There is no substitute for a culture of integrity in organizations. Compliance alone with the law is not enough. History shows that those who make a practice of skating close to the edge always wind up going over the line. A higher bar of ethics performance is necessary. That bar needs to be set and monitored in the boardroom.  ~J. Richard Finlay writing in The Globe and Mail.

Sound governance is not some abstract ideal or utopian pipe dream. Nor does it occur by accident or through sudden outbreaks of altruism. It happens when leaders lead with integrity, when directors actually direct and when stakeholders demand the highest level of ethics and accountability.  ~ J. Richard Finlay in testimony before the Standing Committee on Banking, Commerce and the Economy, Senate of Canada.

The Finlay Centre for Corporate & Public Governance is the longest continuously cited voice on modern governance standards. Our work over the course of four decades helped to build the new paradigm of ethics and accountability by which many corporations and public institutions are judged today.

The Finlay Centre was founded by J. Richard Finlay, one of the world’s most prescient voices for sound boardroom practices, sanity in CEO pay and the ethical responsibilities of trusted leaders. He coined the term stakeholder capitalism in the 1980s.

We pioneered the attributes of environmental responsibility, social purposefulness and successful governance decades before the arrival of ESG. Today we are trying to rebuild the trust that many dubious ESG practices have shattered. 


We were the first to predict seismic boardroom flashpoints and downfalls and played key roles in regulatory milestones and reforms.

We’re working to advance the agenda of the new boardroom and public institution of today: diversity at the table; ethics that shine through a culture of integrity; the next chapter in stakeholder capitalism; and leadership that stands as an unrelenting champion for all stakeholders.

Our landmark work in creating what we called a culture of integrity and the ethical practices of trusted organizations has been praised, recognized and replicated around the world.


Our rich institutional memory, combined with a record of innovative thinking for tomorrow’s challenges, provide umatached resources to corporate and public sector players.

Trust is the asset that is unseen until it is shattered.  When crisis hits, we know a thing or two about how to rebuild trust— especially in turbulent times.

We’re still one of the world’s most recognized voices on CEO pay and the role of boards as compensation credibility gatekeepers. Somebody has to be.

The Black View of Ted Kennedy

Has the far-right become so bereft of ideas and spokespersons to generate its ill-tempered discussions that it now has to turn to institutionalized felons like Conrad Black for its inspiration?

Among the more puzzling of the commentaries prompted by the passing of Edward M. Kennedy, the long-sitting senior Senator from Massachusetts, is surely the one penned at Coleman Correctional Facility in Florida by Inmate No.18330-424, otherwise known as Conrad M. Black.  His comments appeared in the National Post the day Mr. Kennedy lost his final battle with brain cancer at the age of 77.

Mr. Black wasted no time in pronouncing the late Senator to be a man of mediocre achievements who will be remembered for nothing outstanding.  He also felt it necessary to point out the womanizing proclivities of the Kennedy men, opined that the Senator was probably drinking when his car left the bridge at Chappaquiddick, and rated John F. Kennedy’s presidency as unspectacular –all this before the first head count of the warm prison morning.

Both Mr. Black and Mr. Kennedy enjoyed favored childhoods and private educations, which, along with some early career accomplishments, came courtesy of their families’ wealth and power.  Both were trained as lawyers.  Both were caught cheating at school and paid a price for it.  The Senator made his share of uniquely personal mistakes which saw tragedy strike with an even sharper blow than a more prudent man might tempt. But the difference is that while Mr. Kennedy devoted himself significantly to championing the cause of the less fortunate throughout most of his professional life, and certainly with a fevered pitch in the past two or three decades, the titled, honored and enormously wealthy Mr. Black tended to see himself as a victim ¾of the media, of a Prime Minster who did not think Canadians should be called “lord,” of the U.S. justice system, of overly demanding shareholders and of employees and customers who were regularly given to epidemics of shoplifting, as he was prone to point out in connection with his fabled Dominion grocery store empire.  Mr. Kennedy, for most of the past number of decades, sought to atone for his shortcomings and his sins by living a responsible life and in the work he pursued for the benefit of others.  Mr. Black has yet to show the slightest remorse for anything he has done, expect perhaps for not fleecing shareholders –whom he dubbed a cheap source of capital– more.

While Mr. Kennedy carved out legislative compromises that helped millions of children, the poor and the elderly, Mr. Black was obsessed with chiseling out a few million more for himself, even if it meant defrauding investors in the process.  While Mr. Kennedy gained admiration for carrying the responsibilities of several extended families on his shoulders and was known for his unstinting generosity toward those he did not even know, Mr. Black became infamous for carrying out boxes of evidence in an obstruction of justice spectacle that led him to his current confines in Florida.

It is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Black, even before the Senator was buried, would use the opportunity to strike the low blow, to find a chance to snarl at a man who uplifted so many, and to pronounce himself unimpressed with an historic figure who exemplified liberal values people like Mr. Black detest.  Mr. Black’s world is never quite secure when there are those who champion a better minimum wage, struggle relentlessly for more accessible heath care or oppose a war that does not need to be waged and should not be fought, as Mr. Kennedy did with a passion few could rival.  Mr. Black, of course, was an early supporter the war in Iraq.  As to the idea of a more level playing field so that others might have a shot at the American dream, Mr. Black’s world rests on the idea of privilege and private gain and, above all, never having to “reenact the French Revolutionary renunciation of the rights of the nobility,” as he so famously declared.

Mr. Black, as both the verdict of the courts and public opinion has decreed, has a few problems in the judgment department.  One does not need to be a great lover of the sea, as Mr. Kennedy was, to know the consequences that can befall when one is separated from a compass, either of the moral or the magnetic kind.  Mr. Black has been bobbing along unmoored and unguided for some time.

As the object himself of great speculation about his culpability in a much larger fraud against the Hollinger companies (see Breeden Report) and having made a loud and persistent case for prosecutorial overreach in connection with the charges that saw his criminal conviction, Mr. Black, one might have thought, would be disinclined to conjecture about Mr. Kennedy’s “driving under the influence of alcohol” while operating the car that went off the bridge and led to the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne.  That he would engage in such gossip without evidence or fact in a way that just gives his adversaries more standing to do the same about him, suggests that Mr. Black is no longer –if he ever was– in possession of the strategic horsepower enjoyed by the diminutive French Emperor, whom he tended to idolize.

What is most staggering about all of this is that, of the countless candidates at its disposal to render meaningful comments about the life and times of Mr. Kennedy, the National Post and its publishers thought that they should turn to Mr. Black. Has the far-right become so bereft of ideas and spokespersons to generate its ill-tempered discussions that it now has to turn to institutionalized felons for its inspiration?  Nor does it betray nothing less than an astonishing lack of journalistic judgment that they would permit an incarcerated and discredited business figure to rate the Kennedy family’s accomplishments when Mr. Black has shown such a peculiar gift for losing the empire he effectively inherited while so many of the other corporate jewels he touched, not to mention his Canadian citizenship and his freedom, turned to ashes in his own hands.

The only explanation for this singularly low contribution to the discussion about the passing of a major figure in American life is that the National Post’s publishers, principally the Asper brothers, also began their lives from a predicate of inherited privilege and wealth.  They obviously prefer Mr. Black’s narrowly self-serving, Darwinian view as to how one conducts oneself in the face of such fortune, and not Mr. Kennedy’s more universally ennobling vision of what can be done to help make the lives of the less favored more enriched.

Our thoughts about the rise and fall of Conrad Black can be viewed here.

The Trout in Time’s Milk

Emerson once observed that “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”  Some details in reporting are a tad too crucial to leave out, as when the author of an opinion piece is penning the missive from a federal prison because of two little character defects called fraud and obstruction of justice.  This is what occurred in Time’s online edition, which ran a piece by Conrad Black, known widely as Lord Black of Crossharbour, formerly of the Bridle Path in Toronto, Palm Beach, and London, but more recently as inmate number 18330-424 of the Coleman Correction Facility in Florida, and a regular subject of commentary on these pages.

It somewhat boggles the imagination that mainstream journalism, and one of its most storied institutions at that, has to turn to miscreants and fraudsters to interpret the world of politics to its readers.  That spinning sound you hear is Henry Luce turning over in his grave. Repeatedly. Fortunately, this is a detail that matters to some thoughtful readers, like the intellectually versatile and always curious Lance Knobel, who is also troubled by the sudden plunge in the magazine’s byline standards.  His to-the-point admonition of Time for its selective memory is available here.



Edward R. Murrow at One Hundred: Still Journalism’s Gold Standard

This week marks the 100th anniversary of Edward R. Murrow’s birth. For the generation of my grandparents and parents, his voice was synonymous with integrity in reporting the events that shaped their lives. Few could match his gift for words or their authenticity in describing the seminal events of his era -a war-time Europe in flames; the horror of Germany’s concentration camps; and, later, the terror unleashed by a particularly odious junior senator from Wisconsin.

He practiced the craft of speaking truth to power, which, at its best, is what journalism is about. It is such an important calling in a world where the ability to hold the powerful to account is the lifeblood of freedom and democracy. In sentence after sentence and in program after program, from his days in war-torn London to his legendary “See it Now” series, this icon of American broadcast journalism reminded people how imperative it was that they knew what was happening around them in their world. People invariably felt better-informed and reassured after listing to Mr. Murrow. He did not talk down to his audience, nor did he find the need to engage in the kind of babbling banter that passes for insightful commentary in many newsrooms today. It was the respect he showed for the obligations of the journalist and for the power and responsibility of words themselves that allowed him to gain the trust of the public. How rare those qualities seem today.

Had he lived in this time, I suspect Edward R. Murrow would likely have been a rather iconoclastic figure. He would not be among those of his profession today who appear to sleepwalk while power is moved more and more into the hands of governments and special interests. He would not have remained silent as the voice of the ordinary individual is increasingly drowned out by the lobby of the super rich and those seeking their favor, nor would he have been a passive witness to what I have called the era of the vanishing stakeholder.

Surely, he would have been troubled by a society which is rich in news information but rarely in context or balance, where ratings are the ultimate determinants of what the media portray as the truth, and where the world seems inexorably heading to a point where most people will seek to be informed by that most authoritative of all news sources: YouTube.

Would Mr. Murrow have found today’s culture of mainstream journalism inviting? Or would he have turned to the blogosphere as the only place were a truly independent voice can be raised and heeded? And what would he think about the level of journalistic standards that sees major newspapers still offering Conrad M. Black, currently serving a 78-month sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice, a platform for his opinion on American politics and foreign policy direct from that bastion of academic integrity known as the Coleman federal correctional complex in Florida?

I believe we have a sense of where he would have been on the war in Iraq and the climate that preceded it, where it was considered un-American to question the merits and costs of the war, the evidence offered for its prosecution, or the motives of those who so strongly advocated it.

Here is a quote from a 1953 broadcast that seems especially appropriate today. It is vintage Murrow, and we give the last word, as it should be, to the man himself.

“If we confuse dissent with disloyalty – if we deny the right of the individual to be wrong, unpopular, eccentric or unorthodox – if we deny the essence of racial equality, then hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa who are shopping about for a new allegiance will conclude that we are concerned to defend a myth and our present privileged status. Every act that denies or limits the freedom of the individual in this country costs us the. . . confidence of men and women who aspire to that freedom and independence of which we speak and for which our ancestors fought.”

David Halberstam | 1934 — 2007

Porter Gifford/APAuthor. Thinker. Journalist. In the highest traditions of those professions. A civilized man for who whom baseball was a metaphor for life that taught about the place of rules, ethics and integrity in the governance and leadership of the public’s business.

For those who seek the truth, and occasionally wonder how it is discovered, his would be one of the brighter stars to lead the way.

A life well lived, indeed.