Walker Principles to go global?

The  UK Government and Treasury has, perhaps not entirely surprisingly, warmly welcomed Sir David Walker’s proposals for the reform of the corporate governance of UK banks.  At the same time,  Lord Myners, the Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury has given the market  a strong steer on possible next steps for the proposed reforms, including taking them on to a global stage.

Commenting on the report Myners said:  “Corporate governance failures were a major contributor to the financial crisis.  The responsibility for the actions that led the global financial sector to the brink of collapse ultimately rests with the people who sat around the bank board tables and those who approved their appointment.

“The weaknesses in board practice, risk management, control of remuneration and exercise of ownership rights identified by the Review must be addressed. 

 “Board members in future must ask tougher questions of their chief executives.  They need to spend far more time fulfilling their responsibilities. Shareholders must ensure that directors have the skills necessary for the tasks required.

 “Sir David has put forward detailed and comprehensive proposals, setting a new benchmark for best practice both nationally and internationally.

 “The consultation process now needs to look not just at the proposals, but also how to implement and, if necessary, take them further, including their applicability to non-financial sector firms.

The suggestion in Walker Report for the creation of a newly invigorated “Stewardship Council” as part of the FRC family with international representation is not far removed from the SEC’s involvement of major shareholders in shaping and influencing financial reform in the USA. As Manifest proposed earlier this year, while a reformed Bretton Woods for global banks was certainly to be welcomed, global shareholders also need a global framework to be able to act effectively across borders. Commenting on the possibilities for an international dimension to the proposed reforms Myners said: “International adoption of similar measures would also reinforce corporate governance and contribute significantly to financial stability.  Therefore, the Government will take steps to ensure that proposals to improve corporate governance are considered internationally.”

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