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Nov 14, 2023

Governance Matters podcast: Discover Financial Services’ legal chief Hope Mehlman discusses working with CII and AI

As shareholder engagement becomes increasingly important, investor interactions are useful to governance teams

Companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of shareholder engagement, including the value of year-round engagement programs, and governance professionals play an important role in that work.

At last week’s Corporate Governance Awards ceremony, for example, Burlington Stores was honored for best shareholder engagement (small to mid-cap), while Regeneron Pharmaceuticals took home the title for best shareholder engagement (large cap).

One pathway for engagement can be through the Council of Institutional Investors (CII). In the latest episode of the Governance Matters podcast, Governance Intelligence speaks with Hope Mehlman, who is chief legal officer, general counsel and corporate secretary with Discover Financial Services and previously sat on the CII board.

‘Serving on the board provided me with a good understanding of where investors are coming from [and] how they generally think about governance, and I was able to share information with other CII corporate members,’ Mehlman says. She encourages companies to join the institute to pursue opportunities for interaction with investors: ‘Being a participant in CII gives you a different window.’

Among other things, Mehlman discusses companies’ use of artificial intelligence (AI), noting that nearly all vendor tools advertise themselves as having some form of AI component. ‘Taking that at face value, it’s nearly impossible for any legal department to say that AI isn’t being used in some way,’ she says. ‘The real question is what flavor of AI is being used.’

Discover, she says, has been using AI for some time in connection with fraud detection and anti-money-laundering efforts. As a result, part of the legal team’s responsibilities is to work with the firm’s data and analytics team to ensure ethically compliant use of the technology, she explains.

Governance Intelligence spoke to Mehlman before the announcement of this year’s winners of the Corporate Governance Awards. She received the 2019 governance professional of the year (large cap) award, and shares advice for future candidates. Mehlman is also a member of the Governance Intelligence Hall of Fame.

The Governance Matters podcast provides listeners with insight into cutting-edge issues of the day for corporate secretaries, general counsel and other governance professionals.

The series looks at how the roles of the corporate secretary and the board have evolved over time, as well as how the governance landscape continues to change. From ESG to entity management, shareholder engagement to technology, hear from award-winning governance professionals and leading advisers about the latest public company governance matters.

Click here to listen and subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Acast or wherever you get your podcasts.