December 12, 2017

SEC Commissioner Nominees: Delayed (Again)

One of the odder things over the past 5 years or so is the difficulty of the Senate to confirm SEC Commissioner nominees. My memory might be bad, but I don’t recall any nominees having trouble being confirmed before then. But over the past few years, nominees seem to get stuck in “nominee” mode for a long time. Hester Peirce has been in limbo for years!

Anyway, this blog by Davis Polk’s Ning Chiu discusses how Senator Tammy Baldwin has placed a hold on the nominations of Robert Jackson and Hester, pending their responses to questions she raised in letters to each of them…

Farewell to the Society’s David Smith

A few weeks ago, David Smith – who served as head of the Society of Corporate Secretaries for two decades before his retirement in 2010 – passed away. As an active Society member, I got to know David pretty well – both socially and in my capacity as a national board member for the Society for two terms. The thing I remember most about David was his smile. It spread wide. And he always had one.

A kind man. A listener. He was happy to let others take the lead when meeting with the Corp Fin Staff, etc. Sounds like an easy thing to do – but it’s rare for leaders to not wield their ego. And it was his vision & drive that made the Society such a wonderful place for so long. He truly made a difference.

Here are a few more remembrances:

Bob Lamm notes: “David Smith was a mentor, friend and leader, not only to the Society of Corporate Secretaries (as it was then known), but also to so many of its members individually. I was one of the many beneficiaries of his guidance and enthusiasm, and I am and always will be indebted to him. Over the course of my career, I learned that while it’s critical to do what you love, it’s also critical to leaven hard work with fun. David taught me those lessons, and unlike so many other teachers, he practiced what he preached; he worked hard, he was demonstrably passionate about his work, and he also made sure to have fun doing it.

David certainly made a difference in my life. It’s impossible to say what my career would have been like without him, but it’s certain that it wouldn’t have been as good as it has been. And I know that there are many others who could – and should – say the same thing.”

Carl Hagberg notes: “Without David’s insight & early action – which was wildly unpopular at the time among the “stodgy older folks” – The “American Society of Corporate Secretaries” would be completely defunct by now…so we owe him a debt of gratitude for sure. He was a really great guy. Here’s a video from a charitable event where David was honored – David’s remarks start about the 7-minute mark.”

Steve Norman notes: “There’s a photo in the Society’s archives of a national conference held sometime in the early 1950s at the Greenbrier – there were 48 attendees: 47 men and 1 woman. David came to the Society in the early ’90s from a retail background, which undoubtedly helped him reorient the Society to better serve its customers. He led the Society in increasing its relevance & usefulness to the members through changes in personnel, up-to-date policies and also made the place a much more national organization by strengthening the role of the chapters that existed in nearly all regions of the country. We all hope to leave our organizations in better shape than we found them. David gets high marks for doing that.”

Doug Chia notes: “David Smith was an important figure in the corporate governance community when I first was exposed to the growing field. During his 19-year tenure at the helm of the Society for Corporate Governance (formerly the American Society of Corporate Secretaries and then the Society of Corporate Secretaries & Governance Professionals), David guided its members though dramatic changes in the demographic makeup of the corporate secretarial profession and the legal and regulatory landscape through which corporate secretaries had to navigate. David saw the profession facing unprecedented challenges that required corporate secretaries to enhance their skills and raise their profiles, and he advocated for the corporate secretary to be seen as the corporation’s “chief governance officer” separate from the chief legal officer or general counsel.

David was at his core a kind man. Family was very important to him. He encouraged all Society members to bring their families to the annual National Conference, and many did year after year (including me). This created a special culture that distinguished the Society from other professional associations and instilled loyalty among its members. David was an approachable person who enjoyed cultivating relationships, making him a natural convener and connector of people. He deftly bridged a generation of corporate secretaries predominantly comprised of white males to succeeding generations of corporate secretaries and governance professionals that were increasingly younger and more diverse. To David, the Society was a place for those new to the profession to immediately feel welcome.

For me personally, David was one of a small number of people who meaningfully altered the trajectory of my career. He gave me opportunities that had I not gotten, things might have turned out much differently for me. I’d say that David was really the one who plucked me from relative obscurity and gave me a seat at the table with those at the highest level of the corporate governance profession. David continued to show an interest in me and my career and became the kind of valued sponsor and advocate all of us hope to have, but many never find. I traveled to Scarsdale, New York this past Friday to pay my respects to David, as did others from multiple generations of Society members and staff. I will never forget the important role he played in my career.”

– Jim Reda notes: “David was a good friend and really upgraded the society during his tenure. Back then, the Society was known for the best conferences that provided the best & most friendly atmosphere. We always felt like we were with friends when attending. The content was top notch as well. David and his family led the way making sure there were no strangers in attendence.”

Even More on “Farewell to Corp Fin Giant, Bill Morley”

Recently, I blogged a few times that Bill Morley passed away (here’s Bill’s obit). Here’s a remembrance from Mauri Osheroff, who worked directly with Bill for most of his tenure:

Like so many other people he worked with, I have very fond recollections of Bill. I owe my career success to Bill. When he was Chief Counsel, he selected me as Deputy Chief Counsel. I joked that this was not an example of the old boys’ network; in fact, I didn’t share his interests (cars and sports, especially University of Maryland sports) at all, so we really didn’t have much in common besides securities law! Nevertheless we got on well. He was always well-informed, practical, and cheerful.

He supported my efforts to learn and to train others. He was a great role model. He was one of the most respected authorities on securities regulation, and was constantly called on by staff members and outsiders alike, but he didn’t let the pressure get to him. I always thought that Bill had a good work/life balance, and when he left the office, he was able to stop thinking about work and focus on his family, friends, and leisure activities. He seemed to really enjoy his retirement, and I wish he had been able to do so for many more years.

Broc Romanek