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The 2009 directorship 100

President Barack Obama and his team top the third-annual list of the most influential people in the boardroom and corporate governance community, write directorship editors.

india Updated: Oct 21, 2009 15:08 IST

Welcome to the third edition of the Directorship 100, the who's who of the corporate governance community, or, more accurately defined, the most influential people in the boardroom. When we set out three years ago to identify those 100 individuals who exert the most profound influence on the boardroom agenda, it seemed like a daunting task: so many stakeholders in business, government, and the shareholder community, but too few places on the roster by an order of magnitude.

What we also discovered in putting the list together was that in some instances, it became impossible to separate the captain from the team. This year's D100 is a case in point: Our editors and board of advisers were nearly unanimous in our selection of President Barack Obama as this year's most powerful corporate governance influence. And yet, to do justice to the seismic shift his policies have brought about in the boardroom, we also had to recognize the many other "New Voices" in the administration who are now leading the greatest financial reform of American business since the 1930s.

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So, we ask that in the pages ahead you pay more attention to who counts, and less to how we count, in arriving at our final selection of individuals and institutions that have met the requirement to be "most influential." We think you'll agree it's an intricate and impressive mosaic where the whole equals much more than the sum of its parts, which may or may not be greater than 100.

Regulators & Rulemakers

Team Obama

It is often written that reasonable people may disagree, and with Americans and their presidents, it is practically a way of life. But even an unreasonable person could only conclude that this president and his administration are having a profound and lasting influence over the boardroom. President Barack Obama has demonstrated an enormous capacity for calm in uncertain times. His relative youth leads to frequent comparisons to John F. Kennedy, and his communications skills to those of Ronald Reagan. But it is his aggressive response to the unparalleled economic challenges that greeted him at the dawn of his young presidency that harkens back to an earlier figure of towering influence, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

FDR's massive social and financial reform programs--the creation of Social Security as part of the New Deal, the establishment of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Company--helped restore confidence in the nation's banking system coming out of the Great Depression. One could plausibly take major portions of FDR's New Deal and substitute his name with President Obama's. The implementation of the $787 billion American Economic Recovery Act one month after Obama took office, coupled with his handling of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which sought to strengthen the financial sector by buying up the assets and equity from troubled banks, has clearly helped the nation avoid further financial disaster and put the economy on the path to recovery.

And finally, turning again to the FDR playbook, Obama assembled a team of wise men and women, formidable economic and business minds, whose decisions are having a lasting effect on the role of the corporate director. Preeminent among them was the choice of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. Described as a veritable "influence machine," within the administration and Congress, the former congressman from Obama's home state of Illinois is known as a hard-charging, brutally candid, sometimes combative, acutely intelligent man who can get things done and knows the ways of the Capitol and the boardroom.

The Enforcers

Perhaps second only to Obama in terms of her influence on boards and corporate governance, career regulator Mary Schapiro heads up the 75-year-old SEC. Before the crisis, the agency's very existence was in question: "Obsolete," "out of touch," and "behind the times" were just some of the many terms uttered by detractors. The Commission, under former chairman Christopher Cox, was pilloried for missing the Madoff scandal.