Robert Mundheim - “There’s an Enormous Evolution Taking Place in Governance”

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Nov 20, 2015
by Heather Jaber
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Robert Mundheim - “There’s an Enormous Evolution Taking Place in Governance”

Robert Mundheim, of Counsel to Shearman & Sterling and formerly Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Salomon Smith Barney Holdings Inc, discussed the role of the board and trends in governance

The shifting expectation of the role of the board, and particularly directors, is an issue in various regions and industries. At the inaugural session Corporate Governance in the Global Economy: The Changing Role of Directors, participants used their own experiences from their contexts to analyze these expectations. Robert Mundheim, of counsel to Shearman & Sterling LLP and advisory board member of the Salzburg Forum on Global Developments in Corporate Governance program, discussed the changes taking place in the world of corporate governance.

“There’s an enormous evolution taking place in governance,” he said. “Particularly in the role of directors in the US, there are a lot of pressures for directors to be much more active than they were 15-20 years ago, to be much better informed, to think about where the problems are going to be. They’re making sure that management has identified the areas and how they're going to deal with them.”

The session saw participants with experience working in various national and industry contexts, leaving room for debate and reflection. Mundheim found that common strands of thought could be found regardless of these differences.

“Some issues were obviously quite similar,” he said. “We all have problems making sure that people absorb the right values, because, without that, you're very liable to get into difficulties. And the best defence against that is that the business people have absorbed and live up to appropriate values.”

In the same way, control functions may vary from the US to Europe to Asia and on, but the ultimate goals are the same, said Mundheim.

“What’s the role of the board with respect to control functions?” he said. “Again, although our experiences are different and our degree to which different jurisdictions have dealt with that problem are quite different, the objective is the same—we don't want to have our company violate the law.”

Much of the discussion was related to the US context, offering comparisons in the role of the board and directors. Rather than being viewed as too US-centric, said Mundheim, many participants found it practically useful to utilize that experience.

“Practical US experience is very useful because the Europeans said, ‘We’ll be at that stage in two or three years and it’s good to hear from the Americans how they’re dealing with these issues.’”

The most useful aspect of the session, said Mundheim, is the network that participants started to build.

“The thing they will take away most is the relationships that they formed during the three days,” he said. “And in a global world, it’s important to make friendships and develop relationships in different parts of the world. I think thats a major value.”


The Salzburg Global program Corporate Governance in the Global Economy: The Changing Role of Directors, is part of the multi-year series Salzburg Forum on Global Developments in Corporate Governance. The session was hosted in partnership with BNY Mellon, Goldman Sachs, and Shearman & Sterling LLP and was sponsored by Barclays, LIXIL, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Mars, Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP, the state of Delaware, and Warburg Pincus. More information on the session can be found here: http://www.salzburgglobal.org/go/550. 

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