Aswath Damodaran: Good corporate governance cannot be legislated

Cover of "Damodaran on Valuation: Securit...

Cover via Amazon


What is common between Aswath Damodaran and Forrest Gump, one a widely published professor of finance at the Stern School of Business at New York University and the other a naive, unintelligent fictional hero? Well, both got lucky with investments in shares ofApple Inc. Damodaran bought the shares for around $5 each in 1997, which he describes as an emotional investment, selling them eventually for $600 last year.


Damodaran is known for his books on valuation, includingDamodaran on Valuation and the recent The Little Book of Valuation. In addition he has co-edited a book on investment management with Peter Bernstein and has written books on investment philosophies and risk management. A popular teacher, he was voted as the most popular teacher in a Businessweek survey of MBA students in 2011, in addition to winning Stern’s Excellence in Teaching award seven times.


Damodaran is in India for Stern’s first India Business Forum and shared his thoughts on investing in India, factors Indian companies should look out for while making acquisitions, following a value investment strategy in a world of momentum investing and high frequency trading. Edited excerpts from an interview:



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Doing Away With Stupid Rules

The Wall Street Journal at 1701 Page Mill Road...

The Wall Street Journal at 1701 Page Mill Road in Palo Alto, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right now, somewhere in your company, one of your employees is rolling his eyes. Make no mistake, it’s because of a policy or rule that leadership created.

The eye-roll—and its cousin, the defeated shrug—are the silent protests of people in every area of your company.

If you want to know the true source and depth of their frustration, there’s only one surefire way: Invite them to a brainstorming meeting.

Once you have gathered your teams together, provide blank sticky notes and ask everyone to pair up. Then present this question: If you could kill or change all the stupid rules that get in the way of doing your work or better servicing our clients, what would they be?

If they stare back at you in stunned silence, you might want to add: “You have 10 minutes! Go!” After 10 minutes, people will likely ask for more time—not because they’re stumped, but because there are that many stupid rules. Don’t interrupt their catharsis. After all, how often do you see your employees so engaged? Do remind them, however, that government regulations are “red rules”—illegal to change—but everything else is a “green rule” and thus, fair game.

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Michael J Sandel: ‘Do we want a society where everything is up for sale?’

Lecture 3 - 28


Michael J Sandel is one of the foremost political philosophers of our times. He is the Anne T and Robert M Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980. His new book, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, argues that we have drifted from being a market economy to being a market society. In this freewheeling interview, he speaks toVivek Kaul.


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Retaliation against Whistle-Blowers: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

No good deed goes unpunished. This phrase came to mind after reading the results of a 2011 National Business Ethics Survey titled “Retaliation: When Whistleblowers Become Victims.” The report contains some shocking statistics:


  • 45% of US workers observed wrongdoing;
  • 65% of those who witnessed wrongdoing reported it;
  • 22% of those who reported wrongdoing said they experienced retaliation (an increase of 46% from 2009); and
  • 46% of those who observed wrongdoing but chose not to report it, cited fear of retaliation as the reason.


Employees who “blow the whistle” or report wrongdoing should be lauded, not vilified. A study conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) estimates that fraud costs a typical company about 5% of its revenues and that whistle-blowing is the single most common method of fraud detection. Another study shows that “18.3% of the corporate fraud cases in large US companies between 1996 and 2004 were detected and brought forward by employees.” In Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, an analysis by KPMG found that 25% of fraud cases were brought forward by employees and that anonymous tipping was the primary source of detection.


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the frauds

the frauds (Photo credit: ivers)



HR Rep of the future

Human resources team works to improve customer...

Human resources team works to improve customer service (Photo credit: USACEpublicaffairs)


The other day I was talking about this column to an acquaintance. I was telling them about the various themes that we dwell upon—offices, policies, co-workers, human resource (HR) departments, Sodexo passes—and the conversations that this leads to amongst readers—“He gets paid to write this every week?”


“So you don’t like human resources departments is it?” the acquaintance asked me.


“I think they are a pox upon this planet. A bubonic plague upon the heart and soul of the modern workplace. My dislike for them runs deeply indeed.”


“So, who will do their job then? You tell me! You hate them so much. But do you have a viable alternative?”


Suddenly my acquaintance was sounding quite passive aggressive. Or, indeed, aggressive. “I haven’t thought about that,” I said fearfully. “I will do so at the earliest opportunity.”


“You better, boy. Because I used to handle HR myself. And I thought I did a damn good job.”



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What Successful Night Owls Get Done Before Bed


Research Team

Research Team (Photo credit: shareski)


Early birds get all the credit. Research indicates that morning people tend to be more active and goal oriented, and such larks as Steve Jobs, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, and 25-year old David Karp, founder of the Tumblr blogging platform suggest that climbing the ladder ofsuccess is easier before breakfast.


So does that mean night owls are at a disadvantage? Research by Satoshi Kanazawa and colleagues at the London School of Economics and Political Science suggests no. The group discovered significant differences in sleep preferences and found that people with higher IQs are more likely to be night owls. They found an evolutionary shift from being active in the day towards nightly pursuits and that those individuals who preferred to stay up late demonstrated “a higher level of cognitive complexity.” Researchers from Belgium and Switzerland studying sleep habits found that early risers needed more rest than their nocturnal counterparts and didn’t focus as well later in the day as those who slept in.


Armed with that knowledge, Fast Company found a group of dedicated night owls to discuss their strategies for making the wee hours work for them. Most responded to our queries via email well past midnight. Here’s what they told us.


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