Independent directors not necessarily best for company

It may not be a good thing in the long term for Singapore's listed companies' boards to be more independent ("Listed firm boards more independent but still lack diversity, says report"; last Wednesday).

The purpose of a board is to advise the management team of the company and represent shareholders' interest.

Independent directors are paid a director's fee for their service to the company. But they do not own any shares in the company.

This means that these directors do not necessarily feel the pinch when the company stock prices plummet due to poor operations.

Even the world's legendary investor, Mr Warren Buffett, has spoken at length about how independent directors do not guarantee better corporate governance or corporate results.

Independent directors, as Mr Buffett wrote in a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in 2002, "simply did not know enough about business and/or care enough about shareholders to question foolish acquisitions or egregious compensation".

Although there are benefits that come with having independent directors, is it a good thing to fill more than half of board seats with independent directors?

Ng Chee Siang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'Independent directors not necessarily best for company'. Print Edition | Subscribe