Mihir Desai

Speech Topics

In his forthcoming book, Professor Desai provides a unique take on finance. He argues that finance has lost its way but has also been demonized unnecessarily. In order to rectify the misunderstanding around finance and to set it on the right track, he uses the humanities to explore the big ideas of finance and to restore humanity to finance. Literature, history, philosophy are used to provide an intuitive entry to finance and to show people in finance how virtuous their profession can be.


The new administration has made tax reform a priority, with business taxation a particular focus. And, reform is long overdue with the last significant reform coming 30 years ago and with the tax system distorting many business decisions. What will tax reform look like? Who are the winners and losers? And, how will the U.S. tax reform impact or reflect changing global pressures? This presentation will provide a perspective on how tax reform will shake out domestically and globally.


This talk discusses how the C-Suite can engage with the most important demands of investors without losing their core identity. This talk traces how and why investors have become dominant and how managers can lose their way in relationships with investors. The talk provides an overview of the shifting investment landscape and best practices for working with investors.


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Mihir A. Desai is the Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School and a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He received his Ph.D. in political economy from Harvard University; his MBA as a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School; and a bachelor’s degree in history and economics from Brown University. In 1994, he was a Fulbright Scholar to India. He is the author of The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return (May 2017).

Professor Desai’s areas of expertise include tax policy, international finance, and corporate finance. His academic publications have appeared in leading economics, finance, and law journals. His work has emphasized the appropriate design of tax policy in a globalized setting, the links between corporate governance and taxation, and the internal capital markets of multinational firms. His research has been cited in The Economist, BusinessWeek, The New York Times, and several other publications. He is a Research Associate in the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Public Economics and Corporate Finance Programs, and served as the co-director of the NBER’s India program.

His general interest publications include opinion pieces on varied topics, including tax policy and the effects of globalization on domestic welfare, in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Tax Notes and The New York Times. He has also written for practitioners in the Harvard Business Review on the role of the Global CFO, on how to reform the U.S. tax system, and how changing incentive systems have contributed to the degradation of American competitiveness. He has testified several times to Congressional bodies, including most recently to the Senate Finance Committee on corporate tax reform and inversions.

Professor Desai has taught extensively as an award-winning teacher at HBS and at Harvard University. As a second-year professor teaching finance in the required curriculum, he received the Student Association Award for teaching excellence from the HBS Class of 2001. He subsequently built a second-year elective on International Financial Management, and his many cases on international finance are collected in a casebook published by John Wiley and are taught around the world. Since 1999, he has co-taught Public Economics (EC 1410) at Harvard College. He has also taught seminars and classes on tax policy at Harvard Law School, NYU Law School, and Columbia Law School. Most recently, Professor Desai has been active in delivering various executive education programs at HBS, including the General Managers Program (GMP), on campus and around the world. In 2011, Professor Desai launched, with Professor Joe Lassiter, the first offering at HBS for Harvard undergraduates, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, that is also included as part of the General Education curriculum at Harvard College. In the fall of 2014, Professor Desai began teaching Taxation at Harvard Law School.

From 2008 to 2011, Professor Desai led HBS’s doctoral programs, which include the DBA and joint programs with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In that role, he led the restructuring of various programs and initiated a terminal master’s program. From 2010 to 2014, Professor Desai was the Senior Associate Dean for Planning and University Affairs, where he was part of the senior management team of the Business School focused on integration with the rest of the University. Specifically, he has launched a program for Harvard undergraduates to collaborate on research with HBS professors (PRIMO), led the course for undergraduates described above, helped launch the Harvard Innovation Lab, worked on campus planning efforts including the design of Tata Hall and served on the newly created Harvard Libraries Board.

His professional experiences include working at CS First Boston (1989-1991), McKinsey & Co. (1992), and advising a number of firms and governmental organizations. He is also on the Advisory Board of the International Tax Policy Forum and the Centre for Business Taxation at Oxford University.

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