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Money for Nothing: How the Failure of Corporate Boards Is Ruining American Business and Costing Us Trillions [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

John Gillespie , David Zweig , Mel Foster

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Book Description

Feb. 1 2010
Of the world's two hundred largest economies, more than half are corporations. They have more influence on our lives than any other institution, but while boards of directors are supposed to police CEOs and provide independent leadership, they have become enabling lapdogs rather than trustworthy watchdogs. As America contends with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, all eyes are turning to the corporate leaders who have perpetrated such egregious failures, padding their own pockets with grossly inflated pay packages even as their businesses fall to ruin, asking, How could things have gone so terribly wrong? How could the stewards of American business—who are supposed to be the gold standard of the global economy—turn out to be so incompetent?

Taking readers right into the boardrooms and behind the scenes of the lavish C-Suites, John Gillespie and David Zweig have interviewed a host of upper-echelon managers and board members at leading companies, from Exxon and Citigroup and Home Depot to Countrywide, to shine a glaring light on the clubby culture of the business elite. The book reveals just how the machinations of good governance have broken down, replaced by a compromised system plagued by greed and see-no-evil culpability, and also reports on a handful of pioneering companies who are bold leaders in corporate reform, offering powerful proof that the system most certainly can be fixed.

Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor; Library - Unabridged CD edition (Feb. 1 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400145538
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400145539
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 17.2 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g

Product Description

Review

"Both thoughtful and lively, this is a fascinating discussion of a little-seen force in corporate America." ---Publishers Weekly

About the Author

John Gillespie worked as an investment banker with Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Bear Stearns for eighteen years. David Zweig cofounded Salon.com and currently consults on improving the performance of executive groups.

Mel Foster has narrated over 150 audiobooks and has won several awards. Twice an Audie finalist for 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History by Charles Bracelen Flood and Finding God in Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey, he won for the latter title.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fix the Boards - Fix the System Jan. 13 2010
By James Mcritchie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Money for Nothing: How the Failure of Corporate Boards Is Ruining American Business and Costing Us Trillions by John Gillespie and David Zweig begins with a story familiar to just about everyone on the globe -- corporate and economic collapse brought on by greedy CEOs. The authors look behind the headlines to reveal and document the systematic failure of corporate boards who are supposed to look out for shareowner interests but are still too often picked by the very ones they are supposed to advise and monitor... the CEOs.

They discuss how companies spend enormous sums of shareholder money to fight off reforms, either directly or through organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce or the Business Roundtable. According to the authors, "corporate boards remain the weakest link in our free enterprise system."

A brief overview is provided on how we got here and what it means for shareowners and society. Much of the book is given over to example after example of conflicts of interest, overlapping boards, and a world driven by the greed and status needs of CEOs. Studies have shown that 80% of acquisitions fail to deliver and many fail outright. Too often they are driven by incentives that reward empire building over the generation of profits.

Jennifer Lerner, the only psychologist on the faculty of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, finds that "Americans tend to exhibit anger more readily than those in many other cultures, and the effects of being in power closely resemble those of being angry." CEOs and other executives, it turns out, have substantially larger appetites for risk and are more optimistic about outcomes. Changing the context can improve outcomes, especially where the environment demands "predecisional accountability to an audience with unknown views." In the case of corporations, that would be a diverse independent board, not predictable lapdogs of management.

Later chapters review "The Myth of Shareholders' Rights" and other issues, including proxy mechanics that allow moving shares to be voted multiple times based on the "day of record," when large blocks of stocks may be most likely to have several different owners. They document that not only do shareowners have little power, the gatekeepers and guardians paid to protect shareowner interests are almost always conflicted, leading to de facto control by management. At the same time, laws like the "business judgment rule" make it nearly impossible to hold fiduciaries accountable. Pension assets that are turned over to plan managers who provide kickbacks back to corporations earned 29% lower returns, according to a cited 2009 GAO report. The failures documented by Gillespie and Zweig cost investors and the public trillions, bringing the world economy to its knees.

It is time boards stopped being the CEOs friend and instead took on the role of the CEO's boss. After a thorough examination of the issues, documented with an abundance of real-life examples, Gillespie and Zweig close with a list of recommendations that could go far in changing the culture of the boardroom, strengthening accountability, reducing conflicts of interest, and getting shareowners involved. In a very abbreviated form:

- Create a new class of public directors and a training consortium
- Insist of gender, ethnic, and perceptual diversity
- Limit directors to three or fewer boards and require substantial "skin in the game"
- Initiate more communication between directors and shareowners
- Split chair/CEO roles & learn lessons from nonprofits
- Allow 10% of shareowners to call an extraordinary general meeting
- Add clout to say-on-pay, reform executive compensation, and shareholder approval of golden parachutes
- Ban staggered boards and require majority votes elections
- Proxy access for shareowners, daylight nominating & election processes, & require real board evaluations
- Require board risk committees & empower boards to gather independent information
- End conflict of interest in mutual fund voting by allowing third party voters per Investor Suffrage Movement
- Reform voting mechanics to end manipulation by management
- Reform auditor business model & Fix "up the ladder" provision of SOX
- Reform rating agency model, fully disclose lobbyist expenses, provide real funding for SEC enforcement
- Federalize corporate law
- Better coverage of governance issues by the financial media
- Better financial education, including how corporate governance works

Gillespie and Zweig hit all the bases for a solid home run. They tell us how the game is fixed and how the rules can be changed to play fair. After all, shareowners own the "ball" and all the other equipment. Will we listen? Even more importantly, will we act? The authors have even set up a website at [...]. Take a look; give it a read; ACT!!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not some dry tome Jan. 21 2010
By Benjamin Teague - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was expecting some dry, preachy tome bleating self-evident cures for glaring business issues. This book did not live down to my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to ENJOY reading about the boardroom actions and inactions which lead to a corporation's success or failure and ENJOY reading about what can be done to assist internal corporate success rates. The personalities and stories are fascinating. I came away informed and with a desire to do my part.
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book for board members Aug. 13 2013
By J Risner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While it is weighted toward activist investing, the book is a good guide for new and current Directors. Money quote from Ralph Whitworth "It is ok to be liked, but I am not there to be likeable" - from memory so may not be word for word but you get the picture. Be prepared, challenge management constructively, and know that you represent the shareholders and other stakeholders - not your own position.
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Work Jan. 6 2013
By Larry Beebe - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Why are our institutions failing? Read this book and gain insight.
I have personal experience with Boards, and they are earning money for nothing!
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for anyone interested in the real story Sept. 15 2010
By Gentle Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Behind corporate governance and the sorry state of our economy and financial system. This book lays it out in compelling, easy-to-understand fashion.
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