- Writer Anand Giridharadas used the opportunity to talk to thousands of corporate board members to destroy the group and say they were making empty promises.
- “Many of your children and grandchildren do not respect your work,” Giridharadas said Monday as he spoke at the annual summit of the National Association of Corporate Directors, according to an audio report received by Business Insider.
- Many directors were shocked and disgusted by the remarks, with attendees saying some were threatening to demand a refund for the event or leave the NACD.
- Giridharadas also faced criticism from economist Glenn Hubbard, who called Giridharadas̵
- “I wasn’t interested in a theoretical conversation about capitalism … without noting that we had a conversation with an economic arsonist who was now hired as a firefighting expert,” Giridharadas told Business Insider.
- “The key to NACD’s mission, especially at our annual NACD summit, is to expose our 21,000 members to contrasting views on issues that will redefine the way business creates value,” said NACD Executive Director Peter R. Gleason.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
When Anand Giridharadas was invited to speak at the annual summit of the National Association of Corporate Directors, the writer – known for his sharp criticism of billionaires and the world’s elite – did not hold back.
“Many of your children and grandchildren do not respect your work,” Giridharadas told more than 3,000 directors on Monday, who are virtually watching the meeting, according to audio received from Business Insider.
Giridharadas insulted the directors for the lack of action, presenting the business as empty promises, while avoiding responsibility.
“This is a group of corporate directors, I ask again where have you been?” Giridharadas said in his speeches. “Where were you on the eve of the climate crisis? Where were you during the rise of inequality over the last four decades? Where were you on the eve of the secondary crisis? Where were you on the eve of the opioid crisis? Where were you?”
The aggressive remarks shocked many of the hundreds of people who actually attended the summit, which was declared “the largest and most influential forum of directors in the world.” The NACD is made up of 21,000 directors, including board members of 97% of Fortune 500 companies – the people Giridharadas called.
The meeting room of the meeting erupted in chaos when Giridharadas condemned the corporate directors. The conversation was moving so fast that it was difficult to maintain, according to Lauren Harel, the board’s director, who is attending the summit for the second year in a row.
Giridharadas was the first speaker at the summit, marking an astonishing introduction to the event for many who did not expect to be criticized so harshly at an industry conference.
“There were people saying, ‘I want my money back, I’m not going to sit here and listen to this,’ Kent Lundberg, who attended the summit, told Business Insider.
Offended attendees said in the chat that they would cancel the summit or silence Giridharadas until he stopped talking. Some are even threatening to cancel their NACD membership in protest, according to Lundberg.
“The key to NACD’s mission, especially at our annual NACD summit, is to expose our 21,000 members to contrasting views on issues that will redefine the way business creates value,” said Peter R. Gleason, chief executive. Director of NACD, in a statement to Business Insider when asked to comment on the reaction.
Read more: McDonald’s hires former Obama adviser to lead new team focused on “positive change” as company doubles values amid scandals
Giridharadas pairs with economist Glenn Hubbard, who calls Giridharadas “crazy”
Giridharadas’ remarks were followed by the appearance of Glenn Hubbard, which made a drastic departure in a more conservative direction.
Hubbard is a professor at Columbia Business School and an economist who has advised the George W. Bush administration. In stark contrast to Giridharadas’ statements, Hubbard promoted the idea of free market capitalism.
The event was announced as a discussion of “the pros and cons of capitalism, which takes all the winners, and what role corporations should play in creating a fairer society.” A brief Q&A session involving both Hubbard and Giridharadas – led by Gillian Tet, chairman of the Financial Times’ editorial board – further heightened tensions.
Giridharadas took the opportunity to reduce tax cuts from the Bush era, which Hubbard helped the engineer. Hubbard responded, criticizing Giridharadas’ thinking as “crazy.”
“I tried to keep Glenn Hubbard in the account that deserves to be kept,” Giridharadas told Business Insider when asked to comment on the interaction. “He had a lot of theoretical discussion on these issues: If the markets work perfectly, then, blah-blah-blah. He talked about Milton Friedman as a scientist surrounded by books, but he lives in a country overwhelmed with pain.”
“I was not interested in a theoretical conversation about capitalism and markets and democracy, not to mention that we had an economic arsonist who was now recruited as a firefighting expert,” Giridharadas added.
Giridharadas said it was “unbelievable” that someone who taught at the college would use “crazy” as an insult in a debate.
“All he could offer was that I was ‘crazy’ and that my ideas were ‘reckless’ and ‘unrelated,'” Giridharadas said. “I hope because of him, because someone who teaches in college, he becomes a little more sensitive to the mental health issues in this culture, which have frankly forced people to go crazy in debate rather than the behavior we would expect from a teacher. ”
Hubbard declined to comment on the incident, or Giridharadas called him an “economic arsonist.”
“Anand Giridharadas and Glenn Hubbard offered different perspectives on the future of capitalism, which provoked strong engagement, both positive and negative, from some of our 3000+ audiences of corporate executives and other management professionals,” Gleason said in a statement from NACD. . “This underscores the difficult challenge facing boards as they try to balance so many and sometimes conflicting interests for their companies.”
Most directors did not expect the forum to start with such brutal criticism
Giridharadas’ comments following Hubbard’s removal surprised many.
“I think it got to a point where some of the audience stopped listening because they felt attacked,” said Cynthia Ruiz, who is attending the meeting for the first time. “Because he was like, what are you doing? Why didn’t you do that?”
Lundberg said some of the crowd against Giridharadas may have “violently left” the conference in protest after the first few minutes of the writer’s speech. But as the event continued, another perspective emerged in the fast-moving chat, according to Lundberg.
These attendees encouraged their fellow directors to listen to Giridharadas, even if they were uncomfortable. (Lundberg himself said he was a fan of Giridharadas and, after watching the writer’s videos, knew what to expect from the fireplace – even when others were surprised by the conversations.)
Harel, a attendee who has spent the past decade in boardrooms and boardrooms, is one of the directors who is inclined to discomfort. She told Business Insider that she felt Giridharadas had raised important questions about whether directors were meeting their responsibilities.
“Sometimes I think we won’t feel comfortable and that’s good,” Harel said. “Sometimes we have to think, well, why does that make me uncomfortable?”
However, Harel said most of the people who spoke in the chat were protective or shocked, instead of taking the opportunity to listen to a different point of view. The refusal of those present to commit disappointed Harel.
“Those who were strongly opposed to hearing this prospect made me think [how] these are the people who are in the boardroom, “Harel said.” If you have perspectives that you don’t have to appreciate or enjoy, do these conversations stop at the table? What do you miss if you do not engage in this opposite perspective? “
Ruiz also accepted the chance to hear Giridharadas’ remarks, although he saw that the majority of the audience responded in defense. As a colorful woman who serves as president of the Los Angeles City Retirement Council, Ruiz said she attended the summit to have more exposure to the world of corporate boards. She saw the different views of Giridharadas and Hubbard as a chance to learn.
“I’m one of those people who appreciates diversity because it helps me shape my opinions,” Ruiz said. “I sincerely believe that we are going through a paradigm shift to put people first, and I think that’s due to a lot of factors, including consumers.”
Giridharadas says he wanted corporate executives to know that their own children were outraged by their complicity
Giridharadas told Business Insider that he did not see the chat and because the summit was virtual, he could not see how the audience reacted.
“I think the communication was definitely difficult because they were trying to have a conversation about … shareholder capitalism versus shareholder capitalism, and I think they were trying to have that conversation in the absence of a participatory conversation,” Giridharadas said.
Giridharadas said his comments about children and grandchildren who do not respect their parents were prompted by both data on the generational gap and his individual interactions. He says he receives a huge amount of emails from young readers of his book, “Winners Take It All: The Elite Charade to Change the World,” who say they share the book with their parents or grandparents with different perspectives.
“I have heard countless stories about how they used the book to convince people in their family that the people in their family had contributed to a world empty of opportunities for their own children and grandchildren,” Giridharadas said.
“I think there is this dynamic where a lot of young people are not just angry at the system, but they are angry – in some cases – at what their own parents and grandparents have done to make the system the way it is. , ”He added.