In his entreaty to his fellow senators to support his Shareholder Bill of Rights Act of 2009, Charles Schumer notes that “one of the central causes of the financial and economic crises… is the widespread failure of corporate governance.” As he summarizes it, “too many corporate boards neglected their most fundamental responsibility—to prioritize the long-term health of their firms and their shareholders, and oversee management accordingly.”
Unfortunately, Schumer’s words are also directed to a public that has precious little understanding of what directors do. Accustomed to carrying out their duties behind closed doors, directors must recognize that they are no longer invisible. Investors, who now include taxpayers, are all too willing to accept the image that Sen. Schumer and the media have portrayed. Smart boards are not only adjusting their activities to bring greater focus to risk management and oversight in the current crisis but finding ways to better use their board time in dialogue and discussion to ensure long-term shareholder value. This is a time of credible actions and the communication that plainly describes the actions boards are taking.