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Corpocracy: How CEOs and the Business Roundtable Hijacked the World's Greatest Wealth Machine -- And How to Get It Back Hardcover – December 4, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

...a formidable polemic …its unarguable point about unaccountable corporate power cannot be ignored." (The Financial Times, January 28, 2008)

"a facinating read" (City AM podcast www.cityam.com, Wednesday 23rd January 2008)

"...a timely new book...deserves to be read."  (Pensions & Investments, Monday 21st January 2008)

From the Inside Flap

Corporations were conceived and first chartered to serve the public good — to exploit hard-to-find resources and to undertake projects individual businesspeople couldn't manage alone. But times have changed, corporate executives have taken on regal authority, and the public good has been dropped from the equation.

Modern corporations are free to maximize their wealth but owe nothing to the individuals and communities around them. They balk at government regulation and lock out shareholders while executives use inside baseball to reward themselves with massive pay packages. Today's CEOs are beholden to one thing only—profit for profit's sake—and our communities, our workforce, and our environment frequently suffer for it. While over-regulation of corporations will destroy the economy, doing nothing to change corporate behavior might well destroy everything else.

In Corpocracy, longtime corporate lawyer, venture capitalist, and shareholder activist Robert Monks reveals how corporations seized control, how they abuse their power, and what we can—and must—do to rein them in. In this clear and careful analysis, Monks outlines a plan for reconciling the competing interests of corporations and society through thoughtful shareholder activism that protects the interests of corporations and everyone else.

Shareholder control over large corporations is as weak as it has ever been. Not only are corporations rarely held to account by government regulation, they face even less control by those whose interests they ostensibly serve. Yet, when engaged and active, shareholders still hold the power to influence corporate behavior and governance in ways that can benefit everyone.

Corporate capitalism is still the best chance for mankind to improve life on earth. But corporations must be made to operate within the rules of legitimate authority without retarding their ability to create wealth. It's up to us to find a path that reins in corporations without stifling their ability to innovate and profit. Corpocracy is the map that will guide us to better corporations and a better world for us all.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (December 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470145099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470145098
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,826,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Corpocracy is an ugly word, not just because of its mixed roots, but because of the governance situation in the United States which it has been coined to describe. In this compelling book, Bob Monks has summarised the means by which American business interests have conspired to suborn the state. No-one else has his authority or breadth of experience in this field of corporate governance. A corporate lawyer and banker by calling, he headed the division in charge of ERISA in the political field and he helped launch Institutional Shareholder Services and LENS to prove that active investors create value. He has distilled his remarkable range of experience into a brief and highly readable polemic. In doing so, he argues that the balance of power between corporations, those who own their shares and those charged with regulating their conduct has to be redressed.

It might, at first sight, seem that the situation which he analyses so penetratingly is peculiar to the United States and that the wider world need not actively concern itself with the author's message. This would be to underestimate the importance of this book. The lessons to be drawn from the consequences of the rise of the political power of American business, which it chronicles, are universal. In addition, given the global reach of American corporations, the need to restore their accountability to their investors within an effective regulatory framework has global implications.

Corpocracy is not a lament, though it describes much that is lamentable. It is a sober and arresting account of the manner in which the author's personal efforts to persuade the appropriate authorities, regulators and major investing institutions to do their duty, morally and juridically, has met with little effective response.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Monks begins by informing readers that he is a strong supporter of for-profit corporate enterprise. He then goes on to recite how the leaders of these enterprises have recently run amok in the U.S.

"Efficiency," without regard for externalities (eg. pollution, off-shoring American jobs), using "GWAP" reporting (Gee, Whatever Accounting Principles), surrounded by board member, accounting firm, pay, board-evaluation consultant, and stock analyst conflicts of interest, fortified by think-tanks funded by corporations, and beyond accountability via ending the "one share, one vote" rule - their top leaders enjoy scandalous pay and retirement packages, without regard to organizational performance.

At they same time today's corporations are expanding their realms by privatizing government roads, health care, and warfare functions, in the supposed name of efficiency - while actually usually costing more, providing lower service levels, and/or even less accountability. (Helping vitiate a key Democrat-party base of government workers, and gaining increased lobbying influence are additional benefits.) Other government "benefits" today's organizations enjoy include toothless law and regulation enforcement (eg. SEC, DOL), and the ability to shed expensive pension obligations through bankruptcy or simply walking away.

Monks sees pension funds as having a key role in taming today's out of control corporations. Specifically, he touts Hermes Investment Management Company (a London pension fund for phone workers) as an example of what could be done. Monks also praises Elliott Spitzer for accomplishing far more than the SEC or DOL with fewer staff, CEOs Gary Immelt of G.E. and Frank Blake of Home Depot (replaced Robert Nardelli) as examples of principled leaders.
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Format: Hardcover
Corpocracy both delights and informs in a way only Bob Monks can. His lifework has been delineating the underlying dynamics of corporate power to devise a system that combines wealth creation with societal interest. No one else can write as well about "How CEOs and the Business Roundtable Hijacked the World's Greatest Wealth Machine" because no one else has been as engaged as Bob Monks from so many angles. His insights into pivotal points of view and decisions are enlightening.

For example, he points to the role of Douglas Ginsburg, a leader in the field of law and economics, in instilling a belief that it is okay for corporations to violate environmental laws, as long as they account for possible sanctions in their budget. Under Ginsburg's view, according to Monks, people aren't motivated by moral or social obligation but by simple desire and cost-benefit analysis.

Then there is Bob's analysis of Lewis Powell's court decisions. His finding of a constitutionally protected right to "corporate speech" provided the judicial framework for management "to commit untold corporate resources to influence public opinion and public votes - resources so huge and unmatchable that individual contributions are now all but meaningless in state and nationals elections."

And, of course, the Business Roundtable holds a special place in Bob's heart. The "BRT has come to function in significant part as an agent for the CEOs...who have established themselves as a new and separate class in the governance of American corporations, answerable to virtually no one, accountable only to themselves."

Monks appears to be a believer in the forces of markets but regulated to ensure a level playing field.
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