Arthur Porter and Corporate Governance
Dr. Arthur Porter is a very distinguished individual. He recently resigned as head of Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee because of alleged dealings with Ari Ben-Menashe. Mr. Ben-Menashe has been called a controversial lobbyist among other names, and apparently has had somewhat of a checkered and well-connected past.
I am not interested in the alleged dealings between Dr. Porter and Ben-Menashe; nor am I interested in any ethical issues associated with these dealings. Rather, I want to use Arthur Porter as a poster child, albeit a rather old child, for what is wrong with corporate governance. I should note that there are numerous others I could have selected for this role. Dr. Porter is far from unique.
Arthur Porter has a full-time job as Director-General and CEO of the McGill University Health Centre. I would expect that he is well compensated for this position. I also would expect that McGill hired him not only for his credentials and experience, but also to devote himself full-time to this role.
Yet, Dr. Porter apparently had the time to be a member and eventually the head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. Admittedly this was a part-time position. But how did it affect his performance as CEO of the McGill University Health Centre?
We also learned from the newspaper reports that revealed his link to Ben-Menashe that he runs a family-owned construction company in Sierra Leone, a fair distance from Montreal. Further, a Google search reveals that he is a member of the Board of Directors of Air Canada, serving, ironically, as the chair of the Governance and Corporate Matters Committee; a director of the Munder Funds; and Chairman of the Board of Cancer Partners UK, a UK-based private cancer treatment a provider.
Where does he find the time? How can he be fulfilling all of his responsibilities to the best of his abilities?
He may be talented, but he cannot stretch himself across so many activities and time zones, and do any of them very well. However, as I pointed out, he is not alone. Look up the Boards of major companies in North America or Europe and you will find many Arthur Porters on these boards. Should it come as a surprise therefore, that we regularly see major companies implode?
Being a director should be a full-time job. Being a CEO also should be a full-time job. No one should do both!
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.