Modern Etiquette: Mind your corporate governance manners

by Mary Mitchell for Reuters, July 11th, 2011.

Not long ago I read a story in an internationally-respected publication which described how corporate annual meetings, in an effort to avoid in-person shareholder dissent, hold their meetings at geographically undesirable, inconvenient sites.

I am getting tired of stories about big-name corporations and the games they play. I am getting tired of hearing about some very arrogant, greedy, and downright rude individuals.

I am a shareholder, too.

Sadly, these rude individuals – the corporate executives, directors, lawyers, accountants – need to be reminded of noblesse oblige, or that rank, their rank specifically, compels obligation. Remembering this would help bring into focus their duties and responsibilities.

Good manners are about treating others the way we want to be treated. An individual with good manners is responsible for his conduct and the consequences of his behavior. Individuals with good manners define themselves by their actions.

Is it not rude to think only of oneself? Yet is that not what happens when corporate officers report inaccurate financial results, engage in self-dealing, and are less than candid with the board, outside constituents, etc..?

The damage from bad governance is direct and swift:

1. Stockholders, who through their elected directors chose the executives leading the companies whose shares they own, stand to lose on their equity investments.

2. Employees, whose jobs, work environment, and life security are entrusted to the executives, pay for the executives’ lack of good manners with their jobs, their pensions, or sometimes even their lives.

3. Directors, who are financially and personally responsible for the business conduct of the executives, lose when the bad judgments and their consequences surface. (continue reading… )

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