Pandemics may come and go, but governance marches on. That’s the message BlackRock seems to have sent earlier this week, when it distributed its “Engagement Priorities for 2020.” Of course, the document was completed well before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, you’d think that BlackRock, ordinarily a reasonable player in the governance sandbox, would have added a last-minute addendum to the document or at least made public statements acknowledging that the current situation is extraordinary and might be taken into account in evaluating how companies are doing in that sandbox.
Not so, apparently. In fact, some BlackRock spokespeople have suggested that the crisis will separate the governance wheat from the chaff. I suppose that’s true to some extent, but when a company is struggling for its very existence, with many jobs at stake, is it really necessary that it worry about having non-executive board leadership? (Those of you who’ve read this blog probably know my views on board leadership. For those of you who have not followed my screeds, I have seen independent board leadership work wonderfully, and I’ve also seen it fail miserably. So, to me, it’s really not that big a deal.)