IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: Susan Bayh's tangled web puts cloud over senator husband

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
IBJ Editorial

Corporate boards need more women, but not people such as Susan Bayh, wife of Sen. Evan Bayh.

It’s not that she isn’t up to the task. The former attorney at Eli Lilly and Co. and visiting professor at Butler University is by all accounts capable. So we’re not surprised she regularly receives invitations to serve on boards.

But we are surprised she accepts. As her husband’s political career has blossomed, questions about conflicts of interest have mushroomed.

These days, Susan Bayh, 49, serves on five boards, including WellPoint Inc. and Emmis Communications Corp. locally.

You can imagine that WellPoint brass is delighted to have Bayh aboard. After all, she has the ear of a senator who is emerging as an important player as Congress considers sweeping health care reforms.

It’s a good gig for Susan Bayh. Last year, she earned $327,000 in fees, stock and stock options from WellPoint, according to IBJ research. But the hefty compensation only heightens our unease with the arrangement.

A key question: Will Sen. Bayh be less likely to play tough with health insurers because of his wife’s position?

The Bayhs never have addressed such conflict concerns head on, even though they’ve come up repeatedly.

During the question-and-answer session at WellPoint’s annual meeting in May, the topic came up twice. But CEO Angela Braly didn’t provide much of an answer.

“We feel we’re well-situated to avoid the conflict of interest that might exist from that situation,” Braly told shareholders.

Bloomberg reported last fall that Susan Bayh’s role on boards might have hurt Evan Bayh’s chances of becoming the vice presidential running mate for Barack Obama.

It isn’t just the WellPoint board post that raises sticky questions. At least one major shareholder in Emmis Communications has questioned whether Susan Bayh would be willing to be tough on CEO Jeff Smulyan, an unabashed supporter of her husband.

Smulyan is a Democrat who has held fundraisers for Bayh at his home. “I hope he one day seeks the presidency,” Smulyan said at a 2001 Democratic event. Emmis also was the publisher of Evan Bayh’s 2003 memoir.

“The well-chronicled personal relationships that Ms. Bayh and her husband have with the Emmis CEO might logically raise legitimate questions about the extent of Mrs. Bayh’s independence,” Frank Martin, an Elkhart money manager, said in a letter last year.

For her service on Emmis’ board, Susan Bayh last year earned stock and options valued at $99,262, according to IBJ research.

Radio-station operator Emmis, like WellPoint, is in a business that’s regulated by the federal government—regulation that Sen. Bayh has the influence to shape.

We don’t begrudge Susan Bayh’s desire to make a living and build her own career. But she could put her skills to work in ways that would be free of potential conflict. It’s time for her to clear the air by doing just that.•

__________


To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.

ADVERTISEMENT