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January 27, 2014

Ex-Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski was released from prison this week after serving more than 8 years following his conviction on felonies related to unauthorized compensation he received from the multinational company.  Catherine Neal wrote an interesting column on Business Insider the other day claiming that Kozlowski and Tyco’s CFO, Mark Swartz, should never have been convicted.  She claims that the evidence at trial did not prove their intent to defraud the company.  Instead, Neal argues that this was more about punishing corporate greed than a search for truth and justice.

Although I don’t feel that Neal strongly backs-up her argument, the article did cause me to wonder what Kozlowski will do next.  Given his career, he still has a substantial number of connections in the businesses throughout the world.  One can presume that one of Kozlowski’s former cronies would be willing to place him on an executive team.  He certainly wouldn’t be the first white-collar convicted felon to re-enter the corporate world.

An executive position is one thing, but what about a board position? There are arguments for and against.  As the founder of a start-up venture, I started to wonder if I would want him on my board.  There are obvious benefits: (1) the mere announcement of Kozlowski to my board would provide immediate attention to BoardProspects and increase traffic to our site; (2) Kozlowski likely has contacts with deep pockets for financing (a huge need for just about every start-up); and (3) a profound understanding of business (the type of understanding you probably couldn’t get from 100 MBA’s).  On the other hand, BoardProspects is all about elevating the standard of corporate governance by connecting corporations with the right director candidates.  I’m not sure having on my board the face of one of the largest corporate governance scandals in history furthers that purpose (it seems akin to having an In Memoriam page on my site featuring  Enron CEO Ken Lay).

Of course whether someone would want Dennis Kozlowski to serve on a Board of Directors would depend upon the individual’s relationship to the company.  Thus, below I have a quick survey looking at this issue from three perspectives – management, shareholder, and director.  Take a minute to complete this survey and let us know your thoughts:

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