Davos: Seven years laterYvan Allaire | Corpgov.net
There is a Chinese proverb that says He who knows he has enough is rich; but the modern Western version of the saying seems to be: One never has enough; I deserve more; or There is always someone who has more.
Over the last years, we have built a system of incentives and motives so powerful that it overwhelmed values. Ethics is the resistance of values under pressure. But there is a breaking point. Enough pressure will grind values down. Heroes and saints do what they think is right whatever the costs and consequences for them. Most mortals, mes semblables, mes frères, dirait Baudelaire, are suspended in webs of motives and meanings they themselves have spun. We must understand how we have come to spin this web and learn to spin a new one.
There is something special about this panel. I am surrounded by representatives of very successful organizations: a banking cooperative (Grameen Bank), a professional partnership (Deloitte), a faith-based transformational organization (Sojourners), a large family-owned company (Bettersman); a publicly listed corporation with a stable network of shareholders (Takeda Pharmaceuticals); a publicly listed corporation with a controlling shareholder (Thomson-Reuters).
As I am sure my fellow panelists will testify, in all these organizations, values of trust and loyalty as well as a long-term perspective are alive and well. But what, or who is missing at this table? Precisely, the most prevalent type of corporations in several countries; that is:
- Stock exchange listed corporations ‘owned’ by a large number of ever-changing, transient funds, many with short-term performance goals as well as a bunch of share-flippers (the average holding period of shares of companies listed on the NYSE or NADAQ is now some 7 months);
- Governed by directors who are thoroughly ‘independent’ but often lack legitimacy and credibility;
- Managed by a mobile executive class motivated by stock options and other compensation schemes to work exclusively for these short-term shareholders;
- Surrounded by speculators, hedge funds and various financial operators free to play all sorts of lucrative games with the company’s shares and debt.