Olubunmi Faleye grew up in Nigeria, a country where being a doctor or a nurse was con­sid­ered the pin­nacle of success.

But he dis­missed the idea of a med­ical career, and instead chose to study some­thing that, to many, can seem as mys­te­rious as the human body: cor­po­rate governance.

Now a tenured asso­ciate pro­fessor of finance at the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion and a Lloyd Mullin research fellow, Faleye has exhaus­tively researched more than 2,000 com­pa­nies and approx­i­mately 18,000 cor­po­rate directors.

My goal is to under­stand what works and what doesn’t in cor­po­rate gov­er­nance,” says Faleye, who earned a doc­toral degree in finance at the Uni­ver­sity of Alberta, Canada. “If we gain a better under­standing of this, we can encourage better gov­er­nance, which in turn will lead to better-​​run organizations.”

One aspect of Faleye’s research com­pares the effec­tive­ness of elected boards of direc­tors holding one-​​year terms with those holding alter­nating three-​​year terms.

By delving into U.S. Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion records and other resources, he looks at the impact the direc­tors have had on man­agers and investors, including whether direc­tors with lengthier terms offered good lead­er­ship and direc­tion at a cor­po­ra­tion, or whether their per­ma­nence led to com­pla­cency, entrench­ment and poor cor­po­rate profits.

Faleye has found that boards with longer-​​serving members—which he refers to as “clas­si­fied boards”—have a neg­a­tive effect overall on cor­po­ra­tions. In his paper “Clas­si­fied Boards, Firm Value, and Man­age­rial Entrench­ment,” pub­lished in 2007 in the “Journal of Finan­cial Eco­nomics,” he con­cludes that firms with clas­si­fied boards tend to expe­ri­ence a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in firm value, and that such boards “sig­nif­i­cantly insu­late” man­age­ment from market dis­ci­pline and board accountability.

My results cast a shadow of doubt on the claim that clas­si­fied boards pro­tect share­holder inter­ests and enhance the firm’s ability to create wealth,” he wrote in an intro­duc­tion to the article. “Rather, the evi­dence sug­gests that these boards are adopted for man­age­rial self-​​serving pur­poses, and that the recent wave of share­holder activism directed at elim­i­nating them could well be justified.”

Faleye is cur­rently studying how the dis­tri­b­u­tion of direc­tors’ work­loads affects their lead­er­ship of a company’s affairs. Noting that a director has the dual respon­si­bil­i­ties of being a coach and a judge, he and his co-​​authors have found that direc­tors per­form less well in advising and helping man­agers when most of their time is devoted to over­sight duties.

The researchers con­clude that the recent trend toward smaller boards and greater out­side director involve­ment in board over­sight can have sig­nif­i­cant unin­tended con­se­quences, including lower firm value and poorer acqui­si­tion performance.

Faleye’s work to under­stand the ins and outs of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance grew from his deci­sion as a young­ster to become a professor.

I just liked books, and I loved to teach,” he says. “I knew when I was in ele­men­tary school that this is what I wanted to do.”