Bob Bostrom Podcast on Corporate Crisis and Big Corporate Failures

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I interviewed Bob Bostrom on March 9th, 2017. In Part 2 of our interview, we discussed his stories of being General Counsel of Freddie Mac before, during and after the Financial Crisis of 2008/09. He shared how Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke sat across the table from him to the numerous leadership changes and investigations they endured. The remaining bulk of the episode, Bob shares his findings on why there are corporate crises with several examples and the role and responsibilities of the general counsel and several takeaways of what corporate legal departments can do to mitigate those risks in the future.
 
Here are some highlights of my part 2 interview with Bob Bostrom:

On September 6th, I was unexpectedly sitting across the table from Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke and then FHFA director, Jim Lockhart, being informed of a government takeover and conservatorships options.

The stress was indescribable. And every day came another unimaginable event, the impact on this incredible group of employees, which was catastrophic. 

But one thing that I learned and probably couldn’t emphasize enough is that you’ve got to constantly show your appreciation and respect for everyone and say thank you every day and every night.

If you have comments, recommendations, etc. please send them to Podcast@findthelions.com

If you haven’t already, please leave a review on iTunes.

Links referred to in this episode

Bob Bostrom’s LinkedIn Bio

Federal Takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

SEC Charges former Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae Executives with Securities Fraud

Kenneth Feinberg: Special Master

What is a General Counsel to Do? Lessons Learned from the Major Corporate Crises from Enron through Volkswagen (PowerPoint)

Norman Veasey | The General Counsel Persuasive Counselor (article)

Norman Veasey | Indispensable Counsel: The Chief Legal Officer in the New Reality (book)

Ben Heineman | High Performance with High Integrity (Memo to the CEO) (book)

Ben Heineman | GE’s Key Lawyer Rewired the Game (article)

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Audio Transcription 

To Download the Transcript of this Audio, click here. (Look in the top right corner and click on the three dots to download.)
Hi listeners, this is Chris Batz, your host of the Law Firm Leadership podcast. This is part two of my interview of Bob Bostrom, general counsel of Abercrombie & Fitch.
As a reminder, the transcript of this audio will be available on my site to read or to download.
If you appreciate this episode or others and haven’t already, please leave a review on iTunes.
Finally, I’ve provided in the show notes of your device links to the subjects mentioned in this episode and a link to the transcribed audio.
As many of you know, we interview corporate defense law firm leaders, partners and legal consultants, and now general counsels. You are listening to Episode Nine of the Law Firm Leadership podcast.
Broadcasting from Kansas City, this is the Law Firm Leadership podcast. In each episode, you will receive actionable ideas and hear personal leadership stories of the top corporate defense law firms from around the United States. Enjoy a front-row seat with law firm leaders, their partners and legal consultants as we discuss life and leadership.
Chris: Welcome to the Law Firm Leadership podcast, I’m your host, Chris Batz with The Lion Group.
Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Bob Bostrom of Abercrombie & Fitch, again. Bob serves as senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary of the publicly traded retail clothing company, Abercrombie & Fitch. Bob also served as the executive vice president general counsel at Freddie Mac during and after the financial crisis and you also served as partner at three global law firms.
Welcome, Bob to the Law Firm Leadership podcast. It’s wonderful to have you on the show.
Bob: Thank you, Chris. Great to be here today with you.

The Conservatorship & Government Takeover of Freddie Mac in 2008

Chris: Let’s just jump into my first question which is what is one of the most challenging times of your career as a general counsel?
Bob: Chris I think by far and away the most challenging time in my career as general counsel was the conservatorship and government takeover of Freddie Mac in 2008. A little background to help set the stage, in 2008, Freddie Mac, very similar to Fannie Mae, was a Fortune 50 New York Stock Exchange-listed SEC registrant with about two and a half-trillion dollars in assets, approximately a trillion dollars of publically traded debt and about a trillion and a half of dollars of public securitizations. Freddie Mac had over 650 million shares of outstanding common stock and 18 series of outstanding preferred stock, so it was a large and substantial business.
Chris: That’s huge.
Bob: In September, with the financial crisis unfolding all around, on September 6th Freddie Mac was put into conservatorship by the US Treasury and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Almost immediately a share of their capital was wiped out and it became one of the largest restructurings and conservatorships in history. The US government would contribute 200 billion dollars of capital to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. US Treasury entered into financing arrangements to support over five trillion dollars of debt obligations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
When I first joined Freddie Mac in early 2006, the company was in the aftermath of a six billion dollar financial statement restatement with a massive consent order with its regulator, a remediation plan in place to satisfy its terms, all of this in the midst of a myriad of investigations in litigation, including the DOJ, the SEC, the Federal Election Commission, and was also the focus of intense congressional investigations and political attention, and a party in a multitude of derivative suits, ERISA suits as well as securities fraud class actions that arose out of the restatement.
From 2006 to 2007, we worked through those challenges, resolved all those investigations and litigation, put in place a new board of directors and a new corporate governance structure as well as rebuilt a whole new management team. But before I knew it, as I mentioned on September 6th, I was unexpectedly sitting across the table from Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke and then FHFA director, Jim Lockhart, being informed of a government takeover and conservatorships options.
Chris: What were you feeling in that moment?
Bob: It was a moment of complete surprise and frankly a dulling effect. This was not a planned meeting. It was unexpected. It was intended to be a meeting on a different topic, done with complete surprise. And so your immediate reaction is really to listen. And it takes a bit to digest and to really be able to formulate a response and with very little time to do so. But after 72 hours with little sleep, 3 board meetings, and advising the board of its fiduciary duties and options at this tense and crisis-laden moment, Freddie Mac went into conservatorship on September 6th, 2008 and really the world changed as I knew it.
Chris: Yeah.
Bob: The directors were offered the opportunity to resign. Shortly after the CEO, CFO and chief business officer left the company, followed by other senior executives and the government appointed a non-executive chairman and CEO. All of this in the midst of, as you and some of your listeners may recall, you know, the worst financial crisis that had ever hit our country.
And at the time conservatorship was brand new. It had been the subject of a statute enacted in July of 2008, so there was no precedent about what it meant and how it would be interpreted. Most significantly, the conservator, which was the director of the FHFA, had all of the rights, titles, powers and privileges of the shareholders, management and directors. So, the conservator became all three of those entities at one time until we accomplished some delegations of authority and formulated a new board.
The conservator was required by this new statute to preserve and conserve assets of the entities, but there were also the preexisting statutory responsibilities under the federal charter. There were the senior preferred stock purchase agreements, with the US Treasury with their covenanting warrants. There was the remaining 20.1% of outstanding common stock that continued to be held by the original shareholders. There were the 18 series of preferred stock. There was the continued SEC and New York Stock Exchange listing. And all this in the backdrop of being governed by Virginia corporation law, the Federal charter, the Federal Conservatorship statue and the Emergency Economic Stabilization act.
Again, as you may recall, because of the sheer size and magnitude of the scope of government support, and what I would call the politics of blame, the US government launched immediate investigations. Within three weeks Freddie and Fannie were hit with multiple parallel investigations by the Department of Justice involving the FBI, the SEC and the FHFA. There were, over time, approximately 20 congressional investigations and inquiries, as well as from State Attorneys Generals and civil litigation. There was truly an amazing moment. There were multiple interviews and depositions of hundreds of current and former employees and directors. Everyone was blaming Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for the financial crisis and assumed financial fraud and misconduct. All of this had an amazing, truly amazing, impact on employees.
Chris: Yeah, if I just may interrupt, were you married at the time? Are you still married? I’m assuming, I mean the weight of that on your life inside of a role, even the weight of the crisis, I mean the bearing of that on you as outside life. I mean how did life function for you through that?
Bob: It was amazing, Chris. It was, I was married and am married and have four children.
Chris: Excellent.

The Weight and Responsibility of the Role & Situation

Bob: But this was a 24 by 7 responsibility. There were all of the legal aspects associated with the job, the managing this new and alien relationship with the conservator, at the same time developing delegations of authority, creation of board committee structure, the recruitment selection orientation, new directors, developing roles and responsibilities for all these new players. All of this in the wake of being one of the most senior executives that was still with the company, being one of the few points of contact of transition from pre- and post-conservatorship with one of the most truly incredible and resilient groups of individuals employed there that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. These people had gone through the aftermath of the restatement I discussed earlier.
Chris: Right.
Bob: Had worked 24 by 7 to get back to timely financial reporting and to recreate and reimagine the company. And now they were faced with a situation where their stock and equity had been wiped out, where they didn’t know if their retirement would be any good any more, where they didn’t know if they’d have a job the next day, where they didn’t know if Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae would exist the next day.
And in the path of all of this was the most indescribable hostility from every direction that one could possibly imagine. Freddy Mac employees, if they were wearing Freddie Mac logoed or branded shirts, would be, you know, accosted on the street. They’d be yelled at. It wasn’t as bad as the AIG situation, where there were busloads of employees going out to the AIG executives’ house and tormenting them, but clearly there was personal animus, and personal hostility, and truly personal danger with the hostility that existed there. It created really just insurmountable personal stress. And part of the incredible obligation, I think, that I felt personally, and some of the other longer-tenured executives felt personally, was really to be role models for this incredible group of people and to try and be a bit of stability through this crisis.
Meanwhile, multiple congressional investigations, government investigations, employees being interviewed by the FBI, by Justice, I mean, it was truly an amazing period of time. And to give you some sense of perspective on the six-year period, when I joined Freddie Mac, I was the fifth general counsel in two years, while I was GC for almost six years. I survived four CEOs, four CFOs, a CFO termination, a government–appointed CEO resignation, the resignation of the COO and a virtually 100% new management committee. And it truly became five years of never-ending personal and professional crisis management.
The stress was indescribable. And every day came another unimaginable event, the impact on this incredible group of employees, which was catastrophic. Are acting CFO committed suicide just to give you a flavor for the level of stress that was in existence at the time.
It became challenging to hire executives, multiple key executive departures, this extraordinarily hostile public congressional and political environment. Truly just an unimaginable experience that you really realize what kind of a person you are and the strength of character you have in order to go through this and to be a role model because you have a tremendous responsibility, not only, at the time we had about 175 people in the legal division, but, you know, to the rest of the people in that company who looked to the remaining executives really as sources of strength and stability in this sea of chaos and confusion.
Chris: Bob, I mean it just sounds like you eat stress for lunch. The different roles that you had, where you’re at the Bank of New York, and then you leaped into this role knowing what they were going through and then this new situation hit with the financial crisis being blamed for it, leaping into Abercrombie and, you know, being faced with the proxy fight you described, I mean, how do you personally handle stress?
Bob: I think we all have our own ways of dealing with it, right? We all have our different senses of accountability and personal responsibility and personal obligation to people and institutions. I think what enabled me to survive all of this was really focusing on all of those things, focusing on a 24 by 7 effort to be a proactive and persuasive advisor to management and the emerging board, and a role model to the employees, to be stable, to be calm, not to submit to the easy temptations, to latch into the same fear, stress, and chaos that was all around you, to always remind people how critically important it is to always do the right thing, to stay focused, to be strong, to be the devil’s advocate, and challenging everybody’s-doing-it kind of justifications, and to really be a respected and trusted advisor and truly be the conscience of the corporation.
But it also meant that you needed to be there, truly you need to lead by example in these kinds of situations and you can’t expect your teams to work 24/7 unless you’re there with them.
And you’ve got to be there with your sleeves rolled up, sitting by the box of stale pizza at 2 o’clock in the morning, working through the issue, and not expect your team to be there with an answer for you the next morning when you get there. It means truly being respectful of everybody that’s there with you and their own particular needs, their own particular sensitivities, their own particular reaction, being a friend, being a counselor, but most importantly maintaining your credibility and your reputation, and the trust of others. But to inspire and lead your team to work 24/7 for long periods of time under, you know, unimaginable stress and truly potential personal liability, you need to be there. You need to maintain a relentless sense of enthusiasm, and dedication, and commitment, and professionalism.
But one thing that I learned and probably couldn’t emphasize enough is that you’ve got to constantly show your appreciation and respect for everyone and say thank you every day and every night because sometimes that’s really all that keeps everybody going is that sense of teamwork, camaraderie and appreciation for, you know, the incredible sacrifice that everybody’s undertaking and the incredible stress that they’re under.
Chris: I just keep on thinking that it sounds like you were the man for a job and you kind of fit a call and you, yeah, I think people are divinely placed in different places at different times. And yeah, grateful for your gift of managing crisis in a moment when they needed someone like you.
I’m thinking of a name and I actually apologize, and I can’t look it up on the internet at the moment, but Feinberg. Who’s the gentleman that was the service commander or what’s the term that gives out money for 9/11 and for the BP oil spill. I’m trying to think of the gentleman’s name. He’s a lawyer. Sounds like the type of stress that you’ve kind of endured in some ways. Do you recall who I’m talking about? He handles the billion dollar funds that were given out. It sounds like that kind of level of relational need and demand that has been put on you among many other things, intellectual demand.
Bob: Yeah, it was Kenneth Feinberg.
Chris: Kenneth Feinberg, there we go.
Bob: And he had been both the Special Master of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and then later as the administrator of the Deepwater Horizon Victim Compensation Fund. And actually during the financial crisis also served as, I think the title is Special Master of the TARP Executive Compensation Program.
Chris: I have a personal belief that God creates people for certain moments in history with giftings and I think Ken really fit that well and I can see you really fitting your role in moments of crisis that, you know, few people can fill the boots of. So yeah, grateful to have you on the podcast and to, you know, let you share your story. In essence, it’s commendable.
Bob: Thank you.

22 Lessons Learned from the Major Corporate Crises

Chris: Bob, from our discussions you’ve been a student of crisis as much as one who’s been in the middle of it, you’ve studied it. And you had shared with me that you have at different points done seminars or presented on lessons that you’ve learned in corporate crisis and big corporate failures. You spoke about examples of events, their consequences, why do they happen, what should lawyers be doing and lessons learned, and I’d love for you just to share that with, just that valuable insight you have with our listeners today.
Bob: Sure, Chris. I’d be happy to you.
Background is that I’ve, both in connection with various issues that I’ve faced and just having acquired an interest in it, had led most of the large, multi-page reports of investigation, trustee reports and board of director investigations that have been made public on most of the major corporate crises since 2000. And, you know, they’ve involved from Enron through to Volkswagen and now you could probably, although there hasn’t been a public report on Wells Fargo, certainly the amount of published reports in the press give you some inkling into what happened and I think the same holds true with respect to what’s happening at Wells Fargo. And, you know, these involve corporate governance breakdowns, accounting irregularities, earnings restatements, financial failures, financial market disruptions, everything from the BP oil disaster, to the GM report, to the Volkswagen evasion of emissions testing, and, you know, these various events from Enron, through Sarbanes-Oxley, through the crises before Dodd-Frank, during Dodd-Frank, after Dodd-Frank.
What’s interesting is that when you read the reports that traverse both sides of Sarbanes-Oxley and both sides of Dodd-Frank, both piece of legislation, which were supposed to solve all the problems, solve and fix and legislate away all those things that went wrong, what’s striking to me is that these various reports that came before and after Sarbanes and before and after Dodd-Frank, show that it’s the same, by my rough count, about same 22 kinds of things that happened throughout these reports that suggest you can’t legislate these things away because they are very much cultural attributes of companies. And it’s fascinating when you go through them. And if we just do a quick run through, you know, why do these things continue to happen? They continue happening right up to today, right? We’ve just had GM, Volkswagen, Wells Fargo.
And what you find in these reports is, you know, number one, there’s a breakdown of corporate governance. There’s inadequate board oversight, management reporting and information flow.
There’s also repeatedly in the reports, statements by witnesses as well as just conclusion by the drafters, you know, that it can’t happen here. There’s an arrogant suspension of disbelief.
And one of my favorite quotes is, on this point is after the Lehman bankruptcy there was a quote in the Corporate Counsel magazine from a Lehman lawyer and it was quoted “At no point in time until Sunday did I think it was a real possibility. I did not think such a stupid decision could be made by intelligent people.” And there’s a real tendency time and time and time again in these corporate crises for very well-meaning, very well-intentioned folks at the companies to just simply have this arrogant suspension of disbelief.
The other common, and this would be number three, is if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not. Companies and executives chasing opportunities that just are just too good to be true and this inability to balance relationship between risk and reward.
Number four was that no one ever expects the unexpected. No one expected house prices to fall 50% in 2008. No one expected a conservatorship of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. No one expected the government bailout of Lehman. No one expected the wellhead blowout in the Gulf. No one expected the coal mine explosion in Massey. No one expected the emission switch problem in GM. No one expected the widespread manipulation of emissions testing in Volkswagen. No one expected the widespread abuse of sales practices in Wells Fargo.
Five is a failure to escalate and report. There’s always attempts to cover up. People double down to avoid problems. And you know the old expression, “it ain’t the crime; it’s the cover up.” But cultures, corporate cultures, fail to emphasize the importance of escalation and reporting.
Number six, and as a general counsel this is my favorite, “Everybody else is doing it.” And you hear arguments about safety in numbers, and everybody can’t be wrong, everybody’s doing it, put us at a competitive disadvantage, assertions that it’s legal. This is probably one of the most challenging conversations for a general counsel to have.
Number seven is a common absence of effective enterprise-wide risk management systems.
Number eight, really important one, no risk culture. There was no emphasis on doing the right thing. There was a lack of awareness in priority. There was a lack of accountability. So I mentioned there was no escalation and no clear roles and responsibilities.
Another key reason, number nine, is compensation systems that rewarded the wrong behavior and didn’t incentivize the right behavior. And the recent Wells Fargo situation is a very good example of that.
Number ten is a lack of sensitivity. Good people doing bad things not bad people doing bad things. And good people lose their sensitivity to right and wrong and doing the right thing in the heat of business. It’s critical that there be constant headline training and awareness around business decision making.
Number eleven and this clearly is one of the most repeated and most damaging, creating unachievable corporate stretch goals that encourage and incentivize illegal or inappropriate behavior. And there are two wonderful examples very contemporary of this. One is Volkswagen. While there hasn’t been any comprehensive report of Volkswagen, if you read the various articles and accounts of it that are very well documented and very well done, it is clear that Volkswagen’s CEO set an objective of being the world’s largest car company by a certain year and implicit in that declaration was at any cost. And that pushed the company to embark on a series of decision making priorities where people lost their guidance and their moral compass. I’m not suggesting it was quite as extreme in Wells Fargo, but clearly creating a goal of eight products per customer in the Wells Fargo setting was perhaps a stretch goal that was unachievable and encouraged bad behavior to get to those goals.
Number twelve is ignoring red flags. Not seeing or not believing what you are seeing and coming up with a business justification or rationalization for it.
Number thirteen was repeatedly a sense of regulatory arrogance. The notion that the regulator is always wrong and we are right.
Number fourteen is long-standing market behavior that becomes politically incorrect, legally incorrect or the subject of a new looksee by regulators and enforcers.
Fifteen, the absence of stress testing, no crisis management plans and no attempt to test a crisis management plan so that when it happens you at least have a template and are prepared for it.
Number sixteen is one of my favorites. It’s the absence of thinking forward without hindsight. The notion here, higher actions today will be viewed with the benefit of hindsight. And the number of examples in these multiple reports, where really smart, intelligent, good people make decisions without thinking what those decisions will look like on a stormy day with the benefit of hindsight.
Number seventeen is repeatedly the acceptance or tolerance of de minimis violations of law and bad behavior because there’s no harm, the no harm no foul justification.
Number eighteen is no use of independent reviews. There was never an attempt to get an independent, third-party objective assessment either as a preventative prophylactic, analytical tool to help you understand what’s going on in your business in terms of governance and risk practices, compliance and ethical culture or after something happened, no independent review, no ability to learn from mistakes. In many of these large corporate crises, there was a warning disaster that went unheeded followed by the big crisis that really caused the end of the company or the major corporate crisis.
A remarkable repeating, this I number nineteen, a remarkable and repeated management and board indifference and intolerance of internal audit findings not being remediated, absence of independent internal control functions, legal audit compliance, risk and internal controls, reporting either to business units or to areas other than the CEO with dotted lines to the board.
Twenty-one no effective internal controls and no ethical culture.
And then lastly, in many of these cases, there was a significant business transformation going on. The company was going from domestic to international, it was engaging in new products and services. And in these business transformations the risk changes dramatically in the company. And really the failure to focus on and identify the risk in significant business transformations became critical.
So those are the observations that occurred repeatedly in these multiple, long, multi-page investigative reports that just kept on happening time and time again. And fascinating to study and look at.

What can Corporate Legal Departments Do?

Chris: I mean that’s a lot of observations. I guess my question is what can a lawyer really do. I mean that sounds like ten years of work and implementation and hopefully you can get that all done inside of a company. But now, what’s your recommendation? What can lawyers be doing?
Bob: Well, first and foremost, I think lawyers have to be proactive and persuasive advisors to management and the board.
You need to advise and counsel and persuade for the adoptions of sound governance standards and most importantly a corporate culture that ensures independence, ethical behavior and truly an informed and independent board. And I think you do that by in effect doing sensitivity training, providing constant reminders of these 22 observations because people forget about it.
And headline training is what I like to call it. You can’t do it all the time because it gets stale and people stop listening to it. But it’s very easy periodically to teach a lesson by simply circling, recycling a headline that was in recent publicity. And it serves as a great reminder to people. When you’re in a meeting, be the devil’s advocate. Challenge the everybody’s-doing-it justifications for something. Educate and emphasize the importance of risk management.
But probably the most important theme is really to motivate and advocate for the fostering and nurturing of an ethical culture.
I truly believe that an ethical culture is the single most important thing that that culture in a company is such a fundamental way that everybody does business. And, again, looking back at both these observations and the sequence of events that happened, it’s critical.
Volkswagen wasn’t just five engineers sitting in a room figuring out how to do this. It involved knowing and intentional behavior by hundreds of German engineers. And obviously there was a culture there that was focused on the accomplishment of this unachievable objective where there was not a focus and constant reminder of doing the right thing and building and developing an ethical culture based on rewarding good behavior, not rewarding bad behavior, all of the things that we talked about in the context of those 22 lessons learned.
The other thing is you have to lead by example and always do the right thing.
You’re the conscious of the corporation. Now that concept gets a lot of discussion and there are a lot of very renowned, very respected general counsels who would say as a general counsel, I have no monopoly on the conscience of the corporation in right and wrong and that’s not what this is intended to convey. But it’s intended to convey the notion that you have to be the reminder of that concept. People get caught up with their day-to-day jobs; part of your day-to-day job ought to be building an ethical culture, reinforcing an ethical culture and being the conscience of the corporation. That’s in your job description.
Another key thing is to have a crisis management plan developed and have it in place. Now you can never anticipate what the crisis will be and exactly what you’ll have to do, but you can certainly have your team in place, you can do tabletop testing in different type of crisis so that when it happens you assemble the right group of people who thought about how to manage through a crisis before, who have encountered the philosophical differences that ten people sitting in a room trying to figure out how to react to a crisis go through, and you’ve at least begun the process of identifying working through those philosophical differences about how much information do you give and when, who do you give it to, how do you give it to them.
The circumstances will always differ, but when you do a first tabletop on a crisis management simulation, it’s amazing how ten people you work with every day that you think think just like you have ten different ways of reacting to the situation. And you want to make sure you’ve begun to identify those different reactions and work to the center to a compromise that all agree to ahead of time, rather than wait until you hit the crisis for the first time. So I think those are some of the things that you need to think about.
Chris: Bob, thank you. There’s just a tremendous wealth of kind to-do’s and take homes that the folks can kind of follow back up on and inquire, do more research on. I want to bring this second part of our podcast to a close. Is there any resources, Bob, you would recommend for people to dive into this subject more that you would recommend, any blogs, authors, anything that would be of help?

Recommended Resources

Bob: Well, I mentioned the book by Norm Veasey earlier which I think is a tremendous discussion of the role of the general counsel and being a persuasive counselor in addition to all of the admonitions about remembering who your client is and it’s not the CEO, it’s the board and some of those key fundamental tenants. Ben Heineman’s book which just recently came out, is also a great guide to how to think about these issues, how to approach the role of general counsel. I think sometimes, you know, reading a report on Enron, reading the MF Global Holdings reports, reading some of these gives you a really powerful feeling for, because some of these reports actually go through interviews and they’re very, there are parts of it that are very storytelling and very summary-fashion about who did what to when and how did it happen and they go back and look at board minutes and minutes in interviews. And they’re tremendous learning, educational experiences just to appreciate the flow of an interaction of executives with a board and executives with employees.
And it’s incredible how much you can derive and apply to your own personal day-to-day existence because, you know, you’re not the first person to face these issues. And it’s phenomenal to hear and read about how these things unfolded. And when you read about them third party, you’re in a state of disbelief that it actually could happened, but then you realize it’s happening to you that day in a board meeting one time. And all of the sudden by having been through that experience of hearing and reading and understanding what happened in another context it makes you much better able to be sensitized and alert and appreciate that moment to know what to do. So I think sometimes just having the opportunity to look at some of those are incredibly insightful and interesting.
The GM report being another one where, you know, the role of the lawyer and reporting it to business units may have contributed to too much of a familiarity and focus on the business and not enough on the role of the independent lawyer. Some of that in Volkswagen. Some really tremendous guidance and experiential advice can be gleaned from some of these earlier reports and commentaries.
I’m not really aware of any blogs per se that have focused on this, but, you know, there are a number of articles and decks that I’ve been written, that I’ve put together that are out there that talk about these things. But they’re very powerful. And I’m a big believer that part of all of this is being sensitized to it and having your eyes open to it so that you have the wherewithal to recognize it when it happens, so it’s not happening for the first time and you’re not sensitized to what exactly is going on.
Chris: That’s extremely helpful and if folks what to find out more of your articles, I’m going to post some of those in the show notes so people can get to those, maybe some of these reports you’re speaking of, the books you spoke of, I’ll put that in the show notes. Bob, bringing this to a close and I ask every person who comes on my podcast this question, and stealing it from Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace, in five words or less what is your job?
Bob: That’s a challenging question, Chris. To be a role model.
Chris: There we go. And it sounds like you, that’s five and I think out of the eight people I’ve interviewed I think you’re the only one or maybe the second one have done it so that’s excellent. And it sounds like you’ve definitely done that, bob. Bob it’s been an honor. I really appreciate your time on both of these episodes and just the wealth of life experience you brought to this. Thank you.
Bob: My pleasure, Chris. Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you and your audience.
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