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Independent directors: really, what can we expect?

20 July 2011

The News Corp disaster has many victims already (and the body count is only mounting) but so far none of them are non-executive directors. Lucy Marcus raises a really important issue about non-execs in a blog on Harvard Business Review’s website:

“News Corporation and the actions — or as some would note, the inactions — of its board highlight several important directions in the way that boardrooms need to be, and indeed are, moving. No longer will boards be able to conduct themselves behind closed doors without consequences. Investors have been loath to make waves when all was going well, but with the banking crises, HP, and now News Corp, investors are waking up to the fact that it is better to make changes in the good times than to be caught without trunks when the tide goes out.”

Amen, Lucy.

And what does the non-exec director bring to the change process? Independence, transparency, asking the right questions. Really, it should be light in a dark world. If the non-execs fail to do this, then they are failing the company and its stakeholders (just ask the employees of the defunct News of the World if you think only investors are interested in good performance from the non-execs!).

Recommended reading.

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