CorpGov Bites

Check out the CorpGov Blog, a work in progress. After years of demands that we have indexed articles, an RSS feed and other advantages of blogs, we’re finally beginning to adapt. With our 15th anniversary coming up in 2010, maybe it is time to join the 21st century. Your feedback is appreciated, either via e-mail or through your comments on the blog. I’m still not sure about the look, how it should be organized, how to maintain the number one search status we’ve had on the term “corporate governance” since before google, how to change the URL’s, how to add an e-mail subscribe function, etc., etc. Your suggestions, especially when accompanied with instructions, are more than welcome.

WorldBlu discusses How to Democratize Corporate Ownership, using Equal Exchange as an example of a for-profit Fair Trade company in the US that owned and governed by employees on a one-person/one-share/one-vote basis.

Faith and finance: Of greed and creed (FT, 12/23/09) explores the morals of the financial sector. Was it a “greedy focus on the short term?” Others cite a diminished a sense of responsibility, allowing personal and institutional self-interest to overshadow customer service and risk management. “The root problem, Lord Turner, free-thinking chairman of the Financial Services Authority, the UK industry regulator, famously said this summer, is that too much business over the past decade has been ‘socially useless.'” The article reports mixed responses as to lessons learned.

I would ask, just how useful is the entire financial sector? As Simon Johnson discussed in The Quiet Coup (theAtlantic, May 2009) “From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In 1986, that figure reached 19 percent. In the 1990s, it oscillated between 21 percent and 30 percent, higher than it had ever been in the postwar period. This decade, it reached 41 percent. Pay rose just as dramatically. From 1948 to 1982, average compensation in the financial sector ranged between 99 percent and 108 percent of the average for all domestic private industries. From 1983, it shot upward, reaching 181 percent in 2007.”

A new report from Ceres and Mercer, Energy efficiency and real estate: Opportunities for investors, identifies efficiency as a significant front in mitigating climate change, and recommends that investors focus on efficiency measures in their real estate holdings. The report recommends that as a first step, investors launch energy efficiency initiatives by developing benchmarks and then create achievable targets in the implementation of projects. (Investing in Energy-Efficient Buildings Can Reduce Emissions While Strengthening Portfolios, Sustainability Investment News, 12/24/09)

A study by Pascual Berrone and Russell Reynolds Associates of Spainish companies found 60% of board chairs said institutional investors exercised little or no involvement in corporate governance. (The Need for Investors to Wield More Board Influence, IESE Insight) How different is it elsewhere?

“Everybody who works with retirement plans should presume that they will owe a fiduciary duty or they will owe a duty for loyalty to those who they service,” says Matthew Hutcheson, an independent pension fiduciary quoted in Coming soon: Broader definition of fiduciary under ERISA (InvestmentNews, 12/23/09). “Brokers who haven’t viewed themselves as fiduciaries need to ask what they might need to do differently.”

The common statement that the world was becoming flat was questioned at the Global Ethics Forum held at the UNOG-United Nations Office at Geneva. In our many problems of poverty, environment, Ponzi schemes, growing income gaps – speakers emphasized how civil society had lost confidence in business and in its leaders.

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