My focus recently in this blog has been on the independence and role of the ombudsman in contemporary society; or should I more appropriately say, “could be”. The examples I’ve focused on recently are the most greedy and corrupt activities of “free market capitalism” (unregulated and lax) that span decades here in the US and abroad. They are and will continue to damage our economy, our culture and communities till about 2012 in my opinion and we won’t fully recover for a full “generation”, especially financially. These “stains” mostly fall into all areas of government, corporate governance and the broader financial services (banking, securities, student loans and mortgage lending) including the government regulators.
To contrast this and point out some very positive situations, there are a few bright and gleaming examples of the ombudsman profession that we all should be thankful for and model our own selves after. For me it’s Laura Lonsdale, who came up through the ranks in Tyco International starting out as a Manager of Corporate Governance and is now Ombudsman since 2007. This is a prime example of how a company gone very bad can turn-around and regain its virtue once again. No, she didn’t act single handedly, but she embodies what an Ombudsperson can do in Corporate Governance. Laura’s office handles about 1,100 employees globally in addition to shareholders and stakeholders; and she’s been instrumental in cleaning up Tyco since the Dennis Kozlowski era of fraud and self dealing. Of interest to me is she reports directly to the Tyco Audit Committee at the Board level and skips the CEO chain of command, which would be the typical structure and thus provides greater independence and confidentiality for Tyco “whistleblowers”. She is not a member of the ABA though she holds a Juris Doctorate and therefore demonstrates the true independence from the professional legal association and related conflicts of interest. She is the only ombudsman selected in 2008 by Directorship Board Intelligence Magazine and made their Directorship Top 100 in Corporate Governance. Scroll down and check Laura Lonsdale’s biography here. I hope you are as inspired as I am.