Latest news of a government commission to limit its consultation to listed companies will further diminish the impact of this initiative as well as give time for foot-dragging voices of discontent grow to storm force.
Independent Director advocate and evangelist Gerry Brown strongly questions May’s tactics but not her strategic aims since more reform and grit in the boardroom oyster is well overdue. With ongoing scandals driven by cosy cultures or poor to non-existent levels of governance at board level, Brown suggests addressing the current make-up of boards via the appointment of properly independent non-execs is the best but also an uncontroversial cost-effective solution. “After scandals too numerous to list, the time for boards to mark their own homework is long overdue to be over. But why is the Prime Minister doing coming over all Citizen Smith and embarking on the time-wasting wild goose chase of worker representation at board level?”
Brown continues, “These current proposals look good on paper, sound like action but, though laudable, make little or no difference in practice*. Did extensive worker representation head off scandal at board level at VW? Whatever code of conduct or legislation is finally implemented – many years down the line – will be both controversial and as effective as a chocolate fireguard. Worker representation will provide window-dressing but do almost nothing to address or deal with the ongoing scandals and governance issues on our company boards.”
“Rather than delay much needed culture change at board level further, what Theresa May really needs to do is get greater shareholders activism to ensure boards are held to account and embrace greater diversity. If legislation is required then it should be to ensure that all executive directors and non-executive directors gain formal accredited qualifications for their roles. These steps are eminently more effective in reducing the cosy cultures and group think that so often leads to scandal. Insistence upon properly qualified directors should be part of any proper programme of action undertaken by the Prime Minister.”
Gerry Brown’s book The Independent Director: The Non-Executive Director’s Guide to Effective Board Presence is available from Palgrave Macmillan