Standard Chartered’s Dick Cheney

July 2, 2009

When Mervyn Davies suddenly quit Standard Chartered in January to become a trade minister in Gordon Brown’s government, the bank did what every big company is supposed to do and started a formal search for his replacement. A nominations committee was convened, led by acting chairman John Peace. Headhunters were hired. Lists were drawn up.

A string of high-profile candidates were rumoured to be in line for the job, including Sir Win Bischoff, the former Citigroup chairman. There were even suggestions that Mervyn – now Lord – Davies might come back after the next election.

Today, Stanchart finally ended the suspense. Its new chairman is to be, er, John Peace. After a five-month search, Peace appears to have come to the reluctant conclusion that there was nobody better qualified for the job. In doing so, he follows in the footsteps of the former US vice-president who, when tasked with finding a running mate for George W. Bush, nominated himself.

We’re told Peace recused himself from the nomination committee before it made the decision. Though presumably he did so only after every other candidate had been eliminated. The headhunters will, of course, still collect their fee. Only one question remains: if Peace turns out not to be the best choice as Stanchart chairman, will he have the courage to reprimand himself?

Update: Stanchart says Peace was never involved in the selection process. Apparently the board considered him a candidate from day one, which meant he could not be involved in the search, even though he is chairman of Stanchart’s nomination committee. This still begs the question of what happened in the past five months. Was Stanchart’s board simply going through the motions before eventually picking the first name on its list? And if Peace wasn’t the board’s first choice, who was?

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