Thursday, September 28, 2006

Girls, Girls, Girls

As I always say, if you want to know something about corporate governance, ask a law professor. Actually, I never say that.

For example, let’s say you wanted to understand the scandal at Hewlett Packard Co. (HPQ), which thickened today with the resignation of former General Counsel Ann Baskins. She joined a couple of other former HP executives in taking the Fifth at a Congressional hearing.

You know who’s to blame, according to Gordon Smith, a corporate and securities prof at University of Wisconsin Law School?


Noting the involvement of women like Baskins and HP Chairman Patricia Dunn, Smith writes on Conglomerate Blog that "gender might figure into this story in several ways. For example, women who are outsiders to the clubby world of corporate directors may rely too much on formal procedures and not enough on informal mechanisms. Women leaders may feel the need to be overly tough or results-oriented to overcome stereotypes of weakness in a way that men don't."

More generously, he wonders if "reactions to mistakes by women might be more harsh, with less forgiveness for error, than reactions to men." Uh, maybe.

Whatever you do, don’t invest in Norway, where companies listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange will soon be required to fill 40% of their board seats with women. Just think of the scandals all those females, with their annoying tendency to respect “procedures,” may cause.

If you don’t feel like blaming the chicks, you can get with Professor Larry Ribstein from the University of Illinois College of Law, who thinks HP has too many independent directors .

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