Nell Minow

Nell Minow: Only Corporate Governance Can Save the World

Nell Minow is one of my heroes. Her 1991 book with Bob Monks, Power and Accountability: Restoring the Balances of Power Between Corporations and Society, helped me give a name and framework to what I thought was the world’s most important overlooked problem — corporate governance.

During the last 27 years, I have never met anyone else in the field of corporate governance as witty, insightful or quotable as Nell Minow. She demonstrates these qualities and more in a recent lecture delivered at Sarah Lawrence.

Nell Minow: From the YouTube Summary

The Trump administration’s regulatory rollback has taken Americans through the Looking Glass and into the Upside Down. The question of what used to be called “corporate social responsibility” in the peace-and-love 60’s has been sharpened by the upheavals of the Enron era, the financial meltdown, and Occupy Wall Street. That means the shareholder movement that began with individuals holding dozens of shares of stock submitting granola-crunching shareholder proposals about Vietnam and South Africa have been replaced by pension funds and other institutional investors with millions of shares of stock and a tough, number-crunching demands about sustainable operations, climate change, political contributions, and cyber-security.

Nell Minow, class of  1974 discussed her own fights with overpaid, under-performing CEOs, why divesting “bad” stocks never works, and how investors can sometimes be more effective in making society cleaner, smarter, and fairer than government can.

Nell Minow: A Few Takeaways

People respond to incentives. When those incentives are misaligned, that creates problems. The social invention of the corporation has led to the most productive chapter of human history — but their have been many problems, externalities, due to misaligned incentives and failures of accountability.

I am adding this video of Nell Minow’s lecture mostly for future reference, but if you read this blog, I’m sure you will enjoy it too.

Nell Minow provides a great deal of advice in the video. One cluster was around what never to say:

  • This is how we’ve always done it.
  • No one will notice.
  • No one else said anything.

Saving the world will not be easy but Nell Minow’s reflections on corporate governance point in the right direction. Be sure to read her blog at ValueEdge Advisors and Corporate Governance by Nell Minow Robert A.G. Monks. 

Be sure to keep watching through the Q&A portion – lots of great questions and insightful responses. Regarding quality – I wish Nell had been better lit to see her shining smile and questioners had used microphones.

   

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