Monday, March 16, 2009

Commissioner Walter Stresses Corporate Governance

At a recent PLI meeting in New York, "Corporate Governance -- A Master Class 2009," SEC Commissioner Elisse B. Walter stressed the importance of restoring investor trust through corporate governance.

I have heard rumblings that this is not the time to divert our focus from the current market crisis, and the need for regulatory reform, by addressing other issues such as corporate governance. I couldn't disagree more.

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Commission actions to enhance shareholder participation and promote greater board accountability are important steps we can take. They are important because they will allow investors an opportunity to exercise their rights and help to restore the balance in our system for corporate accountability. And, I believe they will also help us restore investor confidence.

Though Commissioner Walter focused her thoughts on such matters as proxy access and improved proxy disclosure, the thrust of her remarks were a call for more openness and more communication between boards and investors, and desire for boards of all types to step up their leadership and set the "tone at the top" of the organization.

I believe strongly that directors and managements must take it upon themselves to improve accountability by setting a "tone at the top" honoring the responsibilities that arise from the trust placed in them by investors. Some have, but all directors and managements should implement their own best practices for corporate governance that promote integrity, transparency, and accountability.

The full text of Commissioner Walter's February 18 remarks is available at: