This semester, the School featured several provocative guest lectures and panel discussions as part of the Individual, Business and Society: Tradeoffs, Choices and Accountability curriculum. Two events of particular note focused on Emerging Markets and Corruption and Corporate Governance and the Changing Role of Today’s Boards. Both drew capacity crowds of students eager to gain insight from experienced business leaders about workplace conflicts and other issues they will face throughout their careers.
On October 25, Ray Fisman, the Meyer Feldberg Associate Professor of Economics and Finance, and Steven Feldman ’81, who has lived and worked in Russia over the last 20 years, talked to students about dealing with pressures to engage in corrupt practices while working overseas. “You have a responsibility to think about the things that are inappropriate, rather than just the things that are illegal,” Fisman said. “If you think about the case of Enron, it’s not like they jumped over a precipice a hundred miles away. You sort of drift towards it and all of a sudden, you’re looking at something you never imagined you would have been doing.” Feldman warned about local pressures and social sanction of corruption in emerging markets. “Stick to your internal compass,” he said. “Make sure you stick to those values even when you’re in another place and it gets very tempting to do other things.”
On November 10, Meyer Feldberg ’65, Frank Edwards and Sabin Streeter ’67, executive in residence, offered their perspectives on bridging the theory of law with the practice of serving on corporate boards. The panel dealt with questions of trade-offs between corporate and societal interests as well as conflicts between personal values and workplace situations. Edwards, the Arthur F. Burns Professor of Free and Competitive Enterprise, director of the Center for the Study of Futures Markets and a lawyer as well as an economist, provided a legal framework for the discussion. Feldberg, the Sanford C. Bernstein Professor of Leadership and Ethics and dean emeritus, and Streeter, retired managing director in investment banking at the Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corporation — both members of the School’s board of overseers — talked about their experiences serving on boards of small and large multinational corporations across a wide range of industries. “Corporate boards are the mechanism by which corporations are accountable to society,” said Paul Glasserman, senior vice dean and the Jack R. Anderson Professor of Business. “But, ultimately, it comes down to individual choices of people serving on those boards.”