Corporate Governance

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    Shareholders and the choice between exploration and exploitation

Shareholders and the choice between exploration and exploitation

Companies are in a constant battle with one another to innovate and capture market share. As they do so, it is important for them to engage in two competing behaviours: exploration and exploitation.

Exploration is about discovering new opportunities and enhancing learning. This kind of activity is characterised by knowledge creation, risk taking, experimentation, and innovation. In contrast, exploitation leverages […]

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    Employees: the missing link between stakeholder capitalism’s pledges and metrics

Employees: the missing link between stakeholder capitalism’s pledges and metrics

On the eve of the World Economic Forum’s 50th annual meeting in Davos, I wrote about the need for well-intentioned corporations seeking to lead a new era of stakeholder capitalism to convincingly separate themselves from the also-ran. By the end of the week in Davos, I was pleased to see businesses race against each other to forcefully signal their […]

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    Under pressure from consumers and employees, firms now compete for the most fragile commodity: goodwill

Under pressure from consumers and employees, firms now compete for the most fragile commodity: goodwill

The history of business is the history of human beings trading with each other; discovering efficiencies of scale and comparative advantage, creating surplus, investing capital, and building infrastructure. In its purest form, capitalism is a sort of social and cultural glue. It’s about markets and money, trade and competition, risk and reward. It’s about the allocation of resources to […]

Signalling sincerity in stakeholder capitalism

Milton Friedman versus Klaus Schwab – it was a battle between two world views. In 1970, Friedman wrote his seminal essay on the role of the firm effectively arguing that the “business of business is business” and that wider stakeholder considerations can be value-destructive. In 1973, Klaus Schwab’s Davos Manifesto argued that management must also serve employees and society, […]

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    After 2008, the reputation of bankers took a nosedive, but are bankers really that bad?

After 2008, the reputation of bankers took a nosedive, but are bankers really that bad?

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” That’s what Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father and third president of the United States, once said. If that’s true, then you might think that bankers are stuck on the first page, such is the public perception of them.

Following the 2008 global financial crisis, the reputation of bankers took a nosedive. […]

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    Mainstreaming environmental, social and corporate governance

Mainstreaming environmental, social and corporate governance

Businesses in today’s marketplace, in both the financial and non-financial sectors, have to pay attention to the environmental and social impact of what they do, as well as to respect high standards of corporate governance. The group of standards is commonly referred to as ‘ESG’. ESG is now a mainstream activity. President Trump resists. He is mistaken (again).

I see […]

The unexpected effect of high-speed trains on board talent

London-Paris, Barcelona-Madrid, Rome-Bologna – what is common among these city pairs? Surprisingly enough, travelling between these cities is faster by train than by plane. In fact, fast trains connect Europe quite well, allowing passengers to hop from city to city via rail.

Many passengers prefer taking trains over flying. One steps out at the city centre directly, wastes no time […]

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    Why are some executives paid mostly in salary, while others in bonus?

Why are some executives paid mostly in salary, while others in bonus?

In 2016 Dave Barnes, chief information and global business services officer of UPS, received a salary of $491,000 and a bonus payment of $251,000, while Pawan Verma, chief information and customer experience officer at Foot Locker, had a salary of $216,000 and a bonus of $664,000. Why in one case did the CIO receive the majority of his compensation in salary, […]

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    A dose of democracy in corporate governance may help save social media

A dose of democracy in corporate governance may help save social media

Hardly a day goes by without the national or international press publishing negative stories about social networks. Facebook has once more got problems in keeping the data of its more than two billion users under lock and key, or Mark Zuckerberg stands up another parliament in favour of a personal statement. YouTube, acting to protect children, disables the comment […]

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    CEOs’ political ideology influences firms’ internal resource allocation

CEOs’ political ideology influences firms’ internal resource allocation

CEOs in multi-business companies act as internal investors for business units. Our research suggests that they approach resource allocation in one of two very different ways. Liberal-leaning CEOs, seeking collaboration among units, are more likely to favour an even-handed approach when allocating resources. Conservative-leaning CEOs, seeking to spur competition, tend to favour merit-based allocations that may create large disparities […]

Why overpaying chief executives is a bad idea

An economy where the highest paid business leader pockets £265 million for one year’s work, while the number of working families in poverty rises to a 20-year high, is one that needs to address its income gaps.

Denise Coates, the chief executive of gambling group Bet365, has been paid £265 million in 2017 at a time when many of those in […]

Good corporate governance requires diversity

A hallmark of our era of disruption, populism and apparent de-globalisation is the erosion of trust in organisations and institutional systems. Trust is gained through better governance, which in turn is built on transparency, accountability and openness to diversity.

It is no coincidence that both Singapore and the UK issued new codes of corporate governance this year. Reinforcing systems of […]

Who stays longer, male or female CEOs?

Only 5 per cent of major North American firms had a female CEO as of January 2018. (Catalyst)

Clearly women are underrepresented at the top level of corporations, but the reasons for this are less clear. In a recent article, we investigate two different paths to the scarcity of female CEOs:

Women are appointed as CEO less often; and/or
Women are […]

Should companies reward CEOs for being lucky?

A puzzling feature of chief executive officer (CEO) compensation is “pay for luck”. Why are CEOs often rewarded when their firms perform well for reasons that are beyond their control? The dominant advice from academia is to do just the opposite: pay CEOs based on corporate outcomes they can substantially influence, which gives them incentives to make the good […]

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    The antitrust case against Android as viewed by a company insider

The antitrust case against Android as viewed by a company insider

In a recent Vox column, six antitrust consultants describe the European Commission’s case against Android, hailing it as a “milestone” of antitrust for the telecommunications industry (Caffarra et al., 2018).  In fact, it is more of a millstone than a milestone.

The colloquial definition of “millstone” is a “heavy burden”, and of course the case is a burden for Google. But it is […]

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    Board directors are supposed to have broad knowledge, but are they also narrow experts?

Board directors are supposed to have broad knowledge, but are they also narrow experts?

We all know about the experts who know so much about so little, and so little about so much. Scientists and artists are prime examples of specialised occupations whose members are suspected of being impractical in daily life.

Managers, on the other hand, are supposed to have broad and practical knowledge, and to be flexible in what they do. These […]

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    Two wrongs make a right: Why the trans-Atlantic antitrust rift is necessary in the global economy

Two wrongs make a right: Why the trans-Atlantic antitrust rift is necessary in the global economy

Less than week after the European Commission hit Google with a record £3.9 billion fine for abusing its dominant position in Android, Google’s quarterly earnings report came in: a noticeable dip in profits — down to $2.8 billion from the expected $7.8 billion—but a rise in share price—up almost 6 per cent.

Investors seemed to shrug off the giant fine […]

Gun control activism reaches the corporate boardroom

It was the first meeting of a publicly traded gun company following the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead and sparked a wave of anti-gun activism. And the shareholders of Sturm Ruger delivered a surprise.

A coalition of Catholic nuns backed by the giant asset management firm BlackRock pushed through a proposal – over management […]

Why CEOs misbehave

Sometimes CEOs misbehave. This misbehaviour has terrible consequences for the CEO, the organisation and society, yet still – they do it. Recent estimates suggest that fraud, a specific type of wrongdoing, results in a loss of 5 per cent of sales for a typical company every year and a global loss of about $3.7 trillion. With such clear consequences, […]

How the WPP board bungled Martin Sorrell’s departure

At first sight, Martin Sorrel’s departure from Wire and Plastic Products (WPP) — the company he founded and grew into an industry-changing and defining global force — underlines the importance and significance of independent-minded supervision of executive boards by non-executive directors. To many it appeared that the WPP board behaved impeccably when they appointed external legal advisors to investigate […]