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.

If the Obama administration and the entire legislative branch are powerless to say no to such outrageous grabs for bonus cash in this failed company, there can be little hope that they will be able to navigate out of the larger financial storm or restore the confidence that is essential for recovery.

If there is one face that has come to symbolize the greed, excess and betrayal of the current financial era, it is Bernie Madoff, the self-admitted felon who is now in jail awaiting sentencing for his multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. But a close second is surely insurance giant AIG, the serial recipient of the bailout bonanza with a junket-hopping tendency and a board of directors that is apparently also genetically incapable of doing the right thing. Not only did this operation lose $100 billion in the past year, but the architects of the disaster insist that they are entitled to a further $165 million in bonuses. What is worse, so does the United States government.

AIG’s now infamous financial products group –the business unit that is reportedly responsible for bringing the global economic system to the edge of collapse– already received $55 million in retention bonuses last December. Larry Summers, President Obama’s top economic adviser, declared today that while the latest round of bonuses is outrageous, they are a matter of contractual obligation and there is nothing the government can do to prevent them. Therein lies a reality that is even scarier and more far-reaching than AIG’s blatant display of corporate psychopathy.

Last week, we discovered that tens of billions in AIG bailout money actually went to financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and a host of large banks at home and abroad. Today, we learned that bonuses have been paid to workers in the very unit of the company that caused the record losses. And tomorrow, in scenes that will be replayed in the hundreds, children will sleep in a cheap motel or in a car because they have lost their home, a small business owner will close his doors for the last time, a laid-off single mother will be unable to buy a birthday gift for her son, and another senior citizen will face having their electricity cut off.  It is their tax money that has enabled AIG to survive and which that company would now use to pay an extra $165 million to already well compensated employees. But Washington still says there is nothing that can be done. It will be recalled that the SEC chose to do nothing about Mr. Madoff when that matter was initially brought to its attention, as well.

Extraordinary steps have been taken, and nearly $175 billion paid out, because the public was told that AIG was too important to fail. Yet the company and the federal government would have us believe that things are actually so routine that regular bonuses must be paid. They can’t have it both ways.

If the Obama administration and the entire legislative branch are powerless to say no to such outrageous displays of greed on the part of the very characters who have brought the company to the brink of ruin, there can be little hope that they will be able to navigate out of the larger financial storm and into a path for full recovery. If they cannot see how harmful these obscene cash grabs are to the sense of fairness that is necessary to bring about and sustain that recovery, their efforts to restore the confidence that is essential are destined to founder on the shoals of cynicism and despair.  And, once again, the reputation and well-being of capitalism will have taken a serious blow, not from some sinister outside force but through the betrayal of its own leaders and adherents.

Too many regulators failed to question Bernie Madoff, or to move when the evidence and common sense shouted for action. Thousands of lives have been inalterably harmed because of it. Let us hope that the government will not again be deaf to the voices of morality and sound judgment that now cry out over AIG.