Board Members and Conflicts of Interest

News that Peter Brabeck, Chairman of Nestle and member of the board of Credit Suisse has borrowed a total of Sfr 14 million from the bank that paid him a total of Sfr 500,000 last year highlights the potential for conflicts of interests when a board member has senior positions in companies that are doing business together. In the days of the 'Old Boy Network' it was easy and convenient to invite people to sit on one's board as one knew them already and could be confident that they would see their role more as friendly advisor rather than as objective controller. Pro-Governance repeatedly warns that the practice of board members being selected by exactly the people they are supposed to supervise is deeply incestuous. When a board member is connected to a financial institution and a company that is in business contact (as client or investor) the possibilities for abuse multiply.

Pension Risk transfers - who monitors the Risk?

A report by Hymans Robertsons documents the trend in the United Kingdom towards shifting the risk borne by companies offering final salary pensions to insurance companies and banks. One can only hope that these companies are ready to survive the next financial tsunami. While they may be more stable in the long run than the companies that originally stood behind the pension obligations one has to wonder who really has the interest of the pensioners at heart. The companies on both sides of these transactions will above all be interested in the short-term boost to their profits, the managements will focus on the boost to their bonuses and will long be gone if ever one of these transfers runs into trouble. And the regulators? I think we all know the answer.