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Independence (with a straight face)…

You gotta hand it to the folks at EMC Corp. (EMC) who seem to have a different definition of independence than most other people might. Two of its directors, who happen to be related and are former EMC executives, have extensive business dealings with the company. Yet, they’re still amazingly considered independent under existing NYSE and SEC rules. Companies owned in part or in full by long-time EMC Director John Egan, received over $3 million from EMC last year, according to the company’s recent proxy. Egan had been an executive vice president at EMC in the late 1990s and resigned from the company in 2002. Meanwhile, Egan’s uncle, W. Paul Fitzgerald, who heads up the company’s audit committee, where one would hope independence is critical, has four relatives — his brother, son, daughter and son-in-law — on the company payroll. The proxy doesn’t say how much any of those people earn, but does any reasonable person really expect Fitzgerald to do something that would jeopardize the job prospects of four family members? Not to mention the fact that Fitzgerald was the former CFO, which of course, gives him the expertise, but doesn’t exactly give him much in the way of independence. Perhaps that’s why the Comptroller for New York City is sponsoring a shareholder resolution to create a real independent audit committee, instead of the one they have in place now.