The name of someone who could be that person: Kenneth R. Feinberg. As you'll recall, he is the lawyer who oversaw the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, worked as the special master for TARP Executive Compensation, and served as a government-appointed administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster victim compensation fund. He also supervised General Motors and Volkswagen in their recall struggles.
Mr. Feinberg's reputation is considered beyond reproach. He is known as a straight shooter who cannot be bought or sold.
Admittedly, this is not a perfect solution, but assuming that the person selected for the role of corporate monitor is trusted, it would go a long way toward assuring the public that your political and business interests won't overlap or compromise America's interests.
Yes, some of your critics will deride the corporate monitor as mere window dressing. And the fact that this would be a novel application of the corporate monitor role — such people are typically appointed as part of a settlement in a legal case, as a move by a company to ease the punishment — might give you pause.
But appointing one would also suggest that you take the conflict issue seriously, not only to the American public but also to the rest of the world, which has long looked to the United States as a model of democracy. If your administration even raises the specter of corruption in the White House, that would undermine the entire country, as well as our economy.
Companies like Apple, BP, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Siemens and Zimmer have been subject to corporate monitors. Typically, such a person is installed at the behest of the government after a business has been involved in breaking antitrust laws or foreign corrupt practices laws. For example, the hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen was required to hire a corporate monitor to oversee Point72, his family office, as part of an insider trading settlement.
A corporate monitor traditionally provides reports to the Justice Department or the Securities and Exchange Commission to make sure the company he or she oversees is in compliance with the law.
A New York Times contributor, Steven Davidoff Solomon, has critically called the idea of corporate monitors in the business context "a full employment act for former federal prosecutors that may have little effect on the way any company that is forced to hire a monitor conducts its business."
That's true when companies hire cronies or others friends. That's why it is important to hire someone truly independent.
"The mere presence of a corporate monitor can help to change the culture of a company and how it approaches its internal controls and compliance and ethics programs," Ryan C. Pisarik and Jason T. Wright, of the corporate advisory service Stout Risius Ross, said in a note to clients.
When I called Mr. Feinberg to run my idea by him, he paused to consider it. We went over the positives and the negatives.
He seemed to warm to it quickly. "The perfect is the enemy of the good," he said. He told me, "You'll get pushback" from critics who will say the monitor is "in bed with the guy paying him."
Still, he said the idea brought to mind a famous quote from Justice Louis D. Brandeis: "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."
Assuming the monitor has no operational authority and no bonus associated with performance, Mr. Feinberg said, "At least we know from an unimpeachable source, here is the way it is."
So, would Mr. Feinberg accept the position? "I'll take the job," he said with both a laugh and a genuine sense of sincerity.
In that same spirit, I want you to know, Mr. Trump: I'll happily waive my finder's fee if you take up this idea.
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