One of the lessons from the financial crisis was that the boardrooms of corporate Ireland had been ineffective in preventing massive corporate failures.

There were too many conflicts of interest among directors and boards of banks were stuffed with the chums of bankers.

The upper echelons of corporate Ireland frequently played golf together, came from similar backgrounds and saw the world from the same perspective.

These directors failed to challenge management teams on their misguided assumptions.

The culture in many of Ireland’s biggest companies fell far short of expectations.

So almost a decade later, have directors learnt from the experience of the crash?

This week the Institute of Directors published a survey of boardroom ethics in Ireland called "Tone from the Top".

In a nutshell it showed the "tone" is off key and directors have a long way to go. 

One reason why this matters to the public is because when financial companies such as banks and insurance groups go bust, taxpayers and consumers have had to pick up the bill in the past.

The damage from a scandal can be far reaching, extend to other sectors and tarnish Ireland’s international reputation.  

The issue of boardroom ethics will be far more important in the future.

As the tectonic plates of international business shift in advance of Brexit it means Ireland could win more internationally mobile finance.

The Central Bank has made it clear it has no interest in regulating brass plate operations where opportunists use an Irish address to claim they are operating from the country to gain access to the EU market.

Regulators in Dame Street want to oversee a board in Ireland which runs a real operation.  

That makes sense.

Directors on the ground with skin in the game, who are answerable to a local regulator, are more likely to stop something from going badly wrong.

All of this means the behaviour and standards of corporate Ireland will be vital to the country’s international reputation.  

Unfortunately the report by the Institute of Directors said half of respondents believed there was a prevalence of conflicts of interest among boards in Ireland.

It also said conflicts of interests was given the "least importance by the board" when compared to ethics policy and the value statements.

Another remarkable finding was that 90% believed that reputational risk was the biggest motivation for ethical behaviour.

It was not so much that they were worried about doing the wrong thing, instead they were concerned that it could result in bad press if they were caught.  

Almost one third said management did not have any way of measuring its own ethical behaviour.  

It added that one fifth of respondents said they did not have a conflicts of interest policy.

The report also found half of the respondents said boards did not evaluate compliance with ethical behaviour.

The Institute of Directors said there was also good news because boards were looking more seriously at corporate culture than they had done in the past.

But if Ireland wants to win big projects after Brexit, boardrooms need to wake up, change and take ethics seriously.