According to the New York Times (NYT), the Ford Motor Company board of directors on Thursday announced that it had formed a committee to look into the allocation of shares of Goldman Sachs to William Clay Ford Jr., the company's chairman and chief executive.

The newspaper said Goldman Sachs allocated 400,000 shares to Bill Ford in 1999 as part of its initial public offering. Ford and Goldman have a longstanding business relationship and John L. Thornton, a president and co-chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, has been a Ford director since 1996, the NYT noted.

The New York Times said Goldman Sachs has received close to $US90 million in banking fees from Ford since 1996 and attention has been focused recently on the personal ties between Bill Ford and Thornton who have been acquaintances since their prep school days in the 1970s.

Spokesmen for Ford and Goldman have denied that the share allocation had any link to Thornton's acquaintance with Bill Ford, the NYT said.

According to the newspaper, the Ford board formed the committee after receiving a letter sent on November 13 by Robert Curry, a lawyer at Kirby McInerney & Squire of New York and a corporate governance advocate.
In the letter, written on behalf of a client, Roger Berger, who owns shares of Ford, Curry requests that Bill Ford sell his Goldman shares to Ford Motor at the $53 he paid for them. Ford would then decide what to do with the shares and with any profit from selling them. The New York Times added that Bill Ford still holds all 400,000 shares.

The newspaper said Berger is not seeking to recover lost investment dollars from Ford. His interest, his lawyer told the New York Times, is to encourage better corporate practices at Ford, which would benefit all Ford shareholders in the long run.

"We are interested in good corporate governance," Curry said, according to the newspaper. "This is the proper and appropriate response from the board and we would expect, at a minimum, that [Bill] Ford would sell his 400,000 shares to Ford [Motor Company]."

According to the New York Times, if Bill Ford does not sell the shares to his company, the next step could be a formal lawsuit.

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