Monthly Archives: February 2013

John Gapper

Novartis has done the right thing by scrapping its proposed payment of up to $78m to Daniel Vasella, its outgoing chairman, not to compete against the Swiss pharmaceuticals company. It raises questions not only about Swiss corporate governance but the entire principle of non-compete deals.

Mr Vasella was a dynamic and effective chief executive of Novartis but there is no obvious reason why he needs an extended non-compete agreement any more than another retiring chairman or corporate executive. Read more

Not since Sweeney Todd has there been such uncertainty about what exactly goes into processed meat. This time, it isn’t the customers of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street but Romanian horses.

John Gapper

Getty Images

Antony Jenkins, Barclays’ new squeaky clean chief executive, is winning good reviews today for his attempt to turn his back on the “aggressive, short-termist” regime of his predecessor, Bob Diamond.

That includes shutting down the bank’s controversial, but very profitable, tax avoidance unit. Conveniently, the announcement coincides with an example of what exactly this unit was doing.

BNY Mellon Bank has just, very expensively, lost a tax battle with the US authorities over an extremely complex swap arrangement dreamed up by Barclays. The judgement will cost the US bank about $850m. Read more

Every company used to have one. The curmudgeon whose habitual contribution to the strategy discussion was a slow intake of breath, a shake of the head, and a gloomy judgment on the latest plan: “We tried that in 1980: complete disaster.”

Andrew Hill

Pope Benedict XVI. Getty Images

How does the Pope’s decision to step down measure up against best practice in corporate succession planning?

Luckily, the Association of British Insurers – which issues regular guidance on governance issues – has recently, ahem, pontificated on this matter, recommending that companies improve their succession planning and have strong candidates ready to take over as chief executive. Read more

John Gapper

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As an old student of HSBC – or, as I prefer to call it, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation – I found Stuart Gulliver’s remarks about the inadequacy of its structure following the Mexico money laundering scandal fascinating.

HSBC’s chief executive told the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards on Wednesday:

“Our structure was not fit for purpose for a modern world. Our geographic footprint became very attractive to transnational criminal organisations, whether they are terrorist in origin or criminal in origin.”

 Read more

It has been a vintage week for old remains. A skeleton beneath a car park was confirmed as that of Richard III and the US Department of Justice exhumed Standard & Poor’s emails from nearly a decade ago. Neither was a pretty sight.

Ravi Mattu

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What happens when the cluster you helped create falls out of love with you? It is a question BlackBerry may be asking itself just a week after relaunching with a new name and a new phone.

According to a New York Times report, after years of being the beating commercial heart of Waterloo, Ontario, the company formerly known as Research in Motion is no longer the destination of choice for top talent. “BlackBerry is now a last resort,” it said.

And if that wasn’t tough enough for a former emblem of Canadian ingenuity, its position has been usurped either by US companies, “including Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft” or graduates launching their own businesses. Read more