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21st century governance challenge

Pandemic and political crises reveal new role and challenges for business

The current pandemic and growing climate crises have thrown into sharp relief the critical role large firms now play in society, not just as economic entities, but as key social institutions and political actors. A decade ago, would we have imagined a scenario where business organizations are on the front lines of the fight to preserve democracy and to remove a president from office? (“This is chaos,” a statement from the conservative American Manufacturers Association read. “This is sedition and should be treated as such. The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power.”) Would we have anticipated…

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FT ODX panel confronts the 21st century corporate governance challenge

What are the implications for corporate governance in an environment where firms are being looked to as “social institutions,” sharing with governments the responsibility to ensure elements of social welfare and well-being? This is the question considered at a panel session moderated by the Financial Times’s Billy Nauman, entitled “New Models of Corporate Governance,” part of the FT’s Outstanding Directors Exchange (ODX), a platform that brings together sitting directors of public companies to discuss strategic boardroom issues. Panelists Chris Pinney, President of High Meadows Institute, Peggy Foran, CGO of Prudential Financial and a Director at Orion Group Holdings and Sheila…

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ESG in a Post-COVID World

The COVID-19 crisis marks an inflection point in the evolution of ESG. On the one hand, it has provided proof once and for all that ESG is here to stay, as investors pour money into ESG funds that are significantly outperforming their peers in the market downturn. On the other, it has heightened public scrutiny of companies and expectations for their social performance. What does this mean for ESG?  It means moving beyond a model of ESG that is still focused primarily on minimizing harm and what Unilever CEO Alan Jope refers to as “seductive incrementalism” – creating change on the…

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Introducing the newest HMI Fellow, Jon Lukomnik

The High Meadows Institute is pleased to welcome Jon Lukomnik as a senior fellow of the Institute. Jon has had a long and distinguished career in the investment management industry and is one of the pioneers of modern corporate governance. He has written and published over 200 academic and practitioner articles on how to strengthen the contribution and accountability of the financial systems and asset management industry. He is the past executive director of the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) Institute, whose research has been widely praised for objectively examining fundamental corporate governance and capital market issues. He is a…

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The End of Sovereignty: The Challenge to Investors

This year, there have been many important developments in the discussion on the role of investors in corporate responsibility and leadership in a global society. In the spring PGIM, the global investment management businesses of Prudential Financial, Inc. (PFI) and one of the top 10 largest global investment firms, issued a provocative paper titled The End of Sovereignty, on globalization, nationalism and the implications for institutional investors. The paper explores how the sovereignty of nation-states is now challenged by the forces of globalization and technology beyond their direct control. It notes that 70 of the top 100 global “economies” are…

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Is It Time to Rethink Corporate Governance?

  For the last fifty years, the mandate and role for corporate governance have been set within well-defined boundaries, in which the business of business was business and the well-being of society was the responsibility of governments. This paradigm was summed up succinctly in 1970 by economist Milton Friedman who noted, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game.” Today, thanks to globalization and the international economy, we live in a world in…

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Recommended Reading

What the Wells Fargo Crackdown Signals to Corporate America The Federal Reserve’s recently imposed penalties on Wells Fargo diverge from President Trump’s stated position on de-regulation. However, Peter Henning of the New York Times sees the “crackdown” as a one-off penalty and not a sign of broader industry regulation to come.   Unilever Threatens to Reduce Ad Spending on Tech Platforms That Don’t Combat Divisive Content Unilever, long viewed as a leader in corporate social responsibility, recently announced that the company will no longer advertise on platforms that are not “committed to creating a positive impact in society.” The company…

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BlackRock’s Larry Fink Redefines the Rules of the Game for Business

For the last 47 years, since September 1970, financial markets have been guided by the maxim articulated by Milton Friedman on the “rules of the game” for business. “There is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” On January 18th this maxim was overturned by the CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest institutional investor. In his letter to CEOs, Larry Fink said, “Society…

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Recommended Reading

BlackRock Message: Contribute to Society or Risk Losing Our Support Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock (the largest investor in the world), is sending a letter to the world’s largest public companies letting them know that in addition to turning a profit, they have to show that they are doing good in the world to receive BlackRock’s support–and a share of its $6 trillion AUM. In the letter, Fink shares HMI’s perspective that government is not doing enough to prepare for future and the onus now rests on the private sector to address societal challenges. Wall Street Fighters, Do-Gooders—And Sting—Converge…

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Is it Time for Guaranteed Annual Income?

As we move further into the 21st century, a technologically-driven transformation is starting to take hold that will challenge our current economic model for distributing income in society. The key driver for this transformation is the rapid growth of machine intelligence, which is now poised to radically reduce capital’s dependence on human labor. According to David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied the loss of middle-class jobs to technology, “It will be harder and harder to find things that people have a comparative advantage in versus machines.” The impact of replacing workers with machines, coupled…

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