Are Corporate Boards Ruining American Businesses? This Book Says Yes

The new book Money for Nothing looks at corporate boards: how they’re frequently hand-picked and ruled by the CEOs they’re supposed to keep in check, how they’re sidelined by various conflicts of interest and lack of accountability, and how the worst ones have massively screwed shareholders.

This isn’t a review of the book–I haven’t read it yet–but it looks like a worthwhile read if you want to find out more about how today’s US companies are run, and sometimes how they’re run into the ground. The book looks at examples of really messed up corporate boards as well as successful ones, and makes suggestions for how to reform the system. Most of the reviews I’ve found have been thumbs up, but the Wall Street Journal notes that it sometimes goes too pro-government-regulation for that paper’s taste. Still, the reviewer writes, it’s got ideas even the WSJ can get behind:

While the authors may indulge their passions for left-wing causes, they’re not blind ideologues. They describe how post-Enron reforms such as the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law not only fail to foster effective board oversight but may also discourage talented people from serving on boards. Messrs. Gillespie and Zweig, to their credit, also deride class-action lawsuits for being largely schemes to enrich lawyers.

There’s also this awesome bit of video advertising courtesy of the book’s publisher. I love the image of a fat cat, cigar chomping guy playing slots with money that’s not his, no matter transparently it’s meant as propaganda.

You can read the first few pages of the book if you take advantage of Amazon’s Kindle preview service–almost every book they sell digitally offers the opening pages for free. You’ll need to install the Kindle app on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or Windows PC, or of course own a Kindle. (I’m usually anti-Kindle on this blog due to their unclear licensing and DRM approach for ebooks, but a hidden benefit of the Kindle ecosystem is it makes previewing books incredibly fast and easy, without you ever having to buy a thing.)

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