The dangers of appeasing Wall Street.
Question: Has capitalism run amok?
Bill George: Well certainly when people are in there to take for themselves and are not concerned about the long-term histories of the institutions, they become totally focused on satisfying Wall Street – the quarterly earnings – and they wind up destroying companies. But they can’t think beyond Detroit, Michigan and these great automobile companies of the past that were the _______ of the American economy are going away. So it can operate in the United States. Why can’t General Motors? I think it’s been a real tragedy that people have been so short-sighted in their orientation and not look for the long term. How do you build an organization that can really contribute to society, not contribute to us as leaders. We recently saw the CEO of Home Depot take $210 million of the company for failing. Now that’s not capitalism; that’s capitalism run amuck. And too often compensation is paid to people not for success, but for failure. And that’s just wrong. Boards of directors who do that should be let go; should be turned down and we should get a new board of directors. And we’ve seen it obviously in the cases of the Enrons of the world where people actually corrupt in the way that the system . . . But beyond that, the law takes care of people like that. I’m much more concerned with the hundreds of CEOs that capitulated and played the short-term Wall Street game and destroyed their companies. They stopped investing in R&D. They stopped investing in people. They stopped investing in technology, and they wind up without a business. And they’re out of business now.
Recorded on: 7/6/07