Investors around the globe are demanding that businesses embrace tougher corporate governance standards, according to a survey from research and consulting firm Institutional Shareholder Services.

The firm will release the full 88-page report -- which is based on a survey of 320 large investors overseeing $10.5 trillion in assets in 19 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China -- later this week. Specifically, the shareholders want companies in their countries to disclose more financial data, to adopt chief executive pay plans that reward only strong performance and to use independent boards with no ties to management.

The report says that surveyed shareholders characterized the need for stronger corporate governance as a "business imperative" for their own investment strategies. When asked why the push for better governance might be gaining momentum, half of the investors pointed to major corporate scandals in their own countries -- including Parmalat in Europe, Hollinger International in Canada, HIH Insurance in Australia and stock-market scams in China.

Respondents said that major obstacles to stronger governance include clashing business laws and practices, the lack of an international body to police corporate governance issues, distrust of changing U.S. accounting rules and complex Sarbanes-Oxley-style laws, and the lack of regulation and poor financial disclosure in developing countries.

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