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.

Nominate Your Dog to the Boardroom

If the boards of Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Bear Stearns, Société Générale, Countrywide and UBS were comprised entirely of Irish setters and beagles, it is doubtful that the subprime-plagued results of recent months could have been any worse.

Some of the senior staff of Finlay ON Governance have suggested that I might have given the wrong impression about Irish setters being rather high maintenance and posing some challenges during puppyhood. My comments were made while applauding the breakthrough of Uno, the first beagle to win the top spot in the 132-year history of the Westminster Dog Show.We’re not the only former beagle owners who were impressed with the win. CBS’s Face the Nation host, Bob Schieffer, also got a chuckle out of it while praising his previous three hounds.The connection between between good, reliable people who project a strong moral compass, like Bob Schieffer and my late grandfather, and the beagle breed, is interesting. Perhaps it’s an encouraging sign that more of the world is starting to appreciate the beagle, too.It is correctly pointed out by certain on site advisors to these pages, however, that Muldoon Dewitts Great One (Piper), Westminster’s Irish setter best in breed for 2008, is a cousin of my Springtime Treat (Holly, pictured above). They share some of the same illustrious ancestry. Holly is the great-granddaughter of Impresario, who was Best in Show, American and Canadian Champion, 1987. Piper is Impresario’s great-great grandson.Staff, who are renowned for their persistence especially during pre-set times for walking, further wish it to be noted that no Irish setter has been complicit in any of the subprime/credit shenanigans that have produced record losses in several of the world’s top banks and appear to be driving the economy into recession. Nor has any Irish setter, or any other dog for that matter, been part of a board which awarded tens of millions in compensation to CEOs who led their companies so deep into the red that they must now turn to the sovereign wealth funds of despotic regimes to bail them out. They conclude that if the boards of Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Bear Stearns, Société Générale, Countrywide and UBS were comprised entirely of Irish setters and beagles, it is doubtful that the subprime-plagued results of recent months could have been any worse.There may be some merit to this position. Most dogs don’t possess the qualities associated with the typical director. Canines seldom sleep during times of crisis and are generally curious about what’s happening around them. Most would never lose $7 billion and, if they did, would quickly know exactly where to retrieve it. The loyalty of a well-bred dog is always toward its master and family.The loyalty and good judgment of directors tends to be somewhat more problematic.

Kudos to Uno and the Arrival of Simplicity’s New Premium

In a world of subprime-created mansions and similarly oversized egos that can soar into the clouds, perhaps Madison Square Garden’s newest champ is a sign that there is still some virtue in keeping two (or four) feet planted firmly on the ground.

While it was a week of mostly discouraging news and distressing economic setbacks, a happy surprise arrived in the form of a 15-inch beagle named Uno. He won top honors at the famed Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

My grandfather, whose 114th birthday would have been tomorrow, bred, raised and showed beagles for many years as a hobby. I still have his prized collection of Hounds and Hunting magazines going back to the 1930s. We had several beagles when I was growing up. They never seemed to stay around for very long and usually ran away. One was hit by a car. That was my first childhood experience with mortality. In adult life, I moved toward Irish setters and have owned four. You might say they are a little more high maintenance than beagles. Looking back, I think the challenges of their training made my grandfather’s choice seem like model students.

Try as much as he and other breeders did, and travel to as many shows as they did, beagles never seemed to make it into the big leagues. What you saw was what you got; you could not turn a beagle into a topiary with a few clips here and there. No fancy blow-drying could make a beagle’s fur fly with the wind. They were pretty much a down-to-earth breed and for that reason have never been the choice in the sophisticated world of the ever-seeking-to-impress yuppie.

But perhaps when an underdog like Uno can break the barrier, it is a signal that change is in the wind. It is an event that Barack Obama will doubtless view as a propitious augury for his campaign. It is tempting to speculate that his big win (Uno’s, not Obama’s) shows that after the meltdown from overly complex financial instruments that didn’t really pan out, when not even the geniuses who created them now seem to have understood them, the stock of the open, the transparent and the unpretentious is on the rise. In a world of subprime created mansions and similarly oversized egos that can soar into the clouds, perhaps Uno is a sign that there is still some virtue in keeping two (or four) feet planted firmly on the ground. Maybe Uno is the new herald for the return to common sense and principles like value, integrity and sound judgment, which seem to have been in short supply in boardrooms and legislative chambers in recent years. Perhaps, as the high cost of misapprehended risk has become so evident in recent months, there is a rising premium to be placed on what I like to call de-complexity. Even the name of this young hound is the very model of modern simplicity.

On the other hand, maybe Uno would feel uncomfortable being a poster dog for some cultural inflection point, just as my beagles seemed a little overly sensitive when my young cousins and I would dress them up in old pajamas during family occasions. Sometimes a dog is just a dog. And in a world that has grown terribly muddled by certain human efforts in the global financial market and elsewhere, that is the most reassuring reminder of all.

That’s a thought my late grandfather never forgot, and so the beagle’s breakthrough this week at the Westminster show is something of a birthday present for someone who never gave up on them, or on other virtues like hard work, humility and honesty for that matter.

Well done, Uno.