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Do Dropbox droppers do due diligence?

Apparently Dropping Drobpox is a thing now, because Condoleeza Rice has been named to the board of directors. I’m aware of at least two prominent people (Chris Breen and Mark Frauenfelder) who have publicly discussed their Dropbox departures, and I assume there are many more.

First, I admire these folks’ convictions and follow-through on those convictions. For me, Dropbox is too ingrained in what I do to make such a switch. Additionally, I don’t believe someone sitting on the Board of Directors of a company is reason enough to change my practices relative to that company’s products.

However, for those who feel strongly about Ms. Rice, I assume they’d want to avoid any companies that have directors with similar backgrounds, right? In order to make such decisions, they need to do due diligence on any company whose products they might like to use.

To ease that task, I put together a brief list, based strictly on companies having board members involved in the military-industrial complex, and who may have been active in the same timeframe as Condoleeza Rice.

The first entry in the list may be somewhat surprising…

  • Apple, because Ronald Sugar sits on the board. He was the CEO of the Northrup Grumman corporation through 2010; Northrup is a huge supplier of drones, weapons, cyberwarfare tools, and other such unpleasantries. Sure, it’ll be tough to switch to Linux and Android phones, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right?
  • GM, as Michael G. Mullen sits on their board; he’s the former Chariman of the Joints Chief of Staff.
  • Ford, where you’ll find Dick Gephardt, a Democrat who supported the invasion of Iraq.
  • Chevron; Ronald Sugar also sits on this board, as does Enrique Hernandez Jr., CEO of Inter-Con Security, which provides “security services” to governments.
  • Bank of America, where you’ll find Linda P. Hudson, CEO of BAE Systems, a very large player in security and defense.

I could go on, but the general point is that there are tons of companies out there with possibly “unsavory” folks on their boards. Does everyone dropping Dropbox investigate the boards of every company they buy products from, to make sure they’re clean? I can’t answer for them, of course, but it’s hard to think the answer is “yes.” (And this says nothing of private companies, whose leadership teams can’t be discerned.)

As noted at the outset, I admire those with the strengths to stick to their convictions…but it’s hard to figure out where the line should be drawn. Why is Condoleeza Rice any worse than any of the other names on this list? In some ways, the other names might be worse, because many directly profited from their efforts, instead of “just” being responsible for pursuing Presidential policies.

A company’s board of directors is many things; part corporate governance, part publicity stunt, part “good old boys club.” In almost no cases does the board have any impact on the day to day operations of a company, and for me at least, the makeup of the board isn’t a factor in my decision to use a given company’s products.

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