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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Apparent Gains in Corporate Governance Accountability as the U.S. Economy Shifts

In 2016, Sacred Heart University purchased G.E.’s headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut for $31.5 million. Gone were the Persian rugs and lavish artwork. The property acquired included the “Guest House,” the company’s 28-room hotel “to serve visiting executives and others, with no expense spared on the parquet floors, wood-burning fireplaces and a Steinway piano.”[1] Jack Welsh oversaw the ornate construction, leading to the obvious question of just what his sense of fiduciary duty to the company’s stockholders was. An artificial distinction between managers—only some being styled “executives”—was doubtless behind the luxuriant excess only for those certain employees “in the club.” From the standpoints of a board and its stockholders, “executives,” managers, and other employees are all employees. Why then should some of them be associated with luxury while they are at work? Historically, the aristocratic luxuriated precisely because those people didn’t have to work, and more importantly, they viewed work (and even their own money) as not worthy of much attention—there being finer things in life. “Executive” employees are not aristocratic, for they labor even when they could live off their accumulated wealth and pursue loftier aims, such as aiding humanity, furthering knowledge, or engaging in the arts with an eye toward advancing civilization. Bill Gates got this memo; Warren Buffett did not.


The full essay is at "Corporate Governance Accountability."





[1] Nelson D. Schwartz, “The Decline of the Baronial C.E.O.,” The New York Times, June 17, 2017.