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:

If board directors want a lesson in how not to manage an acquisition process, take a look at LV, the mutual insurer poised to be bought out by private equity firm Bain Capital. The board "drastically underestimated the level of public scrutiny" of the deal, the Editorial Board concluded: "If this deal is voted down, it should be seen as a vote of no confidence in LV’s management team, rather than a heroic defence of a mutual structure menaced by private equity assailants."

There was a positive reaction, meanwhile, to Jack Dorsey's decision to step down as Twitter's chief executive, following a long campaign by activist investor Elliott. Commenting on Dorsey's resignation tweet, and his comment that a company must be able to survive without its founder, the Editorial Board said: "He is right."

Coming up, leader writers will be weighing the risks and global impact of the Omicron Covid variant.


There has only been one thing on everyone’s minds this week: Omicron.

Our interview with Stéphane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna, quickly became the most read companies story of the year (so far) when he predicted there will be a “material drop” in existing vaccines’ effectiveness against the new variant.

Scientists are mainly concerned about Omicron’s genetic profile. Some mutations suggest increased transmissibility, while changes in the genetic code make it harder for the immune system – trained by vaccination or prior infection – to tackle a new strain.

Variant worries have rippled through economies too. On Wednesday, the OECD increased its inflation predictions for 2022 to 4.4 per cent for the G20, up from 3.9 per cent in September. It also warned that Omicron could delay the world economy’s recovery.

Inflation in the eurozone also hit 4.9 per cent in November – the highest it has been since the single currency was created. If you would like to compare inflation around the world, our new inflation tracker is worth exploring.

And as the ECB faces pressure about its monetary policy, Fed chair Jay Powell chose this week to signal his support for a quicker tapering of the central bank’s asset purchase programme. This, alongside concerns about Omicron, has triggered fresh volatility in markets.

Indeed, US junk bonds were hit by the sharpest sell-off in more than a year in November due to fears that the new variant could affect low-rated companies’ ability to repay debts.

Elsewhere, ESG has been making headlines. In an annual review, the IEA found that while record amounts of renewable electricity were added to the global energy system in 2021, it is still only half what it needs to be every year to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Meanwhile ExxonMobil promised to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released with each barrel of oil it pumps. The supermajor aims to decrease its greenhouse gas intensity by 20-30 per cent by 2030. One expert labelled the targets “grossly inadequate”.

Commodities group Glencore was also under pressure this week. Activist investor Bluebell Capital Partners called on the company to spin off its thermal coal business, divest non-core assets and improve corporate governance.

And Microsoft felt the force of shareholders as they backed a protest vote calling on the tech giant to reveal more about its handling of sexual harassment claims. This follows recent cases, and the revelation that co-founder Bill Gates had a relationship with an employee.

Closer to home, the Cabinet Office warned KPMG that it could be banned from bidding for public contracts if there is a repeat of recent scandals. The Big Four firm’s reputation has taken a hit recently after a series of fines for misconduct. 

And Brexit is delaying a US-UK trade deal. Talks about removing tariffs on UK steel and aluminium are being held up because Washington is concerned that London’s threats to override the Northern Ireland protocol will undermine peace.

And finally, “the City of London is in danger of becoming a sort of Jurassic Park,” writes Paul Marshall, chair of investment manager Marshall Wace. He argues that the income fund sector should be replaced with funds that focus more on growth and the future.

This week marks 20 years since Enron filed for bankruptcy. “That collapse exposed a culture of smug negligence in US boardrooms,” writes management editor Andrew Hill.

And, he notes, “it is worth reminding today’s board directors about Enron and other disasters… because, as the scandal fades in memory, the risk that they repeat old errors increases.”

If you would like to read more about the lessons learned from Enron, there is a useful post from the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

The Institutional Shareholder Services group also has an interesting read on why the scandal still matters to investors.

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

At our recent event, Forecasting the World in 2022, a panel of FT experts discussed their predictions for the world in 2022, how these are likely to play out over the next few years and the ways they might affect global businesses.

If you weren’t able to join, you can watch the replay here.

The FT Board Director Programme helps participants understand the requirements of the director role and how to carry out their duties successfully – for their own benefit and that of the companies they govern.

You can receive a 10% discount on any of these upcoming workshops below by entering the code FTBD10:

So You Want To Be a Non-Executive Director? | Virtual workshop | 16 March 2022

The Effective Non-Executive Director | Two-day workshop London | 30 & 31 March 2022

How To Get Your First Non-Executive Director Role | London | 25 May 2022

Board Director Online series | Flexible eLearning courses | 3 month license

To discuss your individual or organisational needs please contact the team: [email protected]


  How do you like the Board Director newsletter?

  Let us know by emailing [email protected]

  And please forward this newsletter to other board members too.

  They can join FT Board Director via FT.com/board-director