Everyone knows the old saw about the ship captain with an envelope that advises, “When things go wrong, blame your predecessor.” New York City Comptroller John C. Liu has one that reads, “Kick Wall Street.”
Liu just issued a self-congratulatory press release on behalf of New York City Pension Funds, among the most aggressive securities class-action plaintiffs. It crowed about the strong-arming of Goldman Sachs and MetLife on race and gender disclosures—something both companies already do for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An even greater irony, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein is responsible for the very successful Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program, whose aim is to provide business education to women around the world. The comptroller certainly deflected attention from himself, but why? You don’t need to be Perry Mason to see the value of this distraction, as The New York Times recently revealed that Liu’s campaign treasurer faces up to 60 years in prison on charges of campaign finance fraud. Now Liu’s other press release—the one announcing his bid to replace New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg—is on hold. When asked about the charges, Liu said he “had no dealings with the campaigns’ finances,” which would explain why he can devote so much time to corporate governance.
Jeff Cunningham writes about leadership and business, boards and corporate governance. He is the founder of Directorship magazine and currently serves as managing director and senior advisor to NACD. Previously, he was president of the Internet venture firm CMGI, publisher of Forbes and managing partner of the U.K. private equity firm Schroders. He has served as an independent board chair or director of 10 public companies. The views expressed are his own.