‘Taming the Corporations’ a monograph by Austin Mitchell and Prem Sikka

Having seen the PCU website, a publisher who published a book which highlighted the damage done by corporate lobbying some years ago, asked if there are any other books which deal with the malign effect of the corporate/political nexus.

A notable monograph* was in the list compiled for him, ‘Taming the Corporations’, which Hugh Willmott, Cambridge Professor of Management Studies summarises:

This study gives backbone to the meaning of corporate governance. It penetrates beneath the criticism of particular `fat cats’ and the soothing promise of tinkering reforms. It exposes endemic abuses of corporate power, greed and destructiveness, and reveals fundamental limits and weakness of existing forms of accountability and control. A challenging set of proposals suggest how, by placing the operations of corporations under democratic, publicly accountable supervision, their power could be responsibly redirected and beneficially exercised

Mitchell [MP for Grimsby], and Sikka [Professor of Accounting at the University of Essex] indict corporations which dominate all aspects of our lives and “roam the world in pursuit of profit and owe no loyalty to any nation, community or people but their decisions can undermine and even scupper government policies.”

“Cleaning up politics is a necessary precondition for effective corporate governance reform and for subordinating the business agenda to broader social needs.”

“[Under] New Labour increasingly greedy Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are often treated as media super stars and Labour’s mates.”  Corporate donations and gifts flow to parties and politicians. Big accountancy firms, the utilities, banks, financial institutions, defence contractors and others have contributed cash, services and staff . “They buy places at Labour’s “high plate” party dinners, governmental advisory committees, task forces, and Think Tanks, and contributions to party funds facilitate titles, contracts and jobs for those who make them. In return, New Labour, like the Conservatives, defers to the donors.”

A clear, detailed and forceful description is given of the way in which major accountancy firms, some of the world’s biggest corporations, operating behind a veil of secrecy and through global networks, have diversified into tax avoidance, consultancy and any other activity that will make a quick profit.

Despite numerous audit failures, the ‘colonisation’ of senior civil servants, current and former ministers has enabled them to escape effective regulation and retribution. The colonised include Peter Mandelson, former Labour Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, who became adviser to Ernst & Young; Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Conservative foreign secretary, who for some years has been an adviser to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC); former Inland Revenue chairman Sir Nicholas Montagu who joined PwC and the former head of the Treasury’s transport team, Lewis Atter who joined KPMG in 2004.

Mitchell-Sikka’s recommendations for beneficial change will be placed on the website tomorrow.

*ISBN 1-902384-09-1, © Association for Accountancy & Business Affairs.

Can be downloaded from here in pdf format.

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Posted on January 7, 2010, in Banking and finance, Civil servants and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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