Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer and Bouton

Spitzer Vs Bouton.

This may seem like an odd comparison, one is in public service and the other obviously as private sector as you can get. But it just came to me last night as i sat there reading about Gov. Spitzer's resignation. They are not that different...there are some obvious similarities in their position, responsibilities, role model like expectations that arise from being at the helm of large entities.

The biggest difference in spite of all these similarities is that Spitzer, (atleast from whatever is currently known ) did not put the state's economy at peril nor did he erode 'shareholder'(in this case taxpayer) value and yet we are looking at his upcoming resignation. Which is not too say he should not resign. On the contrary, this was expected and in fact surprising that it did not come any sooner.

Bouton, on the other hand is the chairman of SocGen and it was on his watch that SocGen suffered massive losses. The circumstances of such losses point towards inadequate human resource management, loose internal controls and inadequate reviews and supervision and maybe even collusion. Nevertheless, Bouton continues as the bank's chairman. Under his leadership, SocGen raised capital to make up for the losses, took cover under one of the most obscure and rarely used accounting rule thereby booking their losses in financial year 2007 and are now looking ahead.

Why are we not yet looking at his resignation? What makes him so different? Don't SocGen shareholders care that this can happen again or don't the French believe that Bouton has failed in his moral obligation as a corporate leader. I guess they just threw Corporate Governance out of the (french) window!

1 comment:

  1. Good point Tejus.

    The answer to my mind is quite simple. The French are a law unto themselves. I am not sure about the French Government stake in SocGen, but the trend with a number of large French corporations is that the government is usually the largest, if not a majority shareholder (Renault, Peugeot, Thomson, Alcatel, Danone, Credit Agricole etc). This leads to appointment's of CEO's and boards being Government nominated and consequently, incidents such as this being quietly swept under the carpet. Political repercussions of not doing so would be unthinkable.

    Just how the French work.