It seemed an easy-enough question last week when someone asked me: What's the company in America with the best corporate governance? Yet, in trying to answer it, I was sent on a frustrating journey and a disappointing conclusion that there's no obvious winner. However, I'll name three good companies and look to address why it's so tough to answer the question. In preparing this article, I reached out to some of the people I most respect in the world of corporate governance today: consultants, writers, bloggers, corporate secretaries and academics. Most of them were stumped by the question of what company is the best when it comes to corporate governance. It's certainly much easier to list 20 companies with bad governance for every company with good governance, which says a lot. But three really good ones are Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A), Amazon.com ( AMZN) and Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ). I'll revisit them later after I explain how I arrived at my conclusion. To help spark my thinking, I searched the Web for recent corporate rankings of the best boards in corporate America. I came across a list from BusinessWeek from 2000. The top board on the list was General Electric ( GE), which unseated Campbell Soup ( CPB). Others near the top were IBM ( IBM), Home Depot ( HD), Intel ( INTC) and Cisco ( CSCO). Since this ranking was issued, the combined stock returns of this group has been down 60% vs. negative 37% for the S&P 500. Three of the worst boards in 2000 in the rankings -- Walt Disney ( DIS), Rite Aid ( RAD) and Waste Management ( WMI) -- actually have slightly outperformed the best boards in the nine years since, but still returning on average negative 54% . Ten years ago, GE's board was lauded for having a high number of outside directors who owned large amounts of stock in the company, which is worth 77% less today than it was back then. The board's largest move since 2000 was appointing Jeff Immelt as Jack Welch's successor rather than Bob Nardelli. It's hard to fault the board for that pick, given Nardelli's travails since then, but GE's shareholder base was frustrated with the stock's flat performance for the majority of this decade -- and that was before the wheels fell off last year with the concerns about GE Finance and its commercial real estate holdings.