Nine Shades of Corporate Gray
Shareholder activist Robert A.G. “Bob” Monks will soon publish a new book – working title: Corporate Competitiveness. His ninth book on the subject, this one will “focus on corporate power – not only in business in finance, but power in our government and even over the public dialogue about what is best for our country.” Those familiar with Monks’ persistence in this domain may be tempted to nickname the book Die Hard 9, but for connoisseurs of his writings, the better comparison would be Claude Monet’s Rouen cathedral series, which depicts the massive structure multiple times to capture its complexities. Each of Monks’ books is an entirely new and useful (if troubling) look at the behemoth we know as the modern multinational corporation.
Monks started his corporate series more than two decades ago when he joined fellow activist Nell Minow to write Power and Accountability (1991), lamenting that corporations had too much of the former and not enough of the latte. The two then co-wrote the 1995 classic Corporate Governance and co-authored a series of editions (most recently the fifth), as well as Watching the Watchers, bearing down on boards. Monks would go on to write the Emperor’s Nightingale (1998), depicting the corporation as a complex adaptive system, and The New Global Investors (2001), focusing on global investor impact. His novel Reel and Rout (2004) took reads into the sometimes-ruthless world of global corporate takeovers. Corpocracy, a blatant critique of large-company CEOs, followed in 2007. Monks’ most recent offering (2011), co-authored with a self-described “pro-corporate conservative” (the undersigned reviewer) was Corporate Valuation for Portfolio Investment – a doorstopper for sure, yet also a page turner for those wanting to know the metrics for measuring not only assets, earnings, cash flow, and stock price, but also governance – a term that Monks and Minow helped to put on the map.
–Alexandra R. Lajoux, Directorship
Note: In the same issue of NACD Directorship, Lajoux calls Monks a "Voice in the Wilderness" recalling when he advocated sustainability reporting more than 15 years ago. Read it.