The Prime of Ms. Nell Minow

For the shareholder activist, these have been both the best and the worst of times.

CFOs are understandably concerned about how much they are going to have to invest in all this additional regulation. Is there a point where oversight or regulation adds costs that could undermine shareholder value?

On behalf of the shareholders, for whom I’ve been working for 16 years, it is an investment we are happy to make. So spend the money, but spend it wisely. Don’t spend it for bureaucratic checklist minutiae. Spend it to get the best possible directors, and give them the best possible information.

As The Movie Mom, you warn parents about inappropriate material in movies. Are there any parallels between your day job and your night job?

I once got a question: “Dear Movie Mom, I tell my two-and-a-half-year-old that she shouldn’t watch videos, but she knows how to work the VCR, so she watches them anyway. What should I do?” So I wrote back: “OK, somebody has to be the grown-up, and you lose. And if you can’t make a rule about videos in your house, I guarantee that you are going to have a much bigger problem than movies.” That same day, I went to the office and read this Global Crossing contract, and it was like getting a letter from the board of directors: “Dear Corporate Governance Mom, I tell the CEO that pay and performance should be linked, but he says no. What should I do?” I felt like writing back, “Somebody has to be the grown-up, and you lose.”

Do you expect to be combining the jobs even more once the inevitable slew of movies about the scandals debut?

You know, my husband asked if I wanted to watch the recent TV movie about Enron. “No,” I told him, “I saw the play.”


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