Having established my bonifides as chief publicist of the Morty Schapiro fan club, I feel comfortable highlighting this commentary from a concerned alum.

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 president 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 McLennan 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.

I have closed off the comments on the end of the previous thread (and corrected two typos in the above). My thoughts:

1) I can’t find anyone with a kind word to say about Marsh’s board over the last 4 years, prior to this controversy. I have doubts about the way they handled the departure of disgraced Putnam chief Larry Lasser. But, it is always hard to judge these things from the outside. For all we know, Morty might be the best of a very bad bunch.

2) Marsh’s board seems to have acted responsibly over the last 10 days. I am not sure what they could have or should have done differently. Once Eliot Spitzer has decided to go after your company, there isn’t a whole lot you can do.

3) It is not clear how much of a role, if any, Morty has played in this. The Wall Street Journal reports ($ req.) that most of the heavy lifting has been done by a core group of 4 independent directors. It is not clear what the other 6 independent directors (including Morty) have contributed. I suspect that they’ll still cash their paychecks.

4) The exact details of the Marsh case are complex. Although there are clearly some people in deep trouble (folks involved in the bid-rigging), much of the behavior that Spitzer rails against (getting commissions from insurance companies for directing business their way) seems to have been standard operating procedure and understood by everyone involved. Those wondering about what the board knew and when they knew it may get lots of juicy details in the up-coming litigation.

5) Once it has solved the crisis, will/should the entire board resign? In several recent scandals (Worldcom and NYSE come to mind), the boards have done the right things by first getting rid of old management, hiring knew management and then accepting their own share of the responsibility by resigning and allowing a new, untainted board to take their place.

6) The most interesting angle in the alums commentary above concerns the interaction between Morty’s role as President and his role as board member. You can be sure that all the lawyers involved are telling Morty that he can’t say anything to anyone. The plaintiff lawyers that are circling Marsh will (try to) use any such commentary against the company. But, is this sort of silence consistent with Morty’s role as president? I am not sure.

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