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Corporate Governance in Sad Shape

Stocks in this article: SHAW CCE MHCG

A new book documenting how poor the state of corporate governance is in America -- and how it was a major cause of the financial meltdown -- will make you sick.

Money for Nothing, authored by former Lehman Brothers banker John Gillespie and Salon.com founder David Zweig, lays out a compelling case for how CEOs and their minions have subverted the purpose of boards to oversee management and made them their lapdogs.

The book outlines numerous solutions to fix this problem. If they weren't so sensible, they might have a chance of being implemented.

We've now lived through two different stock market crashes in the last decade, and we learned each time in retrospect how poor a job boards did to protect the companies they served.

We thought we learned our lesson after Enron and Worldcom when Sarbanes-Oxley was implemented in part to improve corporate governance.

But, if taking your shoes off for TSA screeners is "security theater" designed to make us feel safer -- even if we're not -- Sarbanes-Oxley was the governance equivalent.

The stories of poor governance that fill the book would make you laugh, if they didn't cause you to be outraged.

Gillespie and Zweig discuss former Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal, who eliminated anyone from his board and management team who disagreed with him. Instead, he packed eight of the 10 directors with his friends, including John Finnegan, a friend of O'Neal's for 20 years who headed the Merrill compensation committee, and Alberto Cribiore, who had once tried to hire O'Neal and who was also put on the compensation committee.

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