*NEWS*OFFICE DEPOT CHIEF SPEAKS UP….

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*NEWS*OFFICE DEPOT CHIEF SPEAKS UP….

 user 2006-01-02 at 10:19:00 am Views: 60
  • #13624

    Corporate America working to fix image, Office Depot chief says
    JAN 2006
    BOCA
    RATON – Corporate America is still paying for a few high-profile
    corporate scandals over the past five years even though they have
    largely moved through the courts, Office Depot Chairman and Chief
    Executive Steve Odland said………..”Once you’ve violated the public
    trust, it takes awhile to get it back,” Odland said. “We have a public
    relations job to do. We do have to mend some fences.”
    Odland, who
    has been in charge of Delray Beach-based Office Depot for eight months,
    spoke to a roomful of executives at a meeting of the Florida chapter of
    National Association of Corporate Directors at the Boca Raton Resort
    and Club. The group meets several times a year to discuss corporate
    governance and ethics issues.
    Odland thinks that while the boardroom
    scandals at Tyco International, Adelphia, WorldCom and Enron have
    soiled the image of the nation’s public companies, most firms have made
    the necessary changes to become good corporate citizens.
    Citing
    statistics from the Business Roundtable, a group of 160 chief
    executives of the largest U.S. firms, Odland said eight of 10 of its
    members have boards with independent directors holding three-quarters
    of the seats. Nine of 10 members have established procedures for
    communicating with shareholders. Half of its members have independent
    chairmen or lead directors, and all of them hold closed meetings
    without the chief executive present.
    Odland acknowledged that many
    of these changes were prompted by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law aimed
    at greater public disclosure and stricter accounting controls. But he
    was concerned about the law’s “unintended consequences,” including
    shareholder lawsuits when stock prices fall sharply, and the high cost
    of applying the law.
    “We have to be careful not to criminalize
    honest mistakes,” he said. “While nobody likes to see investors lose
    money, without that possibility, nobody could make money.”
    Joe
    O’Donnell, chief executive of Boca Raton-based Artesyn Technologies,
    agreed that the law was necessary to ensure more transparency in
    corporate accounting but said it has become a costly measure to fulfill
    each year.
    “The intent of Sarbanes-Oxley was completely appropriate, but the details have been overdone,” O’Donnell said.
    Odland
    is no lightweight in the ethics arena. He has been at the forefront of
    corporate governance since his days at AutoZone, where he replaced a
    board dominated by insiders with nine independent directors and himself.
    Office
    Depot, the office supply giant, requires ethics training, including a
    test that quizzes employees on how to act in workplace situations.
    It staffs an ethics hot line with an independent contractor.
    In
    August, the company amended its corporate governance policy to include
    a provision requiring board members to resign when they receive a
    “withhold” or “against” vote from a majority of shareholders.
    “I go out and tell employees to do the right thing,” Odland said. “If something bothers you, don’t do it.”