Don’t Put Investors in Charge of Governance

Published in the Financial Times

In the wake of his attempt to identify a whistleblower, some have called for the resignation of Barclays’ Jes Staley while others argue he should stay on (Barclays chief censured for attempt to identify whistleblower, April 10th, 2017). This debate is particularly timely in view of the governments ongoing review of corporate governance standards.

Were our recommendations ​​on corporate governance to be implemented, Mr Staley would not lose his position unless the company’s Board deemed him unfit to continue. Nobody is infallible and mistakes happen. Instead, this episode would lead to his name being on a register held by a Governance Standards Body. Two more corporate governance failures at the bank and he would be banned from holding any directorship for five years.

You also quote Shore Capital’s Gary Greenwood as arguing against Mr Staley’s dismissal since it would be damaging to further operational progress at Barclays. This response highlights what we also warned against – making investors the sole custodians of corporate governance standards. Investors are not a homogeneous group and some, maybe even many, will always prioritise operational performance over upholding governance standards. Delegating the policing of governance standards to investors and investor groups puts the fox in charge of the hen house. It is highly unlikely to lift standards.

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