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Public policy: How much should CEOs be involved?

Mar 31, 2012 Walt Wojciechowski

With a slew of regulatory and compliance burdens expected to wash over the financial services sector in coming months, many industry leaders are calling for greater representation of involvement in the policy-making process in Washington, D.C. This trend runs counter to the prevailing wisdom among many consumers, which is that Wall Street already has too much influence on political discourse. A survey released this week by the strategic communications practice of FTI Consulting found a significant majority of surveyed corporate shareholders and investors - 89 percent - believe current policy and legislative decisions are important to their portfolios. Even more - 95 percent - agree that the overall impact of laws coming out of Washington have had a negative impact on their investments. Furthermore, 86 percent of respondents would like to see corporate chief executives become more engaged in public policy debates related to their business. More than half believe CEOs should be actively engaged. Edward Reilly, global chief executive of strategic communications practice at FTI, says company managers should be required to protect their organizations from political and regulatory threats. "A thoughtful and rational civic engagement program can give a CEO or company access to policymakers and opinion leaders who are interested in finding common ground and solutions that are mutually beneficial," Reilly said in a statement. "Becoming a 'CEO Statesman' is essential to position executives above the partisan fray as policy leaders and broad advocates - for industry and for the country as a whole," he added. In regards to the debt collection industry this may be even more imperative, as recent regulations - particularly stemming from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - have targeted unethical recovery practices without fully considering how such restrictions may harm legitimate debt collectors. "When you consider just how much even a small policy shift can shape a market - not to mention more serious overhauls on the magnitude of healthcare, financial services regulation and America's corporate tax rate - it is self-evident that executives must be part of the dialogue," Reilly said. "Along with customers, suppliers and investors, policymakers can be critical to the success of a business, and this constituency cannot be left to chance."