A Real Conflict of Interest in North Carolina
I’ve been writing about a lot of potential conflicts when it comes to the North Carolina pension plan. Eric Frazier of the News & Observer reports that the state’s Secretary of Commerce is at the center of a real conflict of interest. While serving in her role as the state’s lead economic development official, Sharon Decker is a director at two public companies: Family Dollar Store and Coke Cola Bottling Consolidated. Last year she received $149,000 in cash and stock from Family Dollar and $144,600 in cash from Coke Consolidated. It’s a nice way to supplement her state salary of $136,000.
With Family Dollar currently weighing competing bids from Dollar General and Dollar Tree, it’s hard to see how she can simultaneously discharge her statutory duties to the state and her fiduciary duty to the shareholders of Family Dollar. Secretary Decker told the News & Observer that she mediates the conflict by focusing solely on the interest of shareholders when she serves on Family Dollar’s board and on the state’s economy when she’s acting as Secretary of Commerce. In my view, her standard falls far short of addressing the conflict.
I don’t think the shareholders of Family Dollar should be happy about having the Secretary of Commerce reviewing and opining on the sale of the company when her day job is attracting and retaining jobs in North Carolina. And North Carolina’s taxpayers shouldn’t be happy, because they’ve retained Ms. Decker on a full-time basis to look after North Carolina’s interests and not those of Family Dollar or Coke Cola Bottling Consolidated.
In my opinion, Ms. Decker should resign as Secretary of Commerce and devote her attention to the critical decisions pending at Family Dollar.