Big Biz still hires former officials for their boards

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Big Biz still hires former officials for their boards

Affiliates of Korea’s top 10 conglomerates still prefer former government officials and ex-policy makers as outside directors, data showed yesterday, amid escalating criticism of the practice.

A total of 330 people served as outside directors at the 93 affiliates of the leading conglomerates as of end-June this year, down from 337 a year earlier, according to the data compiled by local research firm

Of the 77 outside directors newly hired, 29, or 37.7 percent, were former government officials, retired judges, prosecutors and senior policy makers, as well as those who worked for the tax office, the financial watchdog and corporate watchdog, the data showed.

Upon retirement, government officials are scouted by companies that wish to use their influence to build up favorable business ties. The deep-rooted practice has often been criticized for leading to an unjust business culture.

But local companies have continued to frequently appoint former policy makers and members of the judiciary to sit on their boards and offer generous retainer fees that can be construed as a form of lobbying.

Such outside directors have been also under fire for failing in their duties to provide neutral opinions on how to run a company and prevent the misuse of management authority that can hurt investors and employees.

Experts said more transparency should be put in place for the appointment of an outside director, which could raise the independence of outside directors so they can perform their roles in a more effective manner.

“Enhancing independence will reduce the chance of these posts being used for lobbying since companies will not be as able to influence outside directors as they could in the past,” said Lee Ki-ung, an official at the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, a local civic group.

Also, guidelines that can disqualify a prospective outside director from being appointed and establishing other safety nets can better prevent the system from being used as a lobbying tool, experts said.

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