January 2013


Charles Kolb on Corporate Governance at Confluence Philanthropy Seminar


Charles Kolb, French-American Foundation President, spoke at “Corporate Governance in the Wake of Citizens United,” a plenary seminar organized by Confluence Philanthropy, a non-profit organization devoted to fostering mission-related investing by the philanthropic community. 

As the question of corporate power consumes the headlines, from Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court, corporations are not just gaining greater control of the markets - but politics as well. Yet foundations have a potentially powerful tool for promoting corporate accountability: their ownership of the markets. How can shareholders influence corporate practices?  How can foundations work together to incite better corporate governance?

Mr. Kolb discussed these issues from the vantage point of PACs (political action committees) and corporate social responsibility. Corporate America plays the “rent-seeking” game, endeavoring by any means possible to influence politics with big money. As PACs are supported by Wall Street, the question arises: have corporate ethics disappeared into the polarized and convoluted world of today’s American political landscape? While the United States remains mired in this behind-the-scenes partisanship, France occupies the other end of the spectrum. Campaign finance is strictly regulated, and campaign donations and expenditures are capped. Financial transparency in political life is rigorously legislated and enforced. What lessons can the US learn, and can France be used as a model? 

Speakers included:

Tom Hamburger, National Desk, The Washington Post (Moderator)
Laura Berry, Executive Director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
Charles Kolb, President, The French-American Foundation
Matt Patsky, Managing Partner & CEO, Trillium Asset Management
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