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.

outrage 12.jpgThe trial of Conrad Black and its wider significance in the annals of business leadership and corporate ethics has occupied some considerable space at Finlay ON Governance. We advanced no position on Mr. Black’s guilt or innocence while the matter was before a jury. But since the verdict in U.S. federal court in July, it is fact, not speculation, that Mr. Black is a convicted felon. Our attention in that respect was focused recently not so much on Mr. Black as on Canada’s National Post, where he was once controlling shareholder. While Mr. Black is unable to lawfully return to Canada even as a temporary resident, he has apparently no problem returning to his place at the Post as an opinion maker.

With great fanfare on the front page of its Saturday edition, the paper trumpeted the reappearance of Mr. Black’s column. Perhaps we are a little old-fashioned, but the idea of a convicted felon proffering opinions just weeks away from being sentenced on three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice seems a bit bizarre. Allowing Mr. Black to ponder on the excesses of the retail habits of wealthy south Floridians is equally perplexing. Talk about Black calling the kettle….

One has trouble imagining the New York Times giving space to former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers, currently residing in federal prison for accounting fraud, or the Washington Post welcoming back Sanjay Kumar, one-time head of Computer Associates. We do not recall the Daily Telegraph allowing Lord Kylsant of Carmarthen, also convicted of fraud in connection with the running of a publicly traded company, to pen his views on the case with that legendary ink in 1931 (Lord Black was the first British peer since Lord Kylsant to be so convicted). A felon’s corner in newspapers would certainly have no shortage of contributors and no doubt every embezzler and purse snatcher would tell their own special tale of injustice. We think that’s not exactly what readers are looking for from the icons of print journalism. What is also disappointing is the fact that the editors and publishers of the Post felt no obligation to explain their reasoning for this unusual move. They simply acted as though nothing had happened to Mr. Black in the past few months.

One might reasonably wonder what exactly the criteria are for selection of Op-Ed columnists at the National Post. This murky area of journalism, which this writer too once inhabited, operates in shadows and secrecy. As noted on these pages before, I wrote in the Op-Ed section of the Financial Post periodically over the course of two decades. When Mr. Black bought the newspaper, I was among its first casualties (the column was quickly picked up by the Globe and Mail).  The fact that I was one of the few who dared to criticize Mr. Black’s corporate governance practices at Hollinger or note publicly his role on the boards of prominent failed companies may, of course, have been entirely coincidental.

Like Conrad Black, I also learned some lessons from my late father. It was his habit to review the commentary pages of half a dozen newspapers on a daily basis. The ritual was frequently accompanied by the instruction to his children that the opportunity to put forward views that shape and influence society is a privilege for any writer. For newspaper publishers and editors, the guardians of such intellectual real estate, it is a trust. Is giving a platform to fraudsters and felons consistent with that trust? I raised those questions in a letter to the editor of the National Post earlier this week after Mr. Black’s column appeared. It was never published. Nor did any letter from anyone else who was critical of the decision. What a surprise.

For Conrad Black, it seems, things are not the same as they are for you and I. His friends at the National Post clearly think he should continue to be treated differently. Their tough stand on law and order, long an editorial hallmark of the Post, apparently does not apply to one of their own.

What happened to Conrad Black, as we have noted before, is not something that those who have known him and looked up to him will take any satisfaction over. For him, it is life altering. For his family, it is tragic. Still, it is a fate delivered by his own hands. But when a respected institution such as the National Post also begins to slip from the standards and expectations which it has espoused, appears blind to the legitimate findings of the American legal system and is prepared to act as though nothing really happened, it is even more troubling. It is why we have chosen the actions of the National Post in permitting the return of Conrad Black’s columns the Outrage of the Week. Our unpublished letter to the editor is reprinted below.

To the Editors of the National Post

Re Conrad Black

As a believer that important newspapers such as the National Post serve their readers and society best when they adhere —and are seen to adhere— to the highest journalistic standards, I am at a loss to understand the basis for Conrad Black’s return to the Opinion page (Living beyond our means, September 22, 2007). It raises the question: Is it appropriate for a convicted felon to have a by-line as one of the Post’s columnists? We know that Mr. Black and other directors were unbothered by having shopping centre magnate A. Alfred Taubman on the board of Hollinger International after his conviction on criminal charges of price fixing. But the well documented misjudgments and failings of Mr. Black and his fellow directors in that company are a dubious model to follow.

The fact is neither an experienced reporter nor a junior copy editor in the National Post would long be retained if they were convicted of a criminal offence. Experience also teaches that Op-Ed contributors have been dropped for a variety of lesser reasons. My periodic columns, for instance, which appeared in the Financial Post over some two decades and dealt frequently with corporate governance and business ethics, (and were occasionally critical of Mr. Black’s governance practices as CEO of Hollinger) were terminated, without explanation, as soon as Mr. Black took control of the newspaper.

Also apparently escaping editorial scrutiny is Mr. Black’s commentary on the excesses he has discovered while temporarily living in Florida. By what stretch of reason would one recently convicted on three counts of fraud be deemed a credible and reliable authority regarding such observations?

Whether the publishers of the Post like it or not, Mr. Black does not hold the same stature now that he did when writing there as a columnist prior to his conviction. The reality of his fate may be regrettable, even tragic. But the National Post does a disservice to its reputation and to the intelligence of its readers by acting as though the last several months in Chicago never mattered.

J. Richard Finlay