Monday, February 12, 2007
Kudos For The Corporate Library
At the links below you will find the website of The Corporate Library, several references to it in the mainstream press, and an interview in CFO Magazine with the founder of The Corporate Library, Nell Minow. Nell Minow is an attorney, educated at the University of Chicago Law School, who has been a shareholder activist for nearly twenty years. At the CFO interview states, in the past her "calls for reforming corporate governance have often been spurned by companies and ignored by shareholders." This is not so anymore. For the last several years, Minow's brainchild, The Corporate Library, has become an indispensable source of information about the abuse of executive compensation in America. Identifying itself on its own website as "the leading independent source for U.S. corporate governance and executive & director compensation information and analysis", The Corporate Library provides research to corporations, investors, academic institutions and journalists. It has been a beacon of light in a decade benighted by corporate greed.
Characterizing herself as an "anthropologist of boards", Minow has become intensely familiar with what goes in corporate boardrooms, who their members are, and what their strengths and shortcomings might happen to be. Although corporate board members tend to be skilled "consensus-builders", those very talents can predispose them to a conciliatory mindset that makes them unlikely to stand up to a domineering CEO. CEOs "still pretty much control the nomination" for members. Moreover, the pool of individuals from which board members are drawn is ultimately a small and incestuous one. According to Minow, the interconnectedness of board members "makes the [six degrees of] Kevin Bacon game look like nothing. Out of the 20,000 directors in our database, you can get from any one to almost any other one in no more than two or three steps." The result is a culture pervaded with conflict of interest that ensnares board members like a web, and induces them to act against the interests of the shareholders they are supposed to represent.
Ms. Minow believes monitoring corporate governance will influence the behavior of board members for the better. Alluding evocatively to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, she says, "boards are like subatomic particles - they behave differently when they are being observed." Let us hope that the sharp eyes of The Corporate Library are fixed on them for a long time to come.
The Corporate Library website
The Corporate Library blog
"Web of board members ties together Corporate America" from USA Today
"The Corporate Library Announces the Addition of Nearly 1,000 Companies to its Coverage Universe" from PRWeb
The Corporate Library's Director Pay Survey
"Scrutiny of executive windfalls intensifies" from The Christian Science Monitor"The Prime of Ms. Nell Minow" from CFO Magazine