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The board did it, not me. Lipton was hired to improve. Fleishman became a director of Polo Ralph Lauren Inc. When management is at the controls, as often seems to be the case, directors are asked mostly to rubber-stamp the deals. This helpful tool is on the aetnafeds.
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Lawsuits, But No Director Accountability. Demand to Inspect the Company's Books and Records. A Very Viable Solution.
Problems With The New Rul e. Sample Responses From Individual Investors. The Committee of Concerned Shareholders "Committee" , formerly known as the Committee of Concerned Luby's Shareholders, consisting of individual shareholders who met on a Yahoo! Finance Message Board in , and is the first grass-roots shareholder group to conduct a formal proxy fight.
Luby's acceded to the Committee's demand that any board of director "BOD" member be allowed to place an item on a board meeting agenda. Previously, only the Chairman or CEO could set agenda items. A member of the Committee, with a legal and computer background, provided services without charge. The Committee's proxy contest efforts revealed the substantial difficulties that individual Shareholders would face in attempting to hold Directors accountable.
Further, it showed that the extent of Shareholder dissatisfaction is not necessarily proportional to the size of stock holdings of Director-candidate nominators. The Committee has responded to SEC requests for comments on various proposed rules, e.
Net, has "re-energized" the "debate over shareholder access to management proxy cards to nominate directors and raise other issues. Fed up with falling prices, Luby's shareholders took matters into their own hands Their coup attempt holds lessons for activist investors. Voices in the Corporate Wilderness " TheStreet. Various publications have printed our Letters to the Editor, e. Several books have mentioned the Committee's efforts, e. When Shareholders try to change a company's direction, sometimes commitment matters more than wealth.
Shareholders expressed gratitude for the Committee's efforts and the Committee expressed its thanks to its supporters. We have entered into an age of widespread investor skepticism over nearly all aspects of corporate governance. Scandals are sapping investor confidence. With the financial shenanigans at Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Tyco, Adelphia, Lucent, Xerox, Qwest, Ahold NV, Peregrine and other public companies permeating the news, many are seeking ways to improve corporate governance and, in particular, Director accountability to Shareholders.
Solutions involving better disclosure and stiffer penalties miss the big picture. Tweaking rules and regulations at the margins will only minimally improve the quality of corporate governance. The powers-that-be will vigorously seek to maintain the status quo. Almost everyone who has previously enjoyed an advantage and is suddenly forced onto a level playing field will feel cheated, treated unfairly, singled out for undeserved punishment.
The real problem with corporate governance is the lack of an effective procedure by which Directors can be held personally accountable for their actions, e. Shareholders the true owners of Corporate America should have the legal right to nominate truly independent Director-candidates and cause the names of those candidates to appear on the Company's ballot. Shareholders put their faith in and entrust their money to directors to manage the company and counter a chief executive if need be.
But when things get tough, boards become captive of executives or bankers or they simply leave. The recent case of Dynegy illustrates this. Rather than stay to fix the mess the directors created, the entire Dynegy board resigned when shareholders rejected its efforts to sell the company. The reasons are interrelated. Too often directors don't have enough skin in the game to push the company in a strong direction. They do not own substantial stock in their companies and face no risk if things go wrong.
Even if directors are given incentives to take strong action, the corporate board is not set up for this type of decision-making. Directors work part time to manage the company. It's tough getting any group to agree on anything, let alone to challenge chief executives.
Boards thus naturally tend to rely on the top executives and advisers. Board collegiality and friendships among directors and with the chief executive often also mean that no director takes a disruptive stance. All these factors work to prevent directors from taking charge of a company or forging their own vision, a sobering thought for those who advocate greater board power. Too often, in my experience, boardrooms are full of directors that still don't understand that they have a fiduciary duty to shareholders at large.
I think we have too much in boardrooms today a feeling that you have kind of a divine right to continue on the Board without anybody challenging that assumption. They think they deserve their steep payouts even when their performance has been far from stellar. Yet, because CEOs have influence over who gets on the board -- the only board slate offered to shareholders is the one proposed by management -- directors are careful not to offend them.
Call it the fear factor: If directors knew they stood a good chance of losing their board seats -- and the prestige and valuable business connections these provide -- unless they aligned themselves with shareholders, they might stop forking over so much and narrow the gap between what CEOs and their managers and employees get.
To get there requires changing corporate laws and practices. As a first step … shareholders gain the power to place director candidates on corporate ballots and to initiate and adopt changes in corporate charters. Under current rules, shareholders can only pass nonbinding resolutions and must wage costly proxy fights to nominate a dissident director slate.
If they can't elect the directors who represent their interests, what can they do? Moreover, strong oversight by shareholders should reduce the need for regulatory oversight. Directors are very much beholden to Management and fellow Directors, as opposed to Shareholders! At a minimum, the breakdown of board accountability has resulted in stock losses for investors.
At worst, it has contributed to corporate wrongdoing. The problem is that beholden and consensual Directors engage in "groupthink" and do not make the best decisions on behalf of Shareholders. Each member of the group tailors his or her view to fit the consensus. Signs of groupthink include the ignoring of expert opinion, selective use of evidence and the illusion of omnipotence.
The price of groupthink is that, at some point, reality intrudes. More critical eyes help root out potential problems and facilitate solutions. Janis, the Yale psychologist, explained how panels of experts could make colossal mistakes. People on these panels, he said, are forever worrying about their personal relevance and effectiveness, and feel that if they deviate too far from the consensus, they will not be given a serious role.
They self-censor personal doubts about the emerging group consensus if they cannot express these doubts in a formal way that conforms with apparent assumptions held by the group.
From my own experience on expert panels, I know firsthand the pressures that people — might I say mavericks? I felt the need to use restraint. I did so very gently, and felt vulnerable expressing such quirky views. Deviating too far from consensus leaves one feeling potentially ostracized from the group, with the risk that one may be terminated.
I feared criticism for gratuitous alarmism. And indeed, such criticism came. The notion that people are making huge errors in judgment is not appealing. In addition, it seems that concerns about professional stature may blind us to what We all want to associate ourselves with dignified people and dignified ideas. People compete for stature, and the ideas often just tag along. In the past two years, however, CEO firings have become commonplace. And it has happened in a stunningly short period of time.
Just a few years ago, CEOs still handpicked most members of their boards, and most boards gave their CEOs a long leash -- or no leash at all. Today's boards look very different. Directors are picked by a nominating committee, not by the CEO. And increasingly, shareholders and their advocates have some say in that selection…. Boards are much less beholden to their CEOs, and much more susceptible to outside pressure, than ever before.
However, since Directors control the proxy machinery and, thus, are not nominated or truly elected by Shareholders, they remain effectively unaccountable.
There are over 14, corporations with publicly traded securities. Events at a few does not a sea change make.
In order to mask details of the secretive process, news releases may vaguely state that the persons were "appoint ed," "joined," "brought on," "called," "chosen," "hired," "interviewed," "recommended" or "recruited.
Even if Shareholders know the details and do not approve of the process by which board members are selected, for all practical purposes, there is currently nothing Shareholders can do to change it.
Those Directors are very much more beholden to the person who brought them to the dance than to Shareholders! Typically, one director alone along with the C. The nominating committee merely vetted. That, as they say, is life. That's Life " What action, if any, did Mr.
Johnson take when he observed that corporate nominating committees were being bypassed? Teslik [former Executive Director, Council of Institutional Investors] cites how difficult it is for shareholders to elect a director other than those handpicked by management even though the directors, in theory, represent the shareholders.
Directors know the score. Yet, while dependent on Management and their fellow Directors for their longevity, Directors still have a fiduciary duty to ALL Shareholders to monitor Management's actions. We were role-playing a board meeting Apparently he liked my answer. He asked me onto the Tyco board. He used "hard-nosed salesmanship" to dispose of the former Directors. One can only wonder what that euphemism really means. But the process required hard-nosed salesmanship. In effect, the entire BOD abandoned the ship.
Tyco's stock price has subsequently increased, but does the end justify the means with every member of the new BOD beholden to Breen? Clarke, chief operating officer of Computer Associates International Inc. Lenzmeier, a Best Buy Co. Scrushy invited him to join its board because they casually knew each other from serving Several months before Mr. Rodek … has hired one new director and is looking for another.
Webster … had until recently headed the auditing committee of a company that was facing fraud accusations…. At the center of the investigation and the suits … is … the company's chairman and chief executive, who recruited Mr.
Webster and other prominent Washington figures to serve on its board The board members included George Mitchell , the former Senate majority leader, and Beth Dozoretz , the former finance chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. When a friend or longtime associate asks you to serve on a board , it's sometimes difficult to ask probing questions.
How Directors Can Shield Themselves" Note that it was "asks you to serve" as opposed to "asks you to apply. The idea that an election by Shareholders is only a mere formality is very ingrained into the mindset of the corporate and news media. Mack began his effort to recruit and promote new talent at Morgan Stanley , he did not have to stray too far a field — or off the fairway, for that matter.
Two of the first directors named to the firm's board last summer are members of Mr. Mack's own club, the Golf Club of Purchase in Westchester County … [W]ith chief executives under increasing pressure to have independent boards, that old temptation to have a few golf pals on the board and in the executive suite might be less acute. Yet the practice appears to be alive and well, if not as visible.
Mack has recruited other directors, as well as executives, who are diverse in makeup and background, and share no recreational ties with the chairman. Ethical handicaps seem to extend beyond the fairways. The Boardroom has become the new 19 th hole for good cheer and fellowship. The word to Shareholders is: Miles … is one of a number of Purcell allies who have left or are expected to leave the board following Mr. John Mack, who succeeded Mr. Purcell on June 30, brought in three new directors last month.
Miles helped cement Mr. Purcell's hold on the CEO job…. Miles is the third Purcell ally to leave the board since the resignation. It might have been instructive had the meaning and background facts of "brought in" and "stepped down" been explored in detail.
Miles, a Morgan Stanley director with close ties to the former chief executive, Philip J. Purcell, has resigned from the board, the bank said yesterday. The move, which was expected, is the latest signal that the new chief executive, John J. Mack, intends to reorganize a board that during the battle over Mr.
Purcell's leadership became a lightning rod for criticism and remains the target of several shareholder lawsuits. Miles was an architect of a board that included several former chief executives, many of whom lived in the Chicago suburbs, who defended Mr.
Purcell in the years after the Dean Witter Morgan Stanley merger. And, if they are not compliant, the Directors could expect that the BOD would be "reorganized" again. Purcell; and John Madigan, former chief executive of Tribune Co. Mack, a North Carolina native, has recast the board, bringing in four outside directors, two of whom have North Carolina ties as well. Roy Bostock, an advertising executive, like Mr. Mack graduated from Duke University and has served as a trustee.
Erskine Bowles is president-elect of the University of North Carolina. Three former Purcell-era directors left the board in September. With yesterday's resignations, only four remain from the group of 10 outside directors elected at the annual meeting in March.
Madigan and Miles L. Marsh … are the latest sign of a fundamental reshaping of the board by the firm's new chief executive, John J. The departure … is an open acknowledgment that all the control levers at Morgan Stanley are now firmly in Mr. Mack has moved quickly to repopulate the board with executives more in his own image. The government-sponsored provider of funding for home loans said Dennis Beresford, an accounting professor at the University of Georgia , Athens , is joining the board and taking over as chairman of the board's audit committee.
A Fannie spokesman declined to comment on whether the expected report from the company's main regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, or Ofheo, was a factor in the board changes. Ofheo's report, recently sent to Fannie's management, is due to be made public Tuesday.
The report is expected to blame the board and senior executives for failing to ensure that Fannie complied with accounting rules. He also is a director of Kimberly-Clark Corp. None of the directors would comment on that. On the other hand, was personal greed the trump card?
There is not the barest pretext that Shareholders are involved in the process, except to rubber stamp those "picked" by the CEO the person supposedly supervised by the BOD.
Frank Zarb left Nasdaq in , Mr. Greenberg asked his friend to join AIG's board, a plum directorship at one of the nation's leading companies. Two Financiers' Long Alliance". Daum, who leads the board practice at the executive search firm Spencer Stuart in New York. The firm says her practice conducts about 60 percent of all board member searches in the United States. Following are excerpts from a recent conversation: So the notion that directors are just captives of C.
I think boards also are very cognizant now of having anything that can be perceived as a conflict. If you and I serve on a board together, it probably means that neither of us should serve on another board with each other.
Boards are very conscious of the concept of interlocking boards. It used to be that's where the ideas for candidates came from. You knew somebody from another board and you'd recommend them. What is an example of a company where the independence of directors has been questioned?
Home Depot is a good example. The relationships among directors, those were not situations where someone was getting compensated by the other. But they were serving on the boards of other organizations. I could be your next-door neighbor and best friend, but I qualify as independent because we don't have a business relationship. I'm not serving on your board.
You're not setting my compensation. We're not doing consulting work together. We would meet the stock exchanges' criteria for independence, but obviously we have a less-than-independent relationship. That's what you can't quantify. Duke had Joel Fleishman , 72 years old, a wine connoisseur who sits on boards of companies run by Duke donors and the parents of Duke students. Fleishman's friendships with Duke donors gave him a valuable entrée into businesses far a field from academia.
Take, for example, Ralph Lauren. Two of the famed designer's children, David and Dylan, graduated from Dalton School in Manhattan in and respectively and enrolled at Duke while Mr. Fleishman ran the fund-raising campaign. Dylan had better grades and SATs in the s. In that era, Duke's average SAT score was close to Fleishman became a director of Polo Ralph Lauren Inc.
He also owned or held options to buy 37, shares of Ralph Lauren stock, worth at least half a million dollars, public filings show. Fleishman also sits on the board of Boston Scientific Corp. His three children graduated from the university. Fleishman sits on more corporate boards "than a lot of people, especially nonpresidents," says J.
David Ross, a former vice president at Duke. Ross says he believes the directorships weren't payback for admissions. Schmidt was elected Tuesday…. Some analysts interpreted the appointment … as an event that could help Apple…. How could mere mortals, e. Stanley O'Neal 's board at Merrill Lynch is largely handpicked. He has recruited people like John D. Finnegan , the chief executive of Chubb and a friend for more than 20 years. The two men worked together in the General Motors treasury department.
O'Neal is also close to another director, Alberto Cribiore, a private equity executive who runs his own firm, Brera Capital. In the late s, Mr. Cribiore came close to persuading Mr. O'Neal to join his nascent private equity firm. Directors also should recognize that their previous hands-off approach didn't work. O'Neal's ruthless response to anyone who challenged his authority might have made sense as he consolidated his position.
Still, it left him holding the firm's top four positions for a time: The directors now have to put one of their own in charge as interim nonexecutive chairman. The nonexecutive chairman post is something they should consider keeping. That might put off some potential CEO candidates. But Merrill's travails stem from inadequate oversight, and a CEO who insists on all the leeway granted Mr.
O'Neal might not be the right choice. The presence of a nonexecutive chairman could reassure investors the board is back on the case. O'Neal, and he was reportedly someone who resisted constructive criticism and stifled genuine debate. In this, he resembles plenty of chief executives, and there's nothing in Sarbanes-Oxley to prevent it. But it's not good governance or effective leadership. As a result, Mr. O'Neal and his board may have failed to engage in the kind of debate that would have prevented this tragedy.
To be specific, what was Merrill's board asking Mr. O'Neal when Merrill was earning record profits on the outsize success of its huge investment in subprime mortgages and related collateralized debt and loan obligations? I know it's hard to ask tough questions in the face of success. It's not a strategy for winning popularity contests. But it's essential in the worlds of business and investing. You can't earn massive returns without assuming tremendous risk.
We now know that was true for Merrill. Amid the big gains in its fixed-income operations, it was assuming far more risk than anyone there apparently realized.
Stephen Gordon , named chairman and chief executive in November, brought in five new directors One person close to the company described him as 'a safe choice,' because he was one of the few GM directors who had run a major industrial company. The decision by President Barack Obama's auto task force to replace most GM directors came amid some pressure by company bondholders and other industry experts who had advised the task force in recent weeks During one meeting, the board was described as 'a collection of failed CEOs,' and the group was blamed for not prompting GM management to move faster in restructuring the company.
Some governance experts consider GM's board fairly weak because it lacks individuals with auto-industry expertise and includes several retirees without recent corporate-management experience. It may be easier to remove directors than to replace them, however. The government may encourage GM to add directors with more automotive or industrial know-how, some observers believe. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Now, the US Calvary is galloping to the rescue. However, the US Calvary, with sabers held high, may lack pertinent experience. Those companies include Citigroup Inc.
Kresa has a deep base of contacts after several years on GM's board, a tenure as chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp. He had planned to rely on his professional network to conduct the search. Kresa choose Spencer Stuart for GM's board search, telling him that the search firm 'can do it quickly,' said a person close to the matter. Kresa he would be contacted by Tom Neff, head of the firm's U.
Neff with marching orders? Gone in the past 10 months are Chairwoman to Its Board" No one explains what "was named" means or by whom she "was named. Should the BOD motto be "Go along and get along or get out before we throw you out"? Chief executives tended to dominate the choice The way we govern now". Mom-and-pop investors could buy shares in celebrity businessman Donald Trump ' s first public company, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts.
Their investments were quickly depleted. None of the original directors responded to requests for comment. One later director was close to Trump: Ivanka Trump was named to the board of directors in , when she was 26 and had been working for two years at her father ' s private company, the Trump Organization. Representatives for Ivanka Trump declined to comment. Ivanka and Donald Trump both resigned from the company in , after Trump declared in a statement that he strongly disagreed with bondholders who had been pushing the company to file again for bankruptcy.
How much were they compensated for their stellar BOD service? It will only be different when the BOD ' s personal assets are on the line.
Countries headed by "imperial CEOs" are known as kleptocracies. Eisner 's harsher board critics vehemently objected and accused the chairman of orchestrating her removal … Directors said the names of the four leaving the board were submitted by the nominating committee, which was acting on the recommendation from Eisner. Stewart , that Mr. Van de Kamp, 'You're a terrible director. You are so loyal to Stanley P.
Gold , it's like you've carried his babies. Van de Kamp, who was not reinstated to the board in a vote of 12 to 4, with 2 abstentions. Minnie is especially fond of him. Disney critical of Mr. Eisner's management style either left or saw their influence diminished. Gold , who was once very influential on the board, was stripped of crucial posts because of his status as the investment adviser to Mr. Eisner has proved himself a skilled corporate politician who has been shrewd about using the idea of better corporate governance as a shield against critics who threaten his reign.
Gold's letter criticized the other directors for serving as a rubber stamp for management, saying that they enacted policies that muzzled dissenters and shielded Mr. Eisner from 'criticism and accountability.
Let is start all over again. In a new report, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. Iger chairman—and criticized it for doing so— without seeking shareholder input.
The report also raised concerns about his compensation. The board's decision to grant Mr. Iger the dual roles is 'an about-face from governance reforms adopted following a highly public 'vote no' campaign at Disney in ,' the report said.
The company subsequently adopted corporate-governance guidelines calling for an independent chairman, 'unless the board concludes that the best interest of shareholders would be otherwise better served.
Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The report also questioned Mr. Dolan replaced three directors with four of his friends this week, corporate governance experts, legal experts and investors cringed. Analysts said it behooved those new directors to take a hard look. Tenet Chairman Edward A. Kangas and two other directors counter that Mr. Nakasone resigned after he was asked to leave because he was disruptive and wasted the board's time. Repeated efforts to revisit decisions and even 'to argue about the minutes' distracted the board, hurt its efficiency and explains 'why we asked him to step off the board,' Mr.
Did Tenet issue a misleading explanation for the resignation? What is inherently wrong about revisiting past decisions? Should it not be for the Shareholders to decide whether a Director's efforts to protect their interests are "disruptive and wasted the board's time"?
Scrushy with 'massive' accounting fraud…. May … and told the director he was going to 'fire' him …. May's efforts to replace certain longtime board members Summers III , a retired president of Coca-Cola of the Southwest, notes he was asked to resign in after 'Jud Alfred "Jud" Schroede r, major shareholder and Chairman of Lancer and I reached an agreement that I wasn't good for the board because I was too independent.
The indictment charged that through 'fraud and outright intimidation, Mr. Lake devised a scheme to loot the company of tens of millions of dollars,' It further contends that the two men forced out board members who objected to executive compensation plans She also complained that management failed to supply board members with sufficient information to make decisions. Wittig, a Kansan who rose to stardom as an investment banker on Wall Street before returning nearly a decade ago with multinational ambitions for Westar.
Wittig's lawyer, said he expected to win the case since most of Mr. Wittig's actions as chief executive were approved by Westar's board. In , it tapped Wittig to head corporate strategy. Wittig resigned at the end of , after a grand jury had subpoenaed corporate records. He demanded tens of millions in unpaid compensation. Westar balked, commissioning a page internal report that detailed much of the alleged wrongdoing in the indictment.
Perhaps, BODs, if they feared any sting of accountability, would adopt the mantra of "trust, but verify" when dealing with the hired help. Chief Executive Officer David Wittig and another executive guilty of looting the electric utility of millions of dollars. Wittig and Lake have denied the charges, saying that their actions were legal, approved by the company's directors, and disclosed in corporate filings.
The three-judge panel ruled that prosecutors presented insufficient evidence to support convictions of former chief executive David Wittig and former executive vice president Douglas Lake , on charges of wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and circumvention of internal financial controls.
In reversing the convictions, the appellate court ruled that all the counts hinged on the government's ability to prove that Messrs. Wittig and Lake tried to hide from the Securities and Exchange Commission their personal use of corporate aircraft. However, the panel said, SEC regulations only require the reporting of such activity when it costs the company an amount above a certain threshold. Because 'the government offered no evidence that the additional cost to Westar of either defendant's personal travel ever exceeded this threshold.
The court ruled that the defendants could not be retried on the fraud or money laundering charges, but that they could be retried on the lesser charges of circumvention of internal controls and conspiracy. The court refused to give the instruction.
There was no evidence that the value of personal travel ever exceeded the reporting threshold. With hindsight, one could observe that the prosecutors really blew it! Grasso had the authority to select those who served on the Compensation Committee. He also regulated most of them. This conflict allowed Grasso to influence directors who might have wanted to pay him less, and to reward directors who would pay him more. For example, one former Compensation Committee member was confronted by Grasso after he had privately expressed concern to Ashen about a component of Grasso's proposed compensation in The director testified that 'he was a little taken [a]back that there was an ear to the committees And when he's kind of indirectly your supervisor or your regulator, you have to be careful.
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