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Ronald O'Hanley of State Street Global Advisors speaks about the importance of active asset stewardship.
A daylong symposium
on corporate governance, held at the University of Delaware on March 7,
focused on issues identified as critically important to boards of
directors and investors with the topic of gender diversity singled out
for special consideration by both keynote speakers.
The 2017 symposium was hosted by the Universitys John L. Weinberg
Center for Corporate Governance and co-hosted by the UD Department of
The event began with a talk by the John L. Weinberg Distinguished
Speaker, Ronald P. OHanley, president and CEO of State Street Global
Advisors (SSGA). SSGA is the investment management arm of State Street
Corporation and a global leader with $2.4 trillion in assets under
The talk, titled Long-Term Value Begins at the Board: The Power and
Potential of Active Asset Stewardship, centered on SSGAs focus on
effective, independent board leadership.
OHanley discussed the need for boards to resist pressures to
sacrifice long-term value creation for short-term results, the crucial
role of asset managers in encouraging good corporate governance and the
need to incorporate issues of environmental and social sustainability
The symposium occurred the same day which happened to be the eve of
International Womens Day that SSGA publicly called on the 3,500
companies in which it invests its clients money to increase the number
of women on their corporate boards. In his Weinberg Center talk,
OHanley emphasized that effort by SSGA, saying that having more diverse
boards has been proved to benefit companies.
We think boards that embrace a broader range of perspectives are
more likely to avoid groupthink and achieve better outcomes, he told
the symposium audience. While we believe in and support board diversity
on principle, we have been especially focused on gender diversity for a
simple reason: Because of the compelling research connecting greater
gender diversity with better performance.
OHanley cited a Conference Board report suggesting that the new
perspectives women directors bring to a board is the main reason for
Notwithstanding this growing evidence, there are still far too few women serving on corporate boards, he said.
Its not only at the board level where gender diversity matters.
Evidence is also mounting that shows companies with higher levels of
gender diversity in their senior leadership outperform companies with
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Joann S. Lublin of The Wall Street Journal signs copies of her book about executive women, "Earning It."
The theme of corporate boards and gender diversity was continued in a
luncheon address by Joann S. Lublin, management news editor for The Wall Street Journal.
Lublin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the Journals first women reporters, is the author of the book Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World.
The book profiles more than 50 executive women who broke the
corporate glass ceiling, and in her talk at UD Lublin particularly
focused on some of their accounts of serving or unsuccessfully seeking
to serve on corporate boards. Despite their own career successes,
many women found in the past that they were not even considered for
seats on boards.
Today, Lublin said, The picture is a lot brighter, though not perfect.
With more women serving on boards, they are in a position to open
doors for others when directorships become available, Lublin said. But
still, she noted, four out of five board seats at Fortune 500 companies
are occupied by men, and too many male directors fail to recognize the
benefit of adding women to their boards.
Many executive women still feel excluded from corporate boards,
Lublin said, calling for a concerted effort by men and women to
implement change and create more gender diversity to benefit companies
Diversity of thought leads to diversity of outcome, she said.
Following OHanleys opening talk, a panel that included
representatives from the corporate and investor communities discussed
current governance issues.
Each of the nine panelists shared what he or she considered to be of
critical importance to boards and investors in 2017. The discussion was
moderated by Charles M. Elson, Edgar S. Woolard Jr. Chair in Corporate
Governance, director of the Weinberg Center and professor of finance at
Topics raised by the panel included the Commonsense Principles of
Corporate Governance, a document issued in July by a group of 13 CEOs
from some of the largest public companies and leaders from asset
managers and pension and mutual funds, setting out guidelines for best
practices in how public companies should be run.
A panel of experts, moderated by Charles Elson (far right), discusses current issues in corporate governance.
Panelists also discussed the more recent release of a set of
comprehensive stewardship and governance principles by the Investor
Stewardship Group, a consortium of large institutional investors and
asset managers that in aggregate invest over $17 trillion in the U.S.
Speakers on the panel cited the importance of having members of
boards of directors represent a diversity of expertise and background.
In recent years, and especially since the 2008 financial crisis, boards
have been seen as playing a more significant role than they once did.
Boards today are viewed as partners with company management, they
said, not just monitoring and overseeing corporate actions but actively
participating in setting business strategy.
The panel consisted of OHanley; Lublin; Amy Bilbija, managing
director, Strategic Governance Advisors; Glenn Booraem, principal of the
Vanguard Group Inc. and treasurer of each of the Vanguard Funds; H.
Rodgin Cohen, senior chairman, Sullivan and Cromwell LLP; Abe M.
Friedman, CEO, CamberView Partners; Brian L. Schorr, partner and chief
legal officer, Trian Fund Management LP; Linda E. Scott, managing
director and associate corporate secretary, JP Morgan Chase and Co.; and
Myron T. Steele, partner, Potter Anderson and Corroon LLP, and former
chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court.
Also at the symposium, three academic papers that had been selected
as finalists from numerous submissions in response to a Call for Papers
were presented, and the Best Paper award was announced.
The award was presented for Captured Boards: The Rise of Super
Directors and the Case for a Board Suite, by Kobi Kastiel of the
Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and Yaron Nili of the
University of Wisconsin Law School.
The other finalists were The Golden Leash and the Fiduciary Duty of
Loyalty, by Greg Shill of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate
Governance, and Affiliated Corporate Donations and Director
Independence, by Ye Cai of Santa Clara University, Jin Xu of Virginia
Tech and Jun Yang of Indiana University.
The John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance, part of the
University of Delawares College of Arts and Sciences, was established
It is one of the longest-standing corporate governance centers in
higher education and the only center in the state of Delaware, which is
the legal home for most U.S. corporations.
The Weinberg Center provides a forum for business leaders, the legal
community, academics, practitioners, students and others interested in
corporate governance to meet, interact, learn and teach, with the goal
of positively impacting and improving the field of corporate governance.
It also brings together professionals in corporate governance, law and
accounting for conferences and symposia on critical issues.
In welcoming the audience of more than 250 to the 2017 Corporate
Governance Symposium, Myron Steele, chair of the centers advisory
board, said the center plays an important role as a forum for rational
discourse about issues in corporate governance, past, present and
Article by Ann Manser; photos by Duane Perry