Shareholder Activists

I was reading through the proxy circular from one of my investments in a large Canadian bank.

A proposal was submitted by Bob Verdun, a relatively familiar name to people who have to hang out at annual meetings with certain banks. To give you a sense of the man, here is one media report from February of 2005:

YAWN The most seasoned performers know when it’s time to get off the stage. Sadly, activist gadfly Bob Verdun has never learned to read his audience. Verdun brought his circus act to Bank of Montreal’s annual love-in yesterday. With newly appointed chairman David Galloway either unable or unwilling to muzzle this motor-mouth, Verdun’s attacks on the bank’s board nominees ran on for 35 mind-numbing minutes. Verdun did land the occasional punch, noting that the bank had found a spot for corporate diva Guylaine Saucier (the Nortel Networks flameout). By continuing to tilt at personal windmills, Verdun lost the crowd long before Galloway pulled the plug. Shareholders who show up for these bore fests deserve better entertainment.

And another one from February of 2006 can be found here.

His latest proposal? Shift executive compensation to charitable purposes:

This Bank shall, as soon as practical, implement a system of senior executive compensation that shifts the largest part of compensation from direct personal payments into charitable funds that are directed by the appropriate executives after retirement.

He adds his rationale with this rather interesting observation:

Senior executive compensation has reached such a level that any executive who spends such income for personal consumption would be guilty of the worst form of environmental crime. Our threatened planet cannot survive such excessive personal consumption.

Making money is now an environmental crime. Or perhaps the expectation of how that money will be spent is now an environmental crime. Obviously, he has not been going to any Toronto shopping malls on the week-end. There seems to be quite a lot of excessive personal consumption and not just by overpaid bank executives.

Will Verdun show up at the annual meeting this year? Will his proposal be supported? My prediction: yes and no. We’ll find out on March 4.

SocGen Trader

Jerome Kerveil is the person at the center of the $7 billion dollar fraud at Societe Generale. His resume can be found here.

Kerveil had very basic computing and programming skills — Microsoft Office and Visual Basic. How did he manage to circumvent layers of highly sophisticated security software designed to prevent unauthorized activity?

It seems pretty obvious that he was not equipped to do black hat hacking. I doubt that he had the necessary technical skills to conduct a campaign of illicit, electronic trading over a period of many months.

Was SocGen’s security environment that poorly implemented? Was Kerviel working with someone else?

His actions sent shock waves through the world’s banking system. Some have speculated that his actions might have caused a global market meltdown earlier this week as SocGen sought to unwind its positions.

The power of one rogue trader.

Take Back Time

InformationWeek had an interesting piece on how to take back time and attention. The article was based on Merlin Mann‘s presentation at last week’s MacWorld Expo.

Merlin covers his reaction to the piece here.

And a couple of great examples of his presentations can be found here and here. If you are looking for ideas to improve your PowerPoint chops, Merlin knows how to create the eye candy that supports a presentation. No death by PowerPoint in his slides.