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Money for Nothing: How CEOs and Boards Enrich Themselves While Bankrupting America Hardcover – January 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gillespie, a former investment banker with Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Bear Sterns; and Zweig, business consultant and founder, blow the whistle on the insular, apathetic, and dangerously lackadaisical world of corporate boards. Of the world's 200 largest economies, more than half are corporations, whose economic might is matched by their political and environmental sway. While the media highlights misbehaving moguls, boards work behind closed doors, and their substantial impact often goes unnoticed. These boards, described by the authors as predominantly made up of white men in their '60s, make their decisions based on the fact that it's not their money, and the trickle-down effect onto ordinary people is enormous. While Gillespie and Zweig sew in just enough juicy tales of mismanagement and scandalous misbehavior, they make a genuine effort to highlight representative issues and portray corporate leadership in all its complexity, instead of as a simplistic morality tale. They take a running jump at solutions and reforms that might help boards work more effectively and ethically. Both thoughtful and lively, this is a fascinating discussion of a little-seen force in corporate America. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“The authors offer a valuable new perspective by focusing on the tragicomic miscues of the people who were ostensibly meant to ‘govern’ out-of-control managements…”

The New York Times

“…rich with unfortunate detail… the subject is truly anger-inducing, and rest assured Money for Nothing will make you angry (or reinforce your existing anger) about the current state of corporate governance.” — Business Ethics


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416559930
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416559931
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By JamesMcRitchie VINE VOICE on January 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Money for Nothing: How the Failure of Corporate Boards Is Ruining American Business and Costing Us Trillions by John Gillespie and David Zweig begins with a story familiar to just about everyone on the globe -- corporate and economic collapse brought on by greedy CEOs. The authors look behind the headlines to reveal and document the systematic failure of corporate boards who are supposed to look out for shareowner interests but are still too often picked by the very ones they are supposed to advise and monitor... the CEOs.

They discuss how companies spend enormous sums of shareholder money to fight off reforms, either directly or through organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce or the Business Roundtable. According to the authors, "corporate boards remain the weakest link in our free enterprise system."

A brief overview is provided on how we got here and what it means for shareowners and society. Much of the book is given over to example after example of conflicts of interest, overlapping boards, and a world driven by the greed and status needs of CEOs. Studies have shown that 80% of acquisitions fail to deliver and many fail outright. Too often they are driven by incentives that reward empire building over the generation of profits.

Jennifer Lerner, the only psychologist on the faculty of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, finds that "Americans tend to exhibit anger more readily than those in many other cultures, and the effects of being in power closely resemble those of being angry." CEOs and other executives, it turns out, have substantially larger appetites for risk and are more optimistic about outcomes. Changing the context can improve outcomes, especially where the environment demands "predecisional accountability to an audience with unknown views.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While it is weighted toward activist investing, the book is a good guide for new and current Directors. Money quote from Ralph Whitworth "It is ok to be liked, but I am not there to be likeable" - from memory so may not be word for word but you get the picture. Be prepared, challenge management constructively, and know that you represent the shareholders and other stakeholders - not your own position.
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Format: Hardcover
It looks like Obama and the SEC are beginning to get their acts together and ride herd on some corporations gone wild. They - and members of the House and Senate - need to read "Money For Nothing" and start moving toward making sure we little people - the shareholders - get a fair break and a meaningful voice in running the companies we own.
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Format: Hardcover
While I enjoyed the book, despite it at times having a bit of a dry tone (at least as heard on audio), I don't remember it proposing the restoration of the confiscatory tax rate, i.e. 90%, we had during Eisenhower administration. And I think that's essential, since anyone earning millions, and paying less than a third of that in taxes, will have the incentive to concentrate more and more power in his hands. While, if we impose a 90% tax rate on any income over 250K, we'll see a dramatic diffusion of power.

Thus without even legislating the separations of the Chairman role from that of President from that of the CEO, we may achieve that automatically, since few will be willing to take all these roles for "only" 250K a year. And overall the public would be better off, since few, even highly capable and ethical people can juggle major roles in major corporations well, even if they commit themselves to the jobs for 70-80-90 hours a week (plus working incessantly is unhealthy for anyone's judgement or wellbeing).

Busy CEOs will be also less inclined to serve on many boards, if 90% of their stipend goes to taxes. Thus a simple tax code change can elegantly substitute dozens of messy regulations.

With these changes, regulating agencies, like SEC, would be able now to attract top talent much easily, since while they can conceivably pay up to 250K a year to match the would be going rate of the most CEOs, no government agency can afford paying millions to anyone, no matter how talented they are (especially giving the political consequences of such a salary) .

There could be of course some exemptions to tax law when it comes to the small businesses, that are formed as partnerships and LTDs, as opposed to corporations.
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By Larry Beebe on January 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Why are our institutions failing? Read this book and gain insight.
I have personal experience with Boards, and they are earning money for nothing!
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