Kandel to head corporate governance initiative

Myron Kandel, a print and broadcast journalist with more than 50 years of experience, has been picked to head a first-in-the nation initiative designed to shed light on the issues of corporate governance and investor protection.

Kandel – for 25 years CNN’s financial editor of CNN before retiring earlier this year – will spearhead the Initiative for Corporate Governance and Investor Protection, funded primarily through an endowment created by a $5 million securities settlement negotiated in 2002 by the state Bureau of Securities Regulation and Tyco International.

The initiative will be affiliated with the New Hampshire College and University Council, a consortium of 16 colleges, meaning it will have a strong focus on education – of both corporate executives and individual investors. Plans call for events to be held across the state at various campuses, involving students, faculty and the general public in a “broad-based examination of these crucial issues,” according to a press release from the Bureau of Securities Regulation announcing the initiative.

Gov. John Lynch, who before his election in 2004 sat on the board that oversaw the Tyco settlement and eventually selected Kandel and set up the initiative, said he saw the effort as one “that will help educate present and future business leaders about appropriate standards of conduct, stimulate a national debate about sound corporate governance and help protect the nation’s investors.”

Kandel said the initiative’s mission “is to shine a national spotlight” on “corporate and financial misdeeds” as well as to “emphasize the value of public responsibility in government, business and everyday life.”

Looking to the future, he said, “we hope to formulate standards of proper conduct for the future” for the nation’s corporate leaders.

Kandel said he envisions the initiative having a national footprint, and it will be launched with a series of high-profile events and discussions he hopes will get the effort off to a fast start.

April 2006 is the target start-up date, he said.

Kandel said he already has agreements from the last four chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission to visit New Hampshire and discuss the issue. He also expects to attract “other national leaders in government, business, finance and the media.”

And, considering that New Hampshire is home to the first presidential primary, Kandel also expects to bring corporate governance and investor protection to the foreground in the 2008 presidential campaign.

“We expect all the major aspirants to the presidency to discuss their views on keeping American corporations honest and protecting the interests of the nation’s investors,” Kandel said, adding that he would be “extremely disappointed if we couldn’t get the major candidates to address those issues.”

All told, Kandel said, “the important thing is to keep shining a spotlight on the issue.”

Also taking a key interest in the initiative is the Investor Protection Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based organization funded through several multi-state corporate and investor fraud settlements.

Don Blanding, president and CEO of the trust, said he was eager to lend financial and organizational support to the New Hampshire initiative, which he called a “vision of the future with respect to investor protection.”

Blanding also said that, “among the handful of states taking the lead in investor education and protection, New Hampshire is way at the top of the list.”

New Hampshire’s place on that list was cemented in October 2002, when the Bureau of Securities Regulation reached a settlement with Tyco International, then headquartered in Exeter, over allegations that included whether Tyco’s board of directors failed to exercise its fiduciary responsibilities by allowing “misdeeds” to occur when it failed to “reasonably control and supervise the audit and compensation functions.” Tyco’s former CEO, Dennis Kozlowski, and former CFO, Mark Swartz, were convicted earlier this year on charges of looting the company of $600 million.

While Kandel has agreed to head the initiative for the next three years, both Secretary of State Bill Gardner, whose department oversees the securities bureau, and Mark Connolly, director of the bureau, expect it will be a long-term, far-reaching initiative, seeded by an endowment — the $5 million Tyco settlement.

“We expect this to be a model for the nation,” said Gardner. – JEFF FEINGOLD

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