The Shareholder Activist Nell Minow: 'I arrived at the best moment for me to walk into ISS. It was fate.'.

Author:Kristie, James
Position:A Life in Governance

"My Getting Into corporate governance was, in a way, absolute dumb luck. Bob Monks and I were both working in the government, on a project for then-Vice President George Bush on regulatory reform. I didn't meet him at that time but that's when I first heard about him. It was later when he was with the Labor Department and I was at the Office of Management and Budget that we met. He was the only political appointee in my experience who actually walked his rules over and sat down and said, "I'm going to sit here until we get these things passed so you tell me what I need to do to get it done." He seemed to have no artificial ego, no sense that if we said, "You know, you want to do it this way but our policy is to do it that way..." that he would make it into a turf thing. He addressed every issue on its merits. That is very rare and I was taken with that. The other thing about Bob, and this is true the entire time I have known him, is that he loves to have people say no to him. Because he loves to have to argue with you and justify his position, which makes it stronger. I just found that very engaging, because I love saying no and he loves arguing back. [Laughter] So we hit it off immediately.

He started ISS in the summer of 1985. I had my second child in January 1986 and later that year was ready to go back to work on a part-time basis. He offered me a job at this new company. It was a big change for me to leave the government. But I wanted to be on the side of the good guys, which he seemed to be, and I wanted to be learning something new all the time, which looked like it was going to be the case at ISS, plus he said I could work three days a week, so I took the job.

I started right after Labor Day in 1986. I arrived at the best time for me to walk into that organization. It was b'sheret, "fate." Bob had spent a year trying to sell a product that no one took. It was a precursor to what ISS does now -- advice on how to vote your proxy -- but it was a much more activism-geared product that was way ahead of the market at that time. So he was back to square one when I walked in the door.

Furthermore, the SEC was just then considering the NYSE's proposal to rescind

the one-share, one-vote rule. Bob immediately asked me, "How should we respond to this?" There was not a question I was better equipped to answer. If there was anything I knew after eight years in the government, it was the regulatory process. I knew exactly what to do to respond to...

To continue reading