The History of Boards

The concept of a board of directors evolved from independent merchant societies in England and continental Europe during the Elizabethan period. However, the Dutch East India Company, a multinational, spice trading enterprise founded in 1602, is considered to be the first publicly traded company issuing stocks and bonds to the public and also widely thought of as the pioneer to the modern corporation. The oldest public companies in the United States were established in the 1700s, including Lorillard Tobacco Company, Baker’s, Ames, Bowne, Cigna, State Street, Jim Beam, JPMorgan, DuPont and the First Bank of the United States, which was chartered by Alexander Hamilton.

“In 1811, the first American public corporation regulatory statute was enacted in New York and provided the first mention of a governance structure similar to that of the modern-day board: trustees, currently referred to as directors, should manage the stock, property and concerns of public companies”

Corporate governance has evolved, since 2002, to be highly regulated with the passages of Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; the development of many more independent boards; the implementation of race and gender mandates; and the emerging importance of the Internet, social media, cyber security, digital transformation and reputation management.

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