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Why Should Your Board Be Any Different?

Mea culpa, mea culpa – that’s my message to your building’s board and mine and that of every building out there. Today’s New York Times features “Money for Nothing” – two blogging heads taking on mismanagement of corporate boards, whose members get paid quite a lot (an average of $212,000) for doing very little, and asking even less.  Seems they fly off in corporate jets to ritzy locales, tee off with Tiger (before his rehab stint), relax in spa style, then dine in splendor – squeezing in a few bits of play-by-the- book business between bites – all without much concern for the shareholders they supposedly represent in companies that are losing truckloads of money.

It makes me think I’ve been unfair, or at least unrealistic, in trying to hold boards of buildings to a higher standard.  Why should they be any different?  Maybe it’s just hardwired in our genes to succumb to hubris and be tempted by forbidden fruit.

 Indeed boards of buildings should be celebrated in comparison. They don’t get paid, not a penny, but they do get grief – lots of it – from shareholders unmoored or entitled, or both.  I promise if the Big Boys from any of those corporate boards lived in a co-op or condo – which I’m sure plenty do – they’d be the FIRST to complain about directors in their buildings getting stuff they don’t, even though what’s generally available is chump change compared to the Croesian horde they apparently reap – a free parking space, a winning ticket in the locker lottery.

The difference is it gets personal on the home front, where directors and the directed are a known (and knowable) group living under one roof, not an anonymous  mass of shareholders dispersed across the globe. Even if corporate directors are asleep at the switch, most shareholders will never know because board members are just names on the annual report, not neighbors down the hall. Anyway, there’s a paid executive team in place that hopefully will carry out the corporation’s business. 

Besides, the perks the Big Boys get are so far out of the realm of reality for rank and file shareholders that most don’t feel like it’s being taken from them – though, of course, it is. But the things directors in High Rise Society covet may come at your direct expense. Now that’s a whole different ball game.

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