Friday, September 30, 2011

After ICGN: What Happens Now

I think the whole experience of delivering highly publicized speeches (my recent ICGN speech is here) to an entire constituency gives you the opportunity to ask a self-answering question. And the real question is, what is anybody going to do? What’s going to be different? Is anything going to be different
 
I borrowed liberally from Lewis Powell’s memorandum speech of forty years earlier, because he conspicuously energized an entire movement over a long period of time. And I took his form and words and concept literally in an effort to copy him—shamelessly—because I was hoping to elicit the same response, albeit for a much different purpose.

But the thing is, it’s quite a difference between having an organization that represents a meeting of various representatives of groups and an organization that actually is active, that actually has an inbox or something they have to do. And at the moment, the ICGN has to put on conferences; that’s what it does.
 
Luckily though, ICGN has a number of committees that have been very active and very, very reputable in terms of generating mission statements, and these have created a sort of substantive soul for the organization. So ICGN stands for something, and they have very good people volunteering their time and energy for that.
 
So the big question is: can we move to the point of having enough resources to, for example, authorize a legal program in which the ICGN would, in the same way the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable do, to enter into lawsuits to articulate positions of particular interest to the members? That’s a long way away from having the members themselves do it – a long way toward political advocacy. Are the members prepared to put up the money? Are they prepared to be members of a group that stirs the waters and advocates strongly for change?  That’s a very different kind of organization than we’ve got now. 
 
So I don’t know. I mean the time is good, because the level of frustration by institutional owners must be very high, as virtually every commentator about the financial crisis agrees that the failure of institutional investors was a significant factor in the financial crisis. And nearly everyone agrees that the legislative steps taken since the first stage of the financial crisis have really been useless in providing any structural change that would give you optimism that the future will be different than the past.
 
In a sense, the question is really posed at a very good time, as this organization can define itself forever as a place that meets and puts on conferences and spreads goodwill, and awards people for good services and puts out good position papers, or it can be an instrument of policy, it can try to advocate a position on behalf of its members. It’s a very big leap, and it’s not entirely clear which way they’ll go, and it’s not entirely clear that one can be critical of them for failing to do it. But that’s the challenge that I put out, and the answer will not be in words; the answer will be in what they do.
 
What do you think?
September 30, 2011 in Supreme Court , Corporate Power , institutional investors , capitalism , financial crisis  |  0 comments  | 

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