Over the past several years, corporate scandals have made the headlines. Last week (May 19 and 20), leaders from business, government, and law joined with University experts at the Kennedy School to discuss government responses to the current corporate crisis.
Organized by the Center for Business and Government, the conference on “The Role of Government in Corporate Governance” focused on the public policy challenges arising in the wake of recent cases of corporate fraud and abuse.
“Enrons and Worldcoms are not just problems for corporate America; they are also problems for American government,” said Cary Coglianese, chair of the center’s Regulatory Policy Program.
The conference opened with a keynote address on May 19 by John Thain, the recently appointed chief executive officer of the New York Stock Exchange
“Thain is uniquely positioned because the exchange is both a regulator of publicly traded companies and itself an entity regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission,” said John Ruggie, Weil director of the center. Thain emphasized the strategies the exchange is pursuing to restore the integrity of the U.S. securities market in a competitive global environment.
On May 20, leading practitioners in the public and private sector gathered for a round-table discussion organized around three major issues facing government: law enforcement strategies, the design of securities regulations, and government oversight of self-regulatory organizations such as the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers. Conference presenters included Judge Michael Chertoff of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Howell Jackson of Harvard Law School, and John Coffee of Columbia Law School.
“The underlying problems of dishonesty and greed have always been with us, but the level of attention by the public, the media, and now the government is clearly higher than it has been for many years,” said Thomas Healey, a senior fellow at the center.
The conference closed with remarks by Richard Breeden, the corporate monitor of WorldCom and former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Breeden emphasized that because the U.S. market remains the economic model for the world, the government’s responses to the current crisis need to be crafted with great care.
The conference was part of the Regulatory Policy Program’s Corporate Governance Initiative. Through this Initiative, the Center for Business and Government actively engages faculty, fellows, students, and decision makers on issues of corporate governance and financial regulation.