Dr James Lockhart, of Massey University, New Zealand, spoke to the highly topical issue of governance accountability in cases of corporate failure or fraud. After introducing the topic and comparing rules-based and principles-based systems of governance, Lockhart discussed several cases of corporate failure that have occurred in recent years, including:
Lockhart's conclusion was telling: if boards and managers lose large sums of money they will be held accountable. However, if lives are lost different accountability rules will apply. The evidence analysed suggests that lives lost are accorded a lower standard of accountability. That seemed odd—tragic even—to Dr Lockhart, and to many members of the audience.
The question that lingered in my mind as I left the room? How long it will be (or how many more accidents will it take) before something is done about this glaring inconsistency?
Disclosure: James Lockhart is my PhD supervisor. However, the paper he presented was entirely his work and I had no involvement in it.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.