Sometimes, timing is everything and sometimes timing is revealing.
Wouldn't you know that the day after Dick Grasso (search) stepped down from the New York Stock Exchange, what lands on my desk, but the September/October issue of NYSE magazine.
I wonder if any of the guys there read it. There’s a whole lot of talk about things like integrity and fairness.
Mr. Grasso himself in his own chairman's update talks about how, "we will never lose sight of our promise to investors: guaranteed fairness in the finest system of enterprise the world has ever known."
But the clincher has to be the back of the magazine and comments excerpted from a speech given by GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt (search). Entitled, "Restoring Trust," Mr. Immelt got right to the point: “When you lose confidence -- like investors seem to have today -- in a system built on trust, perception and reality are both important."
Mr. Immelt actually was talking about GE's efforts to run a clean and ethical shop. He could have just as much focused on the Big Board.
He talks of the importance of a "strong and independent board," adding, "the board has to understand and make sure a long-term strategy is being implemented that generates good returns for investors."
He stresses the need for increased transparency: "The ability to talk about your company externally the way you run it internally."
I thought, if only the NYSE had done even one of these things.
If only it had thought about the hypocrisy of talking openness, but not talking about its executives' pay packages.
If only it had considered the irony of policing corporate pay abuse, but refusing to acknowledge your own chief's package dwarfed any of theirs.
No, I don't fault Mr. Grasso for taking the money. I fault his board for refusing so long to even discuss the money.
Immelt's points were all right on, all dead accurate, all in black and white in a fancy, slick magazine -- a Big Board magazine.
It’s pity no one at the board read that magazine, their own magazine. Maybe they're reading it now.
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