Gustavo Ballvé on January 22nd, 2015
Corporate Governance, Corporate Strategy, Food for thought, Home, Risk management

Interesting article on McKinsey’s website called “Confronting corruption” – it seems tailor made for the current Brazilian news cycle.

How about avoiding corruption? It is impossible for a huge company to control every worker everywhere and all the time, right? Even Warren Buffett has said that “Berkshire has 300,000 employees and someone, somewhere is doing something wrong” (H/T: Mason Myers Blog).

I don’t disagree, but any company can mitigate the risk by avoiding incentive systems and a corporate culture that favors “shortcuts”. I had posted twice about an interesting framework for managing corporate risks by HBS professor Robert Kaplan (here and here), until I finally decided to attend his superb course at Harvard Business School called Risk Management for Corporate Leaders. This one-week course is absolutely great and I highly recommend it for investors – but it is even better for corporate executives. It goes into the subject of fraud and corruption with great detail. I’ll highlight a few other sources for discussing this kind of preventable risk inside (click on Read More), and I definitely intend to write a deeper story into this – someday…

Having said all this, back to the “investor-only” hat: always remember that you can choose the types of companies you buy for the long term. If they look shady, are in shady sectors where political influence is a large part of the value generation drivers, or if this analysis is almost impossible to get right at any given time: be careful. Or, even better, choose to stay out.

Sources / further reading:

Robert Kaplan’s instant-classic HBR article on risk management: Managing Risks: A New Framework. Its co-author, Prof. Anette Mikes, also teaches the Risk Management course at HBS.

Kaplan’s presentation: A new framework to manage strategy and external risks. Check out the “Fraud Triangle” and think about where your company culture – or that of your investments – fits. And don’t take the stated culture at face value: dive deep into this and you won’t regret it. Call it an insurance policy.

Another presentation, a bit older (from Sept. 2012).

A bit more detail on the Atlanta Public Schools case – complete with a delicious new quote (“”): Corporate Culture, The Balanced Scorecard and The Grand Jury.

Another Kaplan article: Risk management and the strategy execution system (2009).

The OECD’s resource page on corruption.


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