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Impressive

The Wall Street Journal provides this update ($ req.) on the scandal at Marsh. Eph readers will be most interested in these sections.

The company’s 10 outside directors met on and off yesterday about aspects of the crisis, including Mr. Greenberg’s fate, people familiar with the matter said. The meetings followed the talks between some outside directors and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who sued Marsh last week and signaled his desire for Mr. Greenberg’s ouster. At the time, Mr. Spitzer publicly said Marsh directors “should think long and hard, very long and hard, about the leadership of your company.”

And here I thought that Morty was thinking long and hard about how to make Williams better. Silly me.

Several of Marsh’s outside directors have impressive credentials. The board includes Zachary Carter, a white-collar-crime defense attorney who was U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the Clinton administration; Robert F. Erburu, former chairman of Times Mirror Co.; Lord Lang of Monkton, a former member of the British Parliament; and Morton O. Schapiro, president of Williams College.

Nice to see Morty included in this list. Again, I suspect that Erburu was the person who got Morty the job. Of course, whoever got Morty the job did not care at all that Morty has no background in business nor any expertise in any of the businesses that Marsh operates in (insurance, investment management and consulting). So, why did they pick Morty? I don’t know. Where is the Record when we need it?

The Marsh board gets low marks from corporate watchdogs who track board governance. Corporate Library grades the Marsh board a “D” on a scale of A to F, meaning it ranks below 80% of the roughly 2,000 boards that Corporate Library studies. Institutional Shareholder Services ranks the Marsh board in the bottom 2% of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500. Governance Metrics International also gives Marsh’s board a below-average rating.

Note that Morty is on the Directors & Governance subcommittee of the board. In other words, to the extent that you think that the Marsh board is weak, you should assign Morty a fair portion of the blame. I am not sure how much faith to put in these sorts of measures.

I am still thinking through how I feel about board jobs for Williams faculty members like Schapiro and Roseman. But, there can be no denying the fact that Morty is spending a ton of time on this right now. Fortunately(!), he is well-compensated for it.

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#1 Comment By Ida Tarbell On October 22, 2004 @ 10:16 am

David Kane, I do proclaim, you really remind me of myself. Not that you are as precocious or famous as myself, but my word, you are a true muckraker, though and through.

#2 Comment By Editorial Observer On October 22, 2004 @ 10:29 am

Although Morty’s board membership is perhaps more exciting (maybe he’ll get a subpoena!) I think he’s got more of a right to be on a board, by virtue of him being an administrator, really a CEO. I think Roseman has far less business sucking the St. Paul/Traveler’s teat, and that appointment seems far more grace-and-favour than Morty’s admittedly less than meritorious position. Clearly, Williams administrators are not above using the power and connections of their office to line their personal nests. Maybe this should be bothersome. Maybe David, we should garnish Morty’s salary; he doesn’t need to be paid 4 large if he’s making another large moonlighting on company time.

#3 Comment By ephs for recreational use of money On October 22, 2004 @ 11:38 am

Morty is still the bomb. Granted, maybe he bit off more than he could chew. He may not be making any guest appearances at the Leadership Winter Study any time soon. Still, in a job (at Williams) that is basically grand pooh-bah of schmoozing, he does right to keep his profile high in the world of corporate ner-do wells. His style is pretty direct. I always like that about him.

Although at odd moments I get this reflexive feeling… this guy has definitely not made the limits of the purple bubble the limits of his life, as most Williams undergrads do for some brief period.

Still, I’d rather have him getting dirty in the trenches of funding the purple cow feed — which remains why I think he keeps that sharp look on his face, and his handshake firm, so the corporate types know who’s the smart Dude of Williams College — than otherwise. He is our high-paid one-man dairy farmer. And from time to time he gets some shit on his shoes.

(This cow, for one, is well aware that one day I too will get milked. (Willingly. Sigh))

#4 Comment By um On October 22, 2004 @ 12:27 pm

I bet Morty takes time off from “thinking long and hard about how to make Williams better” to go to his kids’ teacher’s conferences as well. Please spare us discussion of that outrage.

#5 Comment By David Kane On October 22, 2004 @ 2:32 pm

To Um:

The difference being that the faculty handbook prohibits more than “modest involvement” in outside paying activities, like membership on Marsh’s board. If you think that being on the board of Marsh is a modest responsibility, please say so. If you think that the faculty handbook should be modified, please argue that.

But since the faculty handbook has nothing to say about teacher conferences, volunteer work or mountain bike riding, you really should try to come up with a better analogy.

Good luck.

#6 Comment By Reed Wiedower On October 22, 2004 @ 6:53 pm

Um, has anyone checked out the Forbes ranking of Williams being un-wired?

It’s a total joke: half the items they say we don’t have, we do. Who is responsible for this craziness?

#7 Comment By Noah Smith-Drelich ’07 On October 23, 2004 @ 2:02 am

#8 Comment By Concerned Alum On October 26, 2004 @ 4:59 am

I am troubled by the fact that Morty is on the board of Marsh. This company has shown an incredible lack of ethics and principles and is an another of example of business ethics taking a backseat to greed. My biggest concern today is the lack of respect for principle and values that the young people have in the way they conduct their lives. If we are not living our lives by principles and values then we can only by driven by our selfish interests which is a recipe for disaster in this country.

I am deeply concerned that the dean of Willams, who represents our college, is on a board of directors for a company that egregiously violated business ethics. As a small business owner, I disdain the fact that powerful companies feel they are above the law and principles that capitalism is based on. Marsh and McClennan is an example of a big company using paybacks, bribes and threats to line their pockets at the expense of unsuspecting small businesses.

Morty needs to tell the Williams College community, and especially the current students, if he was aware of these busines practices. If his lawyers advise him not to talk he should tell us that. How he handles this situation with the Williams community should determine his future at Williams. If he doesn’t practice what he preaches on the subject of ethics then his future comments will fall on deaf ears.