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Indra Nooyi (center), former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, was the
John L. Weinberg Distinguished Speaker at the symposium. Joining her were, from left,
Weinberg Center Associate Director Ann Mule, Weinberg Center Director
Charles M. Elson, UD President Dennis Assanis and College of Arts and
Sciences Interim Dean John A. Pelesko.
Indra Nooyi, the
former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, had some words of advice for current
and future business leaders at the University of Delaware on March 20:
Competence. Curiosity. Courage. Confidence.
Developing and relying on such qualities, in addition to critically
important communications skills, is essential to success, she told the
audience at a symposium organized by UDs John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance.
And remember to be a lifelong learner, she advised the students in attendance, adding, Im still a student today.
Nooyi, who has won acclaim for her highly successful 12 years at the
helm of PepsiCo and for her advocacy of corporate social responsibility,
shared another thought about leadership.
Never forget that running a corporation is an enormous
responsibility, she said not just to the companys financial bottom
line but also to its long-term impact on employees, customers, the
environment and society.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
UD President Dennis Assanis welcomes the audience.
University President Dennis Assanis welcomed a record crowd of about
350 to the annual event and thanked Nooyi and the symposiums other
speakers and panelists for their participation.
Im looking forward to hearing their thoughts and insights into the
very important topic of good corporate governance, he said, noting that
the education of UD students is enhanced by having access to such
The Weinberg Center is an important part of the University of
Delaware, Assanis said. Theyve developed a deep expertise in
corporate governance, and theyre known for their thought leadership and
In her conversation with Elson, who is the Edgar S. Woolard Jr. Chair
in Corporate Governance and a professor of finance at UD, Nooyi also
spoke about some of her work in transforming PepsiCo, where she was one
of the few female chief executives of a Fortune 500 company. During her
tenure, PepsiCo grew net revenue more than 80 percent, and the companys
total shareholder return was 162 percent.
She led initiatives to develop healthier snack foods and beverages,
and the company experienced an 80 percent growth in sales under her
leadership. Nooyi often described herself as a consumer as well as an
executive, saying that she visited grocery stores and took note of
PepsiCos packaging and other features.
Indra Nooyi speaks at the Weinberg Center symposium.
Asked by Elson whether the company had changed consumer preferences
or if those new preferences had changed PepsiCo, Nooyi replied, Both.
While traditional Pepsi was once the top beverage choice of the
companys customers, that shifted over several recent years to
sugar-free soda and then to bottled water, she said.
The writing was on the wall, she said about the need for the
company to change its strategy and its product offerings. If thats not
consumer shift, what is?
She and Elson also spoke about the need for corporations to invest in
their long-term success and discussed the responsibilities of boards of
Since stepping down as PepsiCos chief executive in October,
Nooyi has joined the board of Amazon.
Ive been on both sides of the divide as a CEO and a board member, she said. Its very important to understand the roles.
Nooyis talk was followed by special speaker Robert J. Jackson
Jr., a commissioner with the Securities and Exchange Commission, who
spoke about such issues as dual-class stock and cybersecurity, then
fielded questions and comments from the audience.
SEC Commissioner Robert J. Jackson Jr. (left) takes questions from the audience and from Charles Elson.
Dual-class stock, in which companies issue different types of shares
that have different voting rights, has been criticized for giving
disproportionate control to a relatively small number of investors.
Jackson said hes taken a more nuanced view that such structures might
work for a finite period of time but should probably not continue
through generations of shareholders.
He also spoke about his concern that companies experiencing data
breaches often dont inform investors in a clear or accessible way about
the details of what happened. The information may be posted on a
website but not be easy to find, he said.
Do we really want some people to be better informed than others? Jackson asked on behalf of ordinary investors.
Discussions of issues such as dual-class stock continued during a
panel discussion in which experts in various aspects of corporate
governance cited issues they felt were currently of critical importance
to investors and boards of directors. Those issues included the
structure and diversity of boards, corporate environmental and social
responsibility and the rights of shareholders.
Aeisha Mastagni, portfolio manager for the California State Teachers
Retirement System, said her members are focused on such issues as
low-carbon investments and diversity on corporate boards.
We know its not our job to tell them how to run their company, but were asking hard questions, she said.
Panelist Myron T. Steele, a partner at Potter, Anderson and Corroon
LLP and former chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, said the
concept of ESG (an emphasis on environmental, social and governance
issues) is revolutionizing the role of boards and their relationship
Financial journalist, author and former Wall Street trader William D. Cohan delivers the luncheon address at the event.
Thoughtful investors are interested in these issues, he said, so corporations must address them in order to be successful.
Other members of the panel, which was moderated by Elson, were: Glenn
Booraem, investment stewardship officer and a principal with Vanguard;
Steve Odland, president and CEO of The Conference Board; and Eric
Shostal, vice president, investor stewardship team, with BlackRock.
The symposium also featured a lively luncheon talk by William D.
Cohan, New York Times best-selling author, special correspondent at
Vanity Fair and a former senior Wall Street mergers and acquisitions
banker. He has written three nonfiction books about Wall Street.
Cohan summarized his in-depth reporting for Vanity Fair about the
CBS-Viacom merger and the continuing fight for control over the
companies. He detailed some of the personal, financial and family
intrigue that has characterized the years-long battles in courtrooms and
boardrooms involving billionaire media mogul Sumner Redstone and his
daughter, Shari, including issues that arose in this fight related to
The John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance, part of the
College of Arts and Sciences, is nearing its 20th year at the University
Founded in 2000, it is one of the longest-standing corporate
governance centers in academia and the only one in the state of
Delaware, the legal home for a majority of the nations public
In his opening remarks at this years Corporate Governance Symposium,
Assanis said the University is proud of the centers work. He cited the
fact that it is now the successor organization to the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute and has a partnership with the Investor Stewardship Group.
Indra Nooyi chats with some of those attending the corporate governance symposium in Clayton Hall.
At UD, we see it as our mission to be this kind of intellectual
intersection where academic research meets real-world challenges to
create sustainable and socially responsible solutions, he said.
John A. Pelesko, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, also welcomed the symposium participants and audience.
He noted the important research the center does in areas of corporate
governance and capital markets, while providing a range of educational
opportunities for UD students.
The Weinberg Center is increasingly positioned to address these important issues, Pelesko said.
The Corporate Governance Symposium was co-sponsored by the Weinberg
Center and by the Department of Finance in UDs Alfred Lerner College of
Business and Economics.
The annual symposium included a presentation and discussion of
academic papers, which were selected from work submitted from around the
Honored with the Best Paper Award was Audit Process, Private Information, and Insider Trading,
by Salman Arif and Joseph Schroeder, both of the Kelley School of
Business at Indiana University, and John Kepler and Daniel Taylor
(presenter), both of the Wharton School at the University of
Pennsylvania. Taylor is a 2003 UD alumnus, with a degree in finance and
economics, and a former student of Elsons.
Leading the discussion of that paper was W. Robert Knechel of the University of Floridas Fisher School of Accounting.
The other papers presented at the symposium were:
Investors Attention to Corporate Governance,
by Peter Iliev, Penn State University; Jonathan Kalodimos, Oregon State
University; and Michelle Lowry (presenter), Drexel University;
discussed by Alan Crane, Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice
Investor-Driven Governance Standards and Firm Value,
by Yonca Ertimur, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Paige Patrick
(presenter), University of Washington; discussed by Fei Xie, Alfred
Lerner College of Business and Economics, University of Delaware.
Shareholder Voting on Golden Parachutes: Determinants and Consequences,
by Albert H. Choi (presenter), University of Virginia Law School;
Andrew C.W. Lund, John F. Scarpa Center for Law and Entrepreneurship,
Villanova Universitys Charles Widger School of Law; and Robert
Schonlau, Farmer School of Business, Miami University; discussed by John
White, Cravath Swaine and Moore.
Article by Ann Manser; photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Evan Krape