where this does not harm any other party's interests in the company. So, far from being restrictive, which is what a narrow shareholder-focused view of Irish company law would suggest, Irish company law is permissive in that it allows directors as "administrators" the discretion to make decisions and to deal with corporate assets on behalf of their principal, the company.
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    Urban sprawl: land-use, travel behaviours, and emissions in Ireland
    (University College Cork, 2023) O'Driscoll, Conor; Doran, Justin; Crowley, Frank; McCarthy, Noirin
    Land-use configurations determine the distribution and intensities of human activities across space while transport infrastructure determines the ability of goods, services, and people to travel across this space. Considering this relationship, it is important to understand how these mechanisms interact, but also how they can contribute to efforts to achieve sustainability in regional development while also positively benefitting local economies and social fabrics. By directly influencing regional time-space geographies, land-use configurations influence the efficiency with which finite resources, like land, are used while also defining local and regional connectivity, considerations which are directly related to economic, environmental, and social outcomes. In this regard, land-use developments in the Republic of Ireland have historically been characterised by urban sprawl, a developmental form which creates spatially segregated human settlements characterised by car-centric transport networks. Evidence suggests that these patterns inefficiently (and therefore unsustainably) use natural resources, like land, but also increase regional time-space geographies, characteristics known to influence economic, environmental, and social outcomes for individuals, households, and regions. Using Geographical Information Systems (GIS), econometric techniques, and network analysis methods, this research investigates the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of regional development across Ireland and Europe. Using refined built and social environment data, nationally comprehensive Census data, and highly disaggregated spatial scales, this thesis provides substantial contributions to regional science by undertaking six empirical analyses. These investigations focus on four principal research questions, namely: 1) How do land-use configurations contribute to efforts to achieve sustainability in regional development across Ireland and Europe? 2) Can the incorporation of opensource data improve our understanding of land-use configurations and their ability to contribute to sustainability efforts? 3) What is the relationship between built and social environments, individual socio-demographics, trip-specific concerns, and travel mode choices when commuting and during school-runs? 4) How do land-use configurations and transport infrastructure provision impact the environmental degradation attributable to travelling when shopping? From a land-use perspective, I show that regions which minimise time-space geographies and incorporate higher levels of land-use mixing utilise land, infrastructure, and natural resources, like space, more efficiently than alternative regions. This is because more people and human activities are accommodated within smaller spatial scales, thereby reducing the spatial extents of developments, and by extension, the levels of natural landscape destruction attributable to human settlements. In addition to this, more compact developmental forms face lower development costs, increased market/amenity accessibility, and strengthened social fabrics – producing positive economic and social outcomes. From a transport perspective, these areas reduce the implicit costs associated with regular public and active transport use by reducing required travel times and distances, heightening the competitiveness and convenience associated with these modes. I argue that these characteristics positively contribute to altering regional transport hierarchies away from excessive car-use, and therefore prompt reductions in travel-related environmental degradation. I conclude this research by highlighting how land-use and transport policies can be coordinated around environmental goals whilst not compromising economic and social objectives within regional development. In this regard, I provide specific policymaking recommendations surrounding the use of these instruments to increase the efficiency and sustainability of land-use configurations while also catalysing shifts away from excessive car-use in favour of more sustainable alternatives. Of these, the principal recommendation is that future developmental proposals should prioritise maximizing the efficiency of existing man-made settlements and infrastructure prior to outward expansion. In urban areas, this relates to prioritising greater land-use mixing and vertical expansion, while in rural areas, this more so relates to reducing time-space geographies through multi-modal transport investment, initiatives which may stimulate the emergence of polycentric developmental patterns. Similarly, initiatives which alter regional transport hierarchies by reducing the implicit costs of public and active transport relative to cars are recommended. I end by highlighting the limitations of this work while also providing directions for future research.
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    An investigation into how team resilience emerges in work
    (University College Cork, 2022) Dillon, Lorraine; O'Brien, Elaine; Sherman, Ultan; Leka, Stavroula; University College Cork
    Team resilience in the workplace has emerged as a significant topic of debate among organisational scholars. Team resilience is the ability of a team to positively adapt when faced with adversity. The aim of this research is to explore how team resilience emerges at work. This thesis combines two theoretical perspectives namely the job demands-resources theory and high-quality connections theory to explore the unique features of team resilience. Adopting a mixed methods approach, phase one consists of an online survey with 102 participants from the services and educational sector. Phase two draws on semi-structured interviews with 23 higher educational workers to explore their lived experiences of resilience within their teams specifically during Covid-19. Findings illustrate that while job demands predominately hinder the emergence of team resilience as they can be viewed as stressors, job resources have the opposite effect as they can be considered motivational. Findings also indicate that the quality of relationships play a major role in how team resilience emerges. This research articulates many contributions. Theoretically, this study brings together the job demands-resources and high-quality connections theory to explore how team resilience emerges. In doing so enables us to understand the individual and team level factors that impact team resilience and how these levels work together. Empirically, this thesis provides novel insights into the impact of Covid-19 on team resilience. Practically, this research calls attention to those factors that facilitate and inhibit the emergence of team resilience which holds particular relevance to organisations given ongoing efforts to develop resilience in workplaces in turbulent times.
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    Labour market segmentation and change: the case of female workers in the higher education sector in Saudi Arabia
    (University College Cork, 2023) Alqurashi, Bayan Naif A.; Leka, Stavroula; O'Brien, Elaine; Beck, Matthias
    Research indicates that female workers in the Middle East experience barriers in their labour market access and mobility. However, little is known about the impact of labour market modernization on the job and labour market experiences of this group of workers. This qualitative study was designed to explore, with a sample of female academics, the impact of labour market change on their jobs and working conditions. The rationale for this research emanates from the researcher’s desire to understand labour market change and the ways this change is impacting the job and labour market experiences of female workers. It was the researcher’s assumption that gaining a deep and holistic understanding of female workers’ job and labour market experiences would support the development of effective policy interventions that are attuned to the reality of female works in a changing segmented labour market and mitigate unintended negative consequences on their wellbeing. The purposefully selected sample was composed of 30 Saudi-national female academics who were drawn from different higher education institutions across Saudi Arabia. The primary data collection method was in-depth semi-structured interviews. The data was systematically coded and thematically analysed. Analysis and interpretation of findings were based on the literature review and answering the research three questions: (1) female workers’ mobility patterns and the labour market structure for female workers, (2) the ways institutional factors shape and impact academic jobs, and (3) psychosocial working conditions in academic jobs, their impact by labour market change, and implications for faculty wellbeing. This research found that female workers face a structural obstacle of limited job opportunity upon their entry to the labour market which forces them to compromise on the quality of their early career jobs. However, institutional change in the labour market is expanding their labour market opportunity. Second, public higher education institutions constitute internal labour markets where access to employment is controlled whereas private higher education institutions operate in an external competitive labour market where employment is subject to market factors. Third, the relationship the higher education institution has with state funding and the employment system followed in the employment of female academics differentiate compensation, employment stability, and employee training for this group of workers across the higher education labour market. Fourth, academic jobs are meaningful, include social support, and provide opportunity for development while at the same time lack job clarity in some areas, include restriction in job autonomy as well as time pressure. Nevertheless, academic jobs are considered good jobs by labour market standards and resourceful by organizational psychology standards and these characteristics combined render them supportive of faculty wellbeing. Recommendations are offered for future research, policy, and practice. Given the institutional complexity of the research context and acknowledging that context varies across cultures and economies, the research findings should be transferred to situations sharing key characteristics and the recommendations considered for their appropriateness for the situation of interest.
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    The competitiveness of the Irish dairy industry in the global market: farm to trade
    (University College Cork, 2023) Cele, Lungelo Prince; Hennessey, Thia; Eakins, John; Thorne, Fiona; Teagasc
    The removal of the EU milk quota in 2015 has increased the exposure of the Irish dairy industry to international competitors and has raised the question of how competitive is the Irish dairy industry in the global market. The purpose of this thesis was to measure Irish dairy sector –competitiveness by examining the interaction between the farming system and the trading system of processed dairy products in the global market. In the context of the removal of the EU milk quota in 2015, it examined the competitiveness trends and rankings of the Irish dairy sector at the farm and trade levels, relative to selected European Union (EU) Member States. In 2019, Ireland was the third-largest exporter of butter in the world butter market and Irish butter prices were more volatile than other Irish dairy products. Despite the significance of butter in the dairy industry, empirical research that examines the market price dynamics and international competitor behaviour in the butter market has remained scarce. The thesis contributed to the objectives of the Food Wise 2025 and the Food Vision 2030 policies by examining the dynamics between farm milk and butter prices (linking farm and trade levels) to ensure that there is a transfer of benefits from trade to farmers through price transparency. Competitiveness indicators including partial productivity measures and accountancy-based indicators were used for farm competitiveness, and net export market share and normalised revealed comparative advantage were used for export competitiveness. A stochastic meta-frontier approach was adopted for comparing Irish regional farm technical efficiencies (proxy for farm competitiveness). The vector error correction model was applied to test the extent to which changes in competitor prices and farm milk prices had an impact on Irish butter prices. It was also used to measure the competitiveness integration relationship between global butter competitors. Amongst the countries examined, Ireland had the highest growth in partial productivity indicators and was ranked first with the lowest total costs and cash costs per kg of milk solids post-quota amongst the main European competitor countries examined. The potential challenge for Irish dairy farmers is how to lessen the relatively high land and labour costs to come in line with the main European competitor countries, which can limit farm competitiveness in the long-run. Based on the Irish regional farm technical efficiencies, the findings suggested that policies aiming to promote labor use and soil quality improvement in the East region would be useful for improving efficiency in that region post-quota. The findings also suggested that policies that related to discussion groups and management of herd size in the South region would also be useful for improving efficiency in that region post-quota. Some farms expanded beyond their optimal scale leading to a reduction in efficiency levels, especially in a region like the South West. That pointed to the need to tailor farm advice and promote caution in relation to farm expansion decisions. The regional growth patterns and insights may be used for adapting the national policy frameworks to regions in policy dialogues, i.e. to achieve the Food Vision 2030 with ambitious targets set for expansion. While Irish dairy products, such as butter and powders, have demonstrated growth potential in competitiveness post-quota, other products, i.e. cheese and liquid milk have declined. Despite the growing competition in the global butter market, Ireland became the second most competitive country in the world and was advancing rapidly at the time of analysis. Irish butter was the only Irish dairy product that had maintained a comparative advantage. Irish butter prices were more responsive to shocks in New Zealand butter prices and Irish farm milk prices in the long-run with positive bidirectional causality effects. Based on the findings, Irish dairy farmers and processors were more susceptible to pricing decisions made by international butter processors. Irish butter exports were found to be less susceptible to competitiveness changes in Belgian butter exports and more sensitive to competitiveness changes in NZ butter exports. Consequently, the key players in the Irish dairy industry can now better position themselves in the global dairy market, recognising the competitiveness dynamics of the different dairy products and their competitors. The thesis policy recommendations and areas for future research were presented in the conclusion section.