New Direction for Corporate Secretaries?

I don’t normally write about people switching jobs in the world of corporate governance but Kenneth A. Bertsch joining the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals as their new President and Chief Executive Officer may be one of those more noteworthy moves.

Over the course of my 15 year involvement in corporate governance, I have never seen the Society as a progressive force. Now, there is that potential. Bertch has broad (and deep) experience, from his early days at the Investor Responsibility Research Center and TIAA-CREF to his more recent experience as managing director for Moody’s Investors Service and his current job as executive director, corporate governance at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.

Finally, the Society has a leader who can not only communicate with the various stakeholders but can also deeply identify with shareowners.

The Society’s members support corporate boards and CEOs regarding disclosure, compliance, listing and other corporate governance requirements. They provide educational programs, develop best practices, provide data and constructive comments… and they occupy a very difficult position between CEOs and boards. With boards increasingly accountable to shareowners, although not nearly as great a shift as some of us would like, it is good to know the CEO of the Society at least has a very good understanding of shareowner expectations.

For example, under Bertch, I would not expect the Society to continue to push the very closed version of Client Directed Voting first proposed by Stephen Norman in 2006. Looking back at the origins of the concept, on October 24, 2006, the NYSE filed a proposed rule change with the SEC to eliminate all broker voting in the election of directors. Two months later in December 2006, Steve Norman presented his proposal to allow managers to essentially recapture broker votes. (see An Open Proposal for Client Directed Voting)

Congratulations Mr. Bertch. Not many years ago, the Society changed its name to reflect its growing emphasis on corporate governance. I fully expect Bertch’s appointment to accelerate that shift and that now the Society will play a more substantial role in bringing stakeholders together by creatively helping us to adapt to a quickly changing environment.


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