[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/18/art.nyse.jpg caption="Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange"]
Corporate Governance Expert
Failure this broad and deep takes a village, and regulators, lawyers, compensation consultants, auditors, executives, shareholders, and the press all played a part. But the people who are most responsible for the massive meltdowns of these institutions are the boards of directors.
Their sole responsibility is to act as fiduciaries for the shareholders in managing risk. They not only failed to perform this task but indeed, in their approval of outrageous pay plans with perverse incentives, they all but guaranteed the current disaster.
I am a capitalist. I love it when executives earn boatloads of money. But it infuriates me when they get it without earning it.
If the executives' compensation is tied to the volume of business rather than the quality of business, we should expect dealmakers to be more attentive to the number of transactions than the value they create. This is the basis for much of the sub-prime mess, whose collateral damage is taking down the biggest firms on Wall Street.
Editor's Note: Nell Minow is editor and chair of The Corporate Library, an independent research company specializing in corporate governance. Minow was named one of the 20 most influential people in corporate governance by Directorship magazine in 2007 and "the queen of good corporate governance" by BusinessWeek Online in 2003. She has written more than 200 articles and co-written three books. Since 1995, Minow has also written "Movie Mom," an online parents' guide to "media, culture and values."
Filed under: Economy
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with