As we emerge from the crisis, there will be a temptation to over-learn lessons. The old system socialized risk and privatized gain. In our rush to reverse the damages wrought by this imbalance, there are many proposals (some of them already implemented) that bureaucratize decision-making and sharply limit private gain. There's the application of Sarbanes-Oxley to venture-capital firms, which has been neither effective nor useful, and has perhaps inhibited capital flows. And we have already added a federal "pay czar" to determine compensation for bailed-out bankers.I strongly agree with the points above. I also wonder what the role of the boards of directors will now play? Should they begin to do their jobs as regulators now? Had they done their job we could have averted a major financial crisis. Instead, they seemed to have sat back and collected fat fees and expected taxpayers to bail their companies when they should have been regulating and acting as a governing body.
But, once again, we’re missing the opportunity. Instead of adding bureaucracy, we should be using the government to help invigorate shareholders to police companies. They should be empowered to control executive compensation, eliminating all the conflicts that now encumber those decisions.
Shareholders, like all stakeholders, will make a better determination about the use of their capital than bureaucrats who don’t ever suffer the downside of a bad investment. We need to facilitate opportunities for shareholders to actually participate in key decisions, and to deny those whose interests are not aligned from hijacking them. Strangely, we’ve heard a lot about executives and bureaucrats in this moment of reform. But shareholders, a force integral to the integrity and vitality of markets, have largely been left out of the discussion. We need them now more than ever.
What's really sad is that many board of directors of bailout banks and auto companies themselves have run major corporations and should have discerned certain pitfalls. Isn't this the reason that they sit on their asses for nearly the whole year and go to meetings once or twice a year, collecting fat fees for their "knowledge?"