Hello and welcome to our weekly intelligence briefing for boards, where we help directors keep up to speed on the macro trends affecting businesses across the world, and corporate governance news.

We hope you enjoy it and, as always, email your suggestions for stories and resources to [email protected].

You can also find more news and resources on our online hub FT.com/Board.

Each day FT Leader writers on the Editorial Board meet to discuss the topics to be considered for Leader columns. Here are the issues that dominated this week:

Brexit tensions have flared once more between London and Brussels. Last week it was fish. Now the Northern Ireland protocol is back in the crosshairs. The editorial board urged Boris Johnson's government to retreat from a threat to trigger the Article 16 dispute mechanism. Such a "grave mistake" would destroy trust and harm the economy.

Elon Musk's quirky use of social media has strayed into regulatory abuse in the past. Over the weekend, seemingly staying on the right side of the rules, the Tesla boss polled Twitter followers about whether he should sell a vast chunk of shares to pay a tax bill. But even if this was a special kind of trolling, without a clear victim, the prank is "not the ideal for corporate governance", the editorial board concluded.

The ideal for corporate governance will also be the subject of a UK-focused leader later in the week, as we opine on the government's decision to backtrack on proposals to hold directors personally responsible for financial reporting controls, as Sarbanes-Oxley has in the US.


The first and second biggest economies in the world both hit records this week. 

In the US, figures for October show that consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in three decades, increasing inflationary pressures on the economy. In response, the Biden administration is scrambling to tame the threat and keep the recovery on track.

Meanwhile in China, factory gate prices rose at their fastest pace in 26 years last month. This uptick, alongside contracting manufacturing activity in September, has raised concerns about stagflation.

Indeed, central bankers are reading the threat of inflation differently. US and UK officials have signalled that interest rates are likely to rise soon, while on Monday Philip Lane, the ECB’s chief economist, said the bloc was in a “completely different” situation.

Elsewhere, negotiations at COP26 are in the final stretch. Initial drafts of the texts to sum up the conference were circulated on Wednesday and will be negotiated extensively. One sticking point is whether to bring forward submitting new emissions targets.

If you are trying to navigate the geo-political minefield, here are five things to watch out for in the closing days of the summit.

On to corporate news and Larry Culp, chief executive of General Electric, revealed his plans to separate the industrial titan into three companies this week. With Toshiba also considering a split, the move is a sign of how the conglomerate business model has fallen from favour.

But this is not the end, writes chief business commentator Brooke Masters. “The obituary of the all-encompassing corporate structure has been written many times and, somehow, it still survives.”

Down-but-not-out was a theme in the FT’s Boardroom Bellwether survey too. Nearly half of FTSE 350 companies described post-Brexit trading arrangements with the EU as “damaging”. Even so, almost all were optimistic about their prospects and the economy.

That did not quite play out in data released by the Office for National Statistics today. Although the UK’s GDP was up by a monthly rate of 0.6 per cent in September, growth slowed more than expected in the third quarter.

That said, the “business friendly” post-Brexit regime has been in full swing. Officials are expected to scale back corporate governance and audit reforms including a proposal to force directors to take greater responsibility for company accounts.

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced new details about Britain’s proposed post-Brexit financial regulation regime. Alongside a new era where officials consider “growth and competitiveness”, there were plans for increased scrutiny of the PRA and FCA.

And finally, business columnist Helen Thomas takes a closer look at pre-emption. While it is considered “sacrosanct” by those leading a government review of capital raising, its importance in the market is “reason for more clarity, more transparency and for strengthening the processes around it.”

Just as negotiators at COP26 face frantic wranglings about the climate emergency, time may be running short for companies to reduce their emissions.

While many big asset managers dismiss divestment, a growing number of large investors are taking a tougher stance. Indeed, pension fund ABP and Norway’s oil fund have both announced divestment plans.

If this has you thinking about shareholder relations, the Harvard Business Review has an interesting article on the changing role of investor relations officers. PwC has also published a useful guide to shareholder engagement.

Don’t forget, there are plenty more resources on our online hub FT.com/Board.

Scroll through TikTok to see the real stars of the workplace (Opinion from the FT)
Pay, productivity and management (Insights from The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance)
How business can make the most of the metaverse (Opinion from the FT)
Big business and COP26: are the ‘net zero’ plans credible? (Feature from the FT)
Seven myths of ESG (Insights from Stanford Corporate Governance Research Initiative)

At our next event, Forecasting the World in 2022, a panel of FT experts will discuss their predictions for the world in 2022 and how these are likely to play out over the next few years, affecting the prospects for global business.

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