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Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 17 mai 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 17 mail 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

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Conséquences à la non-divulgation d’une cyberattaque majeure


Quelles sont les conséquences de ne pas divulguer une intrusion importante du système de sécurité informatique ?

Les auteurs, Matthew C. Solomon* et Pamela L. Marcogliese, dans un billet publié sur le forum du HLS, ont étudié de près la situation des manquements à la sécurité informatique de Yahoo et ils nous présentent les conséquences de la non-divulgation d’attaques cybernétiques et de bris à la sécurité des informations des clients.

Ils exposent le cas très clairement, puis ils s’attardent aux modalités des arrangements financiers avec la Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

Comme ce sont des événements susceptibles de se produire de plus en plus, il importe que les entreprises soient bien au fait de ce qui les attend en cas de violation des obligations de divulgation.

Les auteurs font les cinq (5) constats suivants eu égard à la situation vécue par Yahoo :

 

— First, public companies should take seriously the SEC’s repeated warnings that one of its top priorities is ensuring that public companies meet their obligations to adequately disclose material cybersecurity incidents and risks. This requires regular assessment of cyber incidents and risks in light of the company’s disclosures, with the assistance of outside counsel and auditors as appropriate, and ensuring that there are adequate disclosure controls in place for such incidents and risks.

— Second, the SEC’s recently released interpretive guidance on cybersecurity disclosure is an important guidepost for all companies with such disclosure obligations. The guidance specifically cited the fact that the SEC views disclosure that a company is subject to future cybersecurity attacks as inadequate if the company had already suffered such incidents. Notably, the Yahoo settlement specifically faulted the company for this precise inadequacy in its disclosures. Similarly, the recent guidance encouraged companies to adopt comprehensive policies and procedures related to cybersecurity and to assess their compliance regularly, including the sufficiency of their disclosure controls and procedures as they relate to cybersecurity disclosure. The Yahoo settlement also found that the company had inadequate such controls.

— Third, at the same time the SEC announced the settlement, it took care to emphasize that “[w]e do not second-guess good faith exercises of judgment about cyber-incident disclosure.” [7] The SEC went on to note that Yahoo failed to meet this standard with respect to the 2014 Breach, but by articulating a “good faith” standard the SEC likely meant to send a message to the broader market that it is not seeking to penalize companies that make reasonable efforts to meet their cyber disclosure obligations.

— Fourth, it is also notable that the SEC charges did not include allegations that Yahoo violated securities laws with respect to the 2013 Breach. Yahoo had promptly disclosed the 2013 Breach after learning about it in late 2016, but updated its disclosure almost a year later with significant new information about the scope of the breach. The SEC’s recent guidance indicated that it was mindful that some material facts may not be available at the time of the initial disclosure, as was apparently the case with respect to the 2013 Breach. [8] At the same time, the SEC cautioned that “an ongoing internal or external investigation – which often can be lengthy – would not on its own provide a basis for avoiding disclosures of a material cybersecurity incident.” [9]

— Finally, it is worth noting that the Commission did not insist on settlements with any individuals. Companies, of course, can only commit securities violations through the actions of their employees. While it is not unusual for the Commission to settle entity-only cases on a “collective negligence” theory, the SEC Chair and the Enforcement Division’s leadership have emphasized the need to hold individuals accountable in order to maximize the deterrent impact of SEC actions. [10]

 

Bonne lecture !

 

Failure to Disclose a Cybersecurity Breach

 

 

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On April 24, 2018, Altaba, formerly known as Yahoo, entered into a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), pursuant to which Altaba agreed to pay $35 million to resolve allegations that Yahoo violated federal securities laws in connection with the disclosure of the 2014 data breach of its user database. The case represents the first time a public company has been charged by the SEC for failing to adequately disclose a cyber breach, an area that is expected to face continued heightened scrutiny as enforcement authorities and the public are increasingly focused on the actions taken by companies in response to such incidents. Altaba’s settlement with the SEC, coming on the heels of its agreement to pay $80 million to civil class action plaintiffs alleging similar disclosure violations, underscores the increasing potential legal exposure for companies based on failing to properly disclose cybersecurity risks and incidents.

Background

As alleged, Yahoo learned in late 2014 that it had recently suffered a data breach affecting over 500 million user accounts (the “2014 Breach”). Yahoo did not disclose the 2014 Breach until September 2016. During the time period Yahoo was aware of the undisclosed breach, it entered into negotiations to be acquired by Verizon and finalized a stock purchase agreement in July 2016, two months prior to the disclosure of the 2014 Breach. Following the disclosure in September 2016, Yahoo’s stock price dropped 3% and it later renegotiated the stock purchase agreement to reduce the price paid for Yahoo’s operating business by $350 million.

In or about late 2016, following its disclosure of the 2014 Breach, Yahoo learned about a separate breach that had taken place in August 2013 and promptly announced that such breach had affected 1 billion users (the “2013 Breach”). In October 2017, Yahoo updated its disclosure concerning the 2013 Breach, announcing that it now believed that all 3 billion of its accounts had been affected.

The Settlement

Altaba’s SEC settlement centered on the 2014 Breach only. The SEC found that despite learning of the 2014 Breach in late 2014—which resulted in the theft of as many as 500 million of its users’ Yahoo usernames, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords, and security questions and answers, referred to internally as Yahoo’s “crown jewels”— Yahoo failed to timely disclose the material cybersecurity incident in any of its public securities filings until September 2016. Although Yahoo senior management and relevant legal staff were made aware of the 2014 Breach, according to the SEC, they “did not properly assess the scope, business impact, or legal implications of the breach, including how and where the breach should have been disclosed in Yahoo’s public filings or whether the fact of the breach rendered, or would render, any statements made by Yahoo in its public filings misleading.” [1] The SEC also faulted Yahoo’s senior management and legal staff because they “did not share information regarding the breach with Yahoo’s auditors or outside counsel in order to assess the company’s disclosure obligations in its public filings.” [2]

Among other things, the SEC found that Yahoo’s risk factor disclosures in its annual and quarterly reports from 2014 through 2016 were materially misleading in that they claimed the company only faced the risk of potential future data breaches, without disclosing that “a massive data breach” had in fact already occurred. [3]

The SEC also alleged that Yahoo management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations (“MD&A”) in those reports was also misleading to the extent it omitted known trends or uncertainties with regard to liquidity or net revenue presented by the 2014 Breach. [4]Finally, the SEC further found that Yahoo did not maintain adequate disclosure controls and procedures designed to ensure that reports from Yahoo’s information security team raising actual incidents of the theft of user data, or the significant risk of theft of user data, were properly and timely assessed to determine how and where data breaches should be disclosed in Yahoo’s public filings. [5]

Based on these allegations, the SEC found that Yahoo violated Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act and Section 13(a) of the Securities Exchange Act. [6] To settle the charges, Altaba, without admitting or denying liability, agreed to cease and desist from any further violations of the federal securities laws and pay a civil penalty of $35 million.

Takeaways

There are several important takeaways from the settlement:

— First, public companies should take seriously the SEC’s repeated warnings that one of its top priorities is ensuring that public companies meet their obligations to adequately disclose material cybersecurity incidents and risks. This requires regular assessment of cyber incidents and risks in light of the company’s disclosures, with the assistance of outside counsel and auditors as appropriate, and ensuring that there are adequate disclosure controls in place for such incidents and risks.

— Second, the SEC’s recently released interpretive guidance on cybersecurity disclosure is an important guidepost for all companies with such disclosure obligations. The guidance specifically cited the fact that the SEC views disclosure that a company is subject to future cybersecurity attacks as inadequate if the company had already suffered such incidents. Notably, the Yahoo settlement specifically faulted the company for this precise inadequacy in its disclosures. Similarly, the recent guidance encouraged companies to adopt comprehensive policies and procedures related to cybersecurity and to assess their compliance regularly, including the sufficiency of their disclosure controls and procedures as they relate to cybersecurity disclosure. The Yahoo settlement also found that the company had inadequate such controls.

— Third, at the same time the SEC announced the settlement, it took care to emphasize that “[w]e do not second-guess good faith exercises of judgment about cyber-incident disclosure.” [7] The SEC went on to note that Yahoo failed to meet this standard with respect to the 2014 Breach, but by articulating a “good faith” standard the SEC likely meant to send a message to the broader market that it is not seeking to penalize companies that make reasonable efforts to meet their cyber disclosure obligations.

— Fourth, it is also notable that the SEC charges did not include allegations that Yahoo violated securities laws with respect to the 2013 Breach. Yahoo had promptly disclosed the 2013 Breach after learning about it in late 2016, but updated its disclosure almost a year later with significant new information about the scope of the breach. The SEC’s recent guidance indicated that it was mindful that some material facts may not be available at the time of the initial disclosure, as was apparently the case with respect to the 2013 Breach. [8] At the same time, the SEC cautioned that “an ongoing internal or external investigation – which often can be lengthy – would not on its own provide a basis for avoiding disclosures of a material cybersecurity incident.” [9]

— Finally, it is worth noting that the Commission did not insist on settlements with any individuals. Companies, of course, can only commit securities violations through the actions of their employees. While it is not unusual for the Commission to settle entity-only cases on a “collective negligence” theory, the SEC Chair and the Enforcement Division’s leadership have emphasized the need to hold individuals accountable in order to maximize the deterrent impact of SEC actions. [10]

_________________________________________________________________________

Endnotes

1Altaba Inc., f/d/b/a Yahoo! Inc., Securities Act Release No. 10485, Exchange Act Release No. 83096, Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release No. 3937, Administrative Proceeding File No. 3937 (Apr. 24, 2018) at ¶ 14.(go back)

2Idat ¶ 15.(go back)

3Idat ¶¶ 2, 16.(go back)

4Id.(go back)

5Idat ¶ 15.(go back)

6Idat ¶¶ 22-23.(go back)

7Press Release, SEC, Altaba, Formerly Known As Yahoo!, Charged With Failing to Disclose Massive Cybersecurity Breach; Agrees To Pay $35 Million (Apr. 24, 2018), https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-71.(go back)

8As we have previously discussed, the federal securities laws do not impose a general affirmative duty on public companies to continuously disclose material information and, as acknowledged in Footnote 37 of the interpretive guidance, circuits are split on whether a duty to update exists. However, in circuits where a duty to update has been found to exist, a distinction has often been drawn between statements of a policy nature that are within the company’s control and statements describing then current facts that would be expected to change over time. The former have been held subject to a duty to update while the latter have not. See In re Advanta Corp. Securities Litigation, 180 F.3d 525, 536 (3d Cir. 1997) (“[T]he voluntary disclosure of an ordinary earnings forecast does not trigger any duty to update.”); In re Burlington Coat Factory Securities Litigation, 114 F.3d 1410, 1433 (3d Cir. 1997); In re Duane Reade Inc. Securities Litigation, No. 02 Civ. 6478 (NRB), 2003 WL 22801416, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 25, 2003), aff’d sub nom. Nardoff v. Duane Reade, Inc., 107 F. App’x 250 (2d Cir. 2004) (“‘company has no duty to update forward–looking statements merely because changing circumstances have proven them wrong.’”).(go back)

9See SEC, Commission Statement and Guidance on Public Company Cybersecurity Disclosures, 83 Fed. Reg 8166, 8169 (Feb. 26, 2018), https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/02/26/2018-03858/commission-statement-and-guidance-on-public- company-cybersecurity-disclosures.(go back)

10See, e.g., Steven R. Peikin, Co-Director, Div. Enf’t., SEC, Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future of the SEC’s Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Keynote Address at N.Y.U. Program on Corporate Law and Enforcement Conference: No Turning Back: 40 Years of the FCAP and 20 Years of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention Impacts, Achievements, and Future Challenges (Nov. 9, 2017), https://www.sec.gov/news/speech/speech-peikin2017-11-09;
SEC Div. Enf’t., Annual Report A Look Back at Fiscal Year 2017, at 2 (Nov. 15, 2017), https://www.sec.gov/files/enforcement-annual-report2017.pdf.(go back)

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*Matthew C. Solomon and Pamela L. Marcogliese are partners and Rahul Mukhi is counsel at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb publication by Mr. Solomon, Ms. Marcogliese, Ms. Mukhi, and Kal Blassberger.

L’évolution du statut d’administrateur indépendant en 2017 | EY


Comment a évolué la situation du statut d’indépendance des administrateurs en 2017 ?

La publication d’EY est très intéressante à cet égard ; elle tente de répondre à cette question et elle brosse un tableau de la composition des conseils d’administration en 2017.

L’étude effectuée par l’équipe de Steve W. Klemash* auprès des entreprises du Fortune 100 montre clairement l’importance accrue accordée au critère d’administrateur indépendant au fil des ans.

Ainsi, au cours des deux dernières années, 80 % des administrateurs nommés par les actionnaires avaient la qualité d’administrateurs indépendants.

La plupart des nouveaux administrateurs avaient une expertise en finance et comptabilité et 44 % de ceux-ci ont été nommés sur le comité d’audit.

Cette année, 54 % des nouveaux arrivants étaient des personnes qui n’étaient pas CEO, comparativement à 51 % l’année précédente.

On compte 40 % de femmes parmi les nouveaux administrateurs en 2017.

Également, les nouveaux administrateurs sont plus jeunes : 15 % ont moins de 50 ans comparativement à 9 % l’année précédente. De plus, 85 % des nouveaux administrateurs avaient entre 50 ans et 67 ans.

Les entreprises recherchent une plus grande diversité de profils d’origine, d’expertises, d’habiletés et d’expériences.

J’ai tenté de résumer les principales conclusions de cette étude. Je vous renvoie à l’étude originale afin d’en connaître les détails.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

 

Independent Directors: New Class of 2017

 

 

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Companies are continuing to bring fresh and diverse perspectives into the boardroom and to enhance alignment of board composition with their forward-looking strategies.

In our second annual report, we share the results of our analysis of independent directors who were elected by shareholders to the board of a Fortune 100 company for the first time in 2017—what we refer to as the “new class of 2017.”

We looked at corporate disclosures to see what qualifications and characteristics were specifically highlighted, showcasing what this new class of directors brings to the boardroom. Our research was based on a review of proxy statements filed by companies on the 2017 Fortune 100 list. We also reviewed the same 83 companies’ class of 2016 directors to provide consistency in year-on-year comparisons.

 

Our perspective

 

What we’re hearing in the market is that boards are seeking slates of candidates who bring a diverse perspective and a range of functional expertise, including on complex, evolving areas such as digital transformation, e-commerce, public policy, regulation and talent management. As a result, boards are increasingly considering highly qualified, nontraditional candidates, such as non-CEOs, as well as individuals from a wider range of backgrounds. These developments are expanding the short lists of potential director candidates.

At the same time, companies are expanding voluntary disclosures around board composition. Our review of Fortune 100 disclosures around board composition found that:

While diverse director candidates are in high demand and related shifts in board composition are underway, these developments may be slow to manifest. For example, consider that the average Fortune 100 board has 10 seats. In this context, the addition of a single new director is unlikely to dramatically shift averages in terms of gender diversity, age, tenure or other considerations.

That said, whether a board’s pace of change is sufficient depends on a company’s specific circumstances and evolving board oversight needs. Boards should challenge their approach to refreshment, asking whether they are meeting the company’s diversity, strategy and risk oversight needs. Waiting for an open seat to nominate a diverse candidate may mean waiting for the value that diversity could bring.

In 2018, we anticipate that companies will continue to offer more voluntary disclosure on board composition, showing how their directors represent the best mix of individuals for the company—across multiple dimensions, including a diversity of backgrounds, expertise, skill sets and experiences.

 

Key findings

1. Most Fortune 100 companies welcomed a new independent director in 2017

 

This past year, over half of the Fortune 100 companies we reviewed added at least one independent director. This figure is a little lower than the prior year; but overall, during the two-year period from 2016 to 2017, over 80% of the companies added at least one independent director. Taking into account director exits—whether due to retirement, corporate restructuring, pursuit of new opportunities or other reasons—we found that nearly all of the companies experienced some type of change in board composition during this period.

2. The class of 2017 brings greater finance and accounting, public policy and regulatory, and operational skills to the table.

 

Corporate finance and accounting were the most common director qualifications cited by companies in 2017, up from fifth in 2016. A couple areas saw notable increases: government and public policy, operations and manufacturing, and transactional finance. This year, some areas tied in ranking, and in a twist, corporate references to expertise in strategy fell from third in 2016 to below the top 10 categories of expertise. Companies also made fewer references to board service or governance expertise compared to the prior year.

3. Most of the 2017 entering class was assigned to audit committees.

 

The strength of corporate finance and accounting expertise of the entering class is seen, too, with regards to key committee designations. Of the three “key committees” of audit, compensation, and nominating and governance, the 2017 entering class was primarily assigned to serve on audit committees. A closer look at the disclosures shows that 63% of the new directors that were assigned to the audit committee were formally designated as audit committee financial experts. In comparison, the corresponding figure in the prior year was 59%.

 

4. The Fortune 100 class of 2017 includes more non-CEOs.

 

While experience as a CEO is often cited as a traditional first cut for search firms, 54% of the entering class served in other roles, with non-CEO backgrounds including other executive roles or non-corporate backgrounds (academia, scientific organizations, nonprofits, government, military, etc.). This represents a slight increase from 2016 with most of the shift stemming from individuals holding or having held other senior executive positions. Approximately 30% appear to be joining a Fortune 100 public company board, having never previously served on a public company board—similar to 2016.

5. The class of 2017 is 40% female

 

As in the prior year, 40% of the entering class were women, but overall percentages were largely unchanged, with women directors averaging 28% board representation compared to 27% in 2016. Also, there was minimal age difference, with the women directors averaging 57 compared to 58 for male counterparts. Among the directors bringing the top categories of expertise, women directors accounted for over one-third of the disclosed director qualifications. In some cases, they represented over half of the disclosed category of expertise.

6. The class of 2017 tends to be younger

 

There appears to be an ongoing shift toward younger directors. For the class of 2017 entering directors, the average age of these individuals was 57, compared to 63 for incumbents and 68 for exiting directors. Of the entering class, 15% were under 50, an increase from 9% in the prior year. And, for the second consecutive year, we observe that over half of the entering class was under the age of 60. Exiting directors largely continue to be age 68 or older.

Questions for the board to consider

 

– How is the company aligning the skills of its directors—and that of the full board—to the company’s long-term strategy through board refreshment and succession planning efforts? How is the company providing voluntary disclosures around its approach in these areas?

– Does the company’s pool of director candidates challenge traditional search norms such as title, age, industry and geography?

– How is the company addressing growing investor and stakeholder attention to board diversity, and is the company providing disclosure around the diversity of the board—defined as including considerations such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality—in addition to skills and expertise?

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*Steve W. Klemash is Americas Leader, Kellie C. Huennekens is Associate Director, and Jamie Smith is Associate Director, at the EY Center for Board Matters. This post is based on their EY publication.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 10 mai 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 10 mai 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

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  1. Corporate Purpose: ESG, CSR, PRI and Sustainable Long-Term Investment
  2. Do Women CEOs Earn More and Have More Diverse Boards?
  3. The Business Case for Clawbacks
  4. Integrated Alpha: The Future of ESG Investing
  5. CEO Attributes, Compensation, and Firm Value: Evidence from a Structural Estimation
  6. The Future of Merger Litigation in Federal Courts?
  7. The Impact of DOL Guidance on ESG-Focused Plans
  8. The Uncertain Role of IPOs in Future Securities Class Actions
  9. An Investor Consensus on U.S. Corporate Governance & Stewardship Practices
  10. Netflix Approach to Governance: Genuine Transparency with the Board

     

Le cycle de vie des sociétés régies par des classes d’actions diverses


Les études montrent que ces types d’arrangements ne sont pas immanquablement dommageables pour les actionnaires, comme nous laissent croire plusieurs groupes d’intérêt tels que le Conseil des investisseurs institutionnels et la firme de conseil Institutional Shareholder Services (« ISS »). Plusieurs militent en faveur d’une durée limitée pour de telles émissions d’actions.

Les récentes émissions d’actions à classes multiples des entreprises de haute technologie ne nous permettent pas, à ce stade-ci, de statuer sur les avantages à long terme pour les actionnaires.

Les auteurs, Martijn Cremers et coll., concluent qu’il est trop tôt pour se prononcer définitivement sur la question, et pour réglementer cette structure de capital. Voir à cet égard l’article suivant : Are Dual-Class Companies Harmful to Stockholders? A Preliminary Review of the Evidence.

Bonne lecture !

 

The Life-Cycle of Dual Class Firms

 

 

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In our paper, The Life-Cycle of Dual Class Firms, we consider the market valuation of dual class firms over their life cycle. Dual class financing is on the rise in recent years, particularly among high-tech firms, following Google’s seminal 2004 dual-class IPO structure. This financing choice leaves control of the firms in the hands of entrepreneurs, giving outside investors with inferior-vote shares no direct mechanism to influence the board or management. Rather, public investors buying inferior vote shares at the IPO are betting that granting the entrepreneurs such control allows them to better implement their unique vision.

However, as dual class firms mature and their vision is largely accomplished, entrepreneurs’ leadership may no longer be needed, and entrepreneurs may start self-serving behavior. Public investors’ resentment may then develop, accusing dual class firms’ controlling shareholders for wanting their money without any accountability. Such public pressure arguably recently led MSCI to issue a proposal to reduce the weight of inferior-vote shares in MSCI indices by multiplying the regular weight by the shares fractional voting power. Notably, the same MSCI also issued a report a few months ago stating that “[o]ur research shows that unequal voting stocks in aggregate outperformed the market over the period from November 2007 to August 2017, and that excluding them from market indexes would have reduced the indexes’ total returns by approximately 30 basis points per year over our sample period.” Obviously, confusion reigns over the merits of dual class financing.

Bebchuk and Kastiel (2017) (The Untenable Case for Perpetual Dual-Class Stock, Virginia Law Review) argue that any initial benefits of dual class structures decay with firm age, while the potential agency costs associated with dual class structures increase with time. Thus, Professors Bebchuk and Kastiel advocate sunset clauses to dual class financing. The sunset clauses would require the “non-interested” public shareholders of the firm to vote on whether or not to extend the dual class structure, some pre-determined number of years after the IPO. If the extension proposal is declined, firms would unify the low- and high-vote shares, i.e., convert all shares into a single class of shares with “one share one vote”.

In our paper, we empirically investigate the desirability of sunset provisions by examining the life-cycle of dual class firms. Using an extensive sample of all single-and dual-class firm IPOs in the U.S. during 1980-2015, and relying on comparing dual class firms to similar single class firms, we document several novel phenomena in the life cycle of dual class firms.

First, the difference in firm valuation between dual and single class firms strongly varies over the corporate life cycle. At the IPO, dual class firms tend to have higher valuations, as at the IPO year-end the market valuation of dual class firms is, on average, 11% higher than that of matched single class firms. This initial valuation premium of dual class firms dissipates in the years after the IPO, and on average it becomes insignificantly negative about six to nine years after the IPO. We also find that the difference between the voting and equity stakes of the controlling shareholders of dual class firms (the “wedge”) tends to increase as the firm ages. According to one of our estimates, the mean wedge increases from 16% one year after the IPO to 22% five years after the IPO, and to 26% nine years after the IPO. The widening of the wedge is typically associated with more severe valuation reducing agency problems—see Masulis et al. (2009) (Agency Costs and Dual-Class Companies, Journal of Finance). Bebchuk and Kastiel (2018) (The Perils of Small-Minority Controllers, forthcoming Georgetown Law Review) analyze the perils of the widening wedges and advocate informing the public and capping it.

Second, we document interesting differences between dual class firms with a valuation premium (relative to their matched single class firms) at the IPO and dual class firms with a valuation discount at the IPO. Dual class firms with a valuation premium at the end of their IPO year gradually tend to lose this premium, until their valuations become very similar to those of their single class counterparts about six to nine years after the IPO. In contrast, we find no evidence for a life cycle in the relative valuation of initially discounted dual class firms, as their valuation discount persists from the time of their IPO to when they are mature dual class firms as well. The behavior of the subsample of dual class firms with a valuation premium at the IPO suggests that for some firms the dual class structure does not harm valuations, at least in the first decade after the IPO. On the other hand, the behavior of the subsample of dual class firms with an initial valuation discount, which we find is highly persistent, suggests that a mandatory sunset provision may be useful for these firms.

Third, a natural solution to possible dual class inefficiency is a voluntary firm-initiated dual class share unification, in which all share classes are transformed into “one share one vote”. We find that only about 20% of dual class firms unify their shares within 9 years after the IPO. Furthermore, voluntary unifications become rare after six years following the IPO. Most of the mature dual class firms elect to retain a dual class structure, perhaps because unification is against the interests of their controlling shareholders. This implies that some inefficient dual class structures may persist.

Our findings suggest that some sort of a sunset provision might be useful, especially for firms that trade at a valuation discount. Further, regarding the set-in time of any sunset provision, our study suggests to wait at least six years after the IPO. Regulators should also be worried about some potential negative consequences of any sunset regulation. First, some founders may be more reluctant to issue publicly traded shares if their reign over the firm is likely to be more limited in time. Public may lose the opportunity to invest in some breakthrough firms. Second, controlling shareholders may intensify their private benefits extraction in the period before their extra power expires. Third, it is possible that shareholders may elect to abolish dual class structures even when they are (still) beneficial.

Finally, our paper also documents several other interesting life cycle phenomena of dual class firms such as their higher survival rates, similar stock returns and lower likelihoods of being taken over, compared to matched single class firms. We conclude that unequal vote structures are viable financing tools.

The complete paper is available for download here.

________________________________________

*Martijn Cremers* is Bernard J. Hank Professor of Finance at University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, and an ECGI research member; Beni Lauterbach is a Professor of Finance and the Raymond Ackerman Family Chair in Corporate Governance at Bar Ilan University Graduate School of Business Administration, and an ECGI research member; Anete Pajuste is an Associate Professor of Finance and Head of Accounting and Finance Department at the Stockholm School of Economics, and an ECGI research member. This post is based on their recent paper.

Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Untenable Case for Perpetual Dual-Class Stock (discussed on the Forum here) and The Perils of Small-Minority Controllers (discussed on the Forum here), both by Lucian Bebchuk and Kobi Kastiel.

Les six principes qui gouvernent la conduite des investisseurs — ISG


Aujourd’hui, je vous présente le point de vue de l’association Investor Stewardship Group (the “ISG”) Governance Principles, eu égard aux principes de gouvernance que celle-ci entend promouvoir.

Je reproduis ici les principaux éléments de l’article publié par Anne Meyer* et paru sur le forum du Harvard Law School, notamment les six principes qui gouvernent leur conduite.

1 — Les CA sont redevables envers les actionnaires ;

2 — Les actionnaires doivent avoir des droits de vote qui sont proportionnels à leurs intérêts économiques ;

3 — Les CA doivent être à l’écoute des actionnaires et être proactifs dans la compréhension de leurs perspectives ;

4 — Les CA doivent avoir une solide structure de leadership indépendante ;

5 — Les CA doivent adopter des structures de gouvernance qui mènent à des pratiques efficaces ;

6 — Les CA doivent adopter des structures de rémunération des dirigeants qui sont alignées sur la stratégie à long terme de l’entreprise.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

The Investor Stewardship Group’s Governance Principles

 

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In this post, we provide an overview of the Investor Stewardship Group (the “ISG”) Governance Principles and steps for public companies to consider when evaluating how the principles may be incorporated into their own disclosure and engagement priorities. The ISG’s website, including a link to the ISG Governance Principles, is available here. In January 2017, the Investor Stewardship Group (the “ISG”), a collective of large U.S.-based and international institutional investors and asset managers, announced the launch of its Framework for U.S. Stewardship and Governance (the “Framework”). The measure is an unprecedented attempt to establish a set of elementary corporate governance principles for U.S. listed companies (the “ISG Governance Principles”) as well as parallel stewardship principles for U.S. institutional investors. The Framework’s effective date was January 1, 2018, in order to provide U.S. listed companies with time to adjust to the corporate governance principles prior to the 2018 proxy season.

As the 2018 proxy season gets into full swing, there is evidence that ISG members will be utilizing the Framework as a tool for evaluating the governance regimes at their portfolio companies, informing their engagement priorities, and potentially factoring compliance with the ISG Governance Principles into selected voting policies and decisions. In December, the ISG issued a press release “encouraging companies to articulate how their governance structures and practices align with the ISG’s Corporate Governance Principles and where and why they differ in approach”, leaving it to companies to determine how and where to disclose such alignment. And at least one large investor, State Street Global Advisors, has specifically highlighted that it will screen portfolio companies for compliance with the principles.

As a result, companies and their boards should continue to benchmark and understand how their specific governance practices relate to ISG Governance Principles and remain cognizant of this new regime as they prepare for engagement with investors and draft public disclosures.

 

Background

 

The ISG’s global reach and financial influence is significant; currently consisting of 50 investors representing over $22 trillion invested in the U.S. equity markets. The ISG’s signatories includes some of the largest and most influential institutional investors, including BlackRock, CalSTRS, State Street Global Advisors, TIAA Investments, T. Rowe Price, ValueAct Capital and Vanguard, among others. The Framework’s stewardship principles emphasize that these institutional investors have a vested interest and responsibility for the long-term economic success of their portfolio companies.

The ISG’s roll-out of the Framework characterized it as a “sustained initiative” and emphasized an evolutionary view of the ability of U.S. companies and investors to work together under the Framework.

Corporate governance practices at U.S. listed companies have historically been informed by multiple regulatory and rules-based regimes. Rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission, stock exchange listing requirements, state corporate codes, case law and federal legislation adopted in the wake of past financial market crises, have been the primary dictating standards. More recently, shareholders and other stakeholders have played a larger role in influencing corporate governance norms at U.S. listed companies through engagement and various forms of shareholder activism. In contrast, the ISG Governance Principles are based substantially on U.K., Continental European and other non-U.S. frameworks that establish principles-based corporate governance standards and tend to rely on “comply-or-explain” accountability. [1] Advocates for this type of principles-based approach stress the flexibility that it gives for companies to adopt a tailored response to important tenets such as boardroom transparency, as opposed to responding more narrowly to prescriptive rules. As institutional investors continue to focus more attention on environmental and social matters, including related governance concerns, the Framework’s principles-based approach will be a tool, for both institutions and companies, to promote mutually agreeable objectives, particularly given the lack of rulemaking or legislation mandating more specific disclosure on trending topics such as board diversity and environmental concerns.

 

The ISG Governance Principles

 

The six ISG Governance Principles are broad principles that will not look new to those who have been following key issues in corporate governance over the past several years. Indeed, they were designed to reflect the common corporate governance principles that are already embedded in member institutions’ proxy voting and engagement guidelines. The principles emphasize the importance of boardroom effectiveness and oversight, alignment of executive compensation with long-term financial results, and board accountability demonstrated in part through the adoption of governance best practices, including a one-share one-vote capital structure and independent board leadership.

Principle 1: Boards are accountable to shareholders

This principle encompasses the annual election of directors, majority voting, proxy access and more robust disclosure surrounding board practices and corporate governance. Companies are also asked to explain how any anti-takeover measures are in the best long-term interest of the company.

Interestingly, BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink recently published a letter to the CEOs at the world’s largest public companies in which he argued explicitly that boards are accountable to other stakeholders, such as employees and customers, in addition to shareholders.

Principle 2: Shareholders should be entitled to voting rights in proportion to their economic interest

This principle sets a base line of one-share one-vote and encourages companies with existing multi-class share structures to review and consider phasing out control shares.

In 2017, this issue became national news when Snap Inc. filed for an IPO of non-voting shares. Many large investors were vehemently opposed and at the urging of the Council for Institutional Investors and other investor advocates, the stock index provider FTSE Russell refused to include these shares in its indices.

Principle 3: Boards should be responsive to shareholders and be proactive in order to understand their perspectives

Under this principle, companies are expected to implement shareholder proposals that receive “significant” support or explain why they have not done so. Independent directors are encouraged to participate in engagement on matters that are meaningful to investors, and directors may be held accountable with “against” votes in instances where investors do not feel that their concerns have been adequately addressed.

Principle 4: Boards should have a strong, independent leadership structure

There are two common independent leadership structures at U.S. companies—an independent chairperson and an independent lead director (where the role of Chairman and CEO are combined)—and the principles acknowledge that signatory investors have differing opinions on whether they provide adequate independent oversight.

The overarching position under the principles is that the role of the independent board leader should be “clearly defined and sufficiently robust to ensure effective and constructive leadership.”

Principle 5: Boards should adopt structures and practices that enhance their effectiveness

This principle encompasses an array of board structure and effectiveness issues, including: strong board composition and board diversity; board and committee responsibilities; director attentiveness, preparedness and time commitments; and board refreshment.

Board diversity, in particular gender diversity, has emerged as a high priority for most of the largest institutional investors. There has also been a focus on screening for long-tenured directors and directors that are over-boarded or have poor attendance records as a proxy for identifying directors that may not be adequately engaged or independent.

Principle 6: Boards should develop management incentive structures that are aligned with the long-term strategy of the company

This principle emphasizes that the board, in particular the compensation committee, is responsible for ensuring that drivers and performance goals that underpin the company’s long-term strategy are adequately reflected in a company’s management incentive structure.

Steps to Consider

As noted, the ISG Governance Principles are intended to provide a framework of broad, high-level principles. The individual investors that comprise the ISG have their own voting guidelines and engagement priorities that are tailored to their own investment philosophy and strategy. Even on current hot button issues, such as board diversity, investors have differing views and companies should consider the practices they adopt depending upon their specific facts and circumstances. There are, however, general steps that we recommend companies take to address the growing influence of the Framework.

These include:

Understand how the company’s corporate governance structure and practices relate to the six ISG Governance Principles.

Review the company’s public disclosure regarding corporate governance structure and practices; consider enhancements to be responsive to the ISG’s request that companies disclose how their governance aligns or differs from the ISG Governance Principles.

As with other corporate governance benchmarking exercises, companies should be particularly cognizant of how and why their practices may differ from the ISG Governance Principles and whether these differences are adequately explained in public disclosures. As investors screen their portfolio companies’ governance practices, they will often consider valid explanations, but in the absence of effective disclosure the company may be unnecessarily penalized.

Management and the board should be informed and prepared to respond to questions about the company’s alignment with the ISG Governance Principles during shareholder engagements. Companies can also consider proactively addressing the issue in written materials or prepared remarks during investor presentations.

In preparing for shareholder engagements with ISG signatories, understand how and if they are explicitly incorporating the ISG Governance Principles into engagement and voting priorities and continue to screen their individual voting and engagement policies.

Companies should determine whether, and how, they wish to address and incorporate the ISG Governance Principles based upon their own specific governance profile, disclosure regime and approach to shareholder engagement.


Endnotes

See in particular the UK Investor Stewardship Code, on which the US ISG Principles are largely based. The UK Code “sets out a number of areas of good practice to which … institutional investors should aspire.” Available here.


*Anne Meyer is Senior Managing Director, Don Cassidy is Executive Vice President, and Rajeev Kumar is Senior Managing Director at Georgeson LLC. This post is based their recent Georgeson publication. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Agency Problems of Institutional Investors by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Scott Hirst.

L’application concrète d’un huis clos – en rappel


Nous avons déjà abordé l’importance d’inscrire un item « huis clos » à l’ordre du jour des réunions du conseil d’administration. Celui-ci doit normalement être à la fin de la réunion et comporter une limite de temps afin d’éviter que la réunion ne s’éternise… et que les membres de la direction (qui souvent attendent la fin de la rencontre) soient mieux informés.

Ensuite, le président du conseil d’administration (PCA) devrait rencontrer le président et chef de la direction (PCD) en privé, et dans les meilleurs délais, afin de rendre compte des résultats et de la portée du huis clos. Cette responsabilité du PCA est déterminante, car les dirigeants ont de grandes attentes et un souci eu égard aux discussions du huis clos.

Plusieurs dirigeants et membres de conseil m’ont fait part de leurs préoccupations concernant la tenue des huis clos. Il y a des malaises dissimulés en ce qui a trait à cette activité ; il faut donc s’assurer de bien gérer la situation, car les huis clos peuvent souvent avoir des conséquences inattendues, voire contre-productives !

Ainsi, le huis clos :

(1) ne doit pas être une activité imprévue et occasionnelle inscrite à l’ordre du jour

(2) doit comporter une limite de temps

(3) doit être piloté par le président du conseil

(4) doit comporter un suivi systématique, et

(5) doit se dérouler dans un lieu qui permet de préserver la confidentialité absolue des discussions.

J’insiste sur cette dernière condition parce que l’on a trop souvent tendance à la négliger ou à l’oublier, carrément. Dans de nombreux cas, la rencontre du conseil a lieu dans un local inapproprié, et les dirigeants peuvent entendre les conversations, surtout lorsqu’elles sont très animées…

Au début de la séance, les membres sont souvent insoucieux ; avec le temps, certains peuvent s’exprimer très (trop) directement, impulsivement et de manière inconvenante. Si, par mégarde, les membres de la direction entendent les propos énoncés, l’exercice peut prendre l’allure d’une véritable calamité et avoir des conséquences non anticipées sur le plan des relations interpersonnelles entre les membres de la direction et avec les membres du conseil.

 

registre-conseils-d-administration

 

L’ajout d’un huis clos à l’ordre du jour témoigne d’une volonté de saine gouvernance, mais, on le comprend, il y a un certain nombre de règles à respecter si on ne veut pas provoquer la discorde. Les OBNL, qui ont généralement peu de moyens, sont particulièrement vulnérables aux manquements à la confidentialité ! Je crois que dans les OBNL, les dommages collatéraux peuvent avoir des incidences graves sur les relations entre employés, et même sur la pérennité de l’organisation.

J’ai à l’esprit plusieurs cas de mauvaise gestion des facteurs susmentionnés et je crois qu’il vaut mieux ne pas tenir le bien-fondé du huis clos pour acquis.

Ayant déjà traité des bienfaits des huis clos lors d’un billet antérieur, je profite de l’occasion pour vous souligner, à nouveau, un article intéressant de Matthew Scott sur le site de Corporate Secretary qui aborde un sujet qui préoccupe beaucoup de hauts dirigeants : le huis clos lors des sessions du conseil d’administration ou de certains comités.

L’auteur explique très bien la nature et la nécessité de cette activité à inscrire à l’ordre du jour du conseil. Voici les commentaires que j’exprimais à cette occasion.

«Compte tenu de la “réticence” de plusieurs hauts dirigeants à la tenue de cette activité, il est généralement reconnu que cet item devrait toujours être présent à l’ordre du jour afin d’éliminer certaines susceptibilités.

Le huis clos est un temps privilégié que les administrateurs indépendants se donnent pour se questionner sur l’efficacité du conseil et la possibilité d’améliorer la dynamique interne; mais c’est surtout une occasion pour les membres de discuter librement, sans la présence des gestionnaires, de sujets délicats tels que la planification de la relève, la performance des dirigeants, la rémunération globale de la direction, les poursuites judiciaires, les situations de conflits d’intérêts, les arrangements confidentiels, etc. On ne rédige généralement pas de procès-verbal à la suite de cette activité, sauf lorsque les membres croient qu’une résolution doit absolument apparaître au P.V.

La mise en place d’une période de huis clos est une pratique relativement récente, depuis que les conseils d’administration ont réaffirmé leur souveraineté sur la gouvernance des entreprises. Cette activité est maintenant considérée comme une pratique exemplaire de gouvernance et presque toutes les sociétés l’ont adoptée.

Notons que le rôle du président du conseil, en tant que premier responsable de l’établissement de l’agenda, est primordial à cet égard. C’est lui qui doit informer le PCD de la position des membres indépendants à la suite du huis clos, un exercice qui demande du tact!

Je vous invite à lire l’article ci-dessous. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus».

Are you using in-camera meetings ?

Les femmes CEO des grandes entreprises ont-elles une rémunération plus élevée que leurs homologues masculins ? Leurs CA comptent-ils plus de femmes ?


Les femmes PDG (CEO) des grandes entreprises ont-elles une rémunération plus élevée ? Leurs conseils d’administration sont-ils plus diversifiés, et comptent-ils plus de femmes ?

Ce billet publié par Dan Marcec, directeur d’Equilar, paru sur le forum de la Harvard Law School, tente d’apporter une réponse à ces questions.

On peut retenir que les femmes CEO, en général, comptent légèrement plus de femmes sur leurs conseils.

Le nombre de femmes sur les CA varie selon la taille des entreprises. Plus l’entreprise est grande, plus le CA est susceptible de compter un nombre plus important de femmes :

Equilar 100 Gender Diversity Index,  24 %

Fortune 500,  22,5 %

Fortune 501-1000,  19,2 %

Entreprises plus petites,  14,1 %

Également, la rémunération des femmes CEO des 100 plus grandes entreprises (8 femmes) est de 21,4 M $ comparativement à la moyenne des 92 hommes CEO qui est de 16,4 M $, une différence significative, mais sur un petit échantillon de femmes CEO !

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de l’article ci-dessous afin de mieux saisir toutes les nuances de cette étude.

Bonne lecture !

 

Do Women CEOs Earn More and Have More Diverse Boards?

 

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As gender equity and diversity in corporate leadership continue to be critical discussions, research is regularly published showing links between these factors and company performance. Based on an analysis of Equilar 100 companies—the largest U.S.-listed firms to file proxy statements to the SEC before March 31—women CEOs had a higher representation of women on their boards on average than companies led by male counterparts. They also were awarded higher compensation on average in 2017.

Overall, Equilar 100 companies with women CEOs had an average of 24.0% representation of women on their boards, vs. 23.5% for the companies with male CEOs. Furthermore, the women in the CEO position at Equilar 100 companies were well paid in 2017 with an average pay package of $21.4 million. By comparison, the men who were on the list received an average pay package of $16.4 million. The following two questions examined this data just below the surface, finding that the complete picture is more complicated than it appears.

 

Do Women CEOs Bring More Females Into the Boardroom?

 

The Equilar 100 study analyzed recently reported data for fiscal year 2017, including eight women CEOs, a drop from nine the previous year. While Meg Whitman has since left her position at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, she was still in the CEO position during the periods studied, so HPE is included in the analysis.

The answer to the question above—based on an analysis of Equilar 100 data—is yes, companies with women CEOs do have slightly more women in the boardroom. The list of Equilar 100 companies that had women CEOs in 2017 is below, inclusive of their current board composition as of March 31.

 

Company % Female Board Members Average Board Age Average Board Tenure
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co 38.5% 62.0 2.4
General Dynamics Corp 27.3% 64.0 5.9
Progressive Corp 27.3% 62.0 9.8
Oracle Corp 25.0% 70.5 14.4
Pepsico Inc 23.1% 63.0 5.5
IBM 20.0% 64.0 6.3
Lockheed Martin Corp 16.7% 66.0 6.6
Duke Energy Corp 14.3% 66.0 4.9
Women CEO Average 24.0% 64.7 7.0
Men CEO Average 
23.5% 63.0 7.2

 

There are two important factors to consider that give pause in definitively being able to say “women CEOs at Equilar 100 companies lead in gender diversity on boards.” While the numbers are clear—and they are—large-cap companies are much more likely to have women on their boards overall.

According to the recent Equilar Gender Diversity Index, Fortune 500 companies included in the Russell 3000 had an average of 22.5% women on their boards, as compared to 19.2% for Fortune 501-1000 companies and a much lower 14.1% for R3K firms outside the Fortune 1000. The Equilar 100 overall outpaced each of these groups.

It’s also worth noting that most CEOs are also on their own boards. Therefore, if CEOs were removed from the overall numbers, it’s likely the data would show Equilar 100 boards being more inclusive of independent women directors when a male CEO is in place.

 

 

The facts are the facts—boards at Equilar 100 companies led by women have a higher percentage of female directors than their counterparts. However, the small sample size—pointing to the lack of women in leadership overall—and these other mitigating factors make a definitive statement difficult to prove.

 

Do Women CEOs Make More Than Men?

 

While the women on the Equilar 100 list make more on average than the men, the caveat, of course, is that these numbers reflect a small sample size of women. To get to the eight highest-paid women on the list, you have to go all the way to number 87, whereas you don’t have to leave the top 10 to find the eight highest-paid men. The list of women on the Equilar 100 list (as well as their compensation rank) is below.

 

Company CEO 2017 Total Compensation ($MM) Equilar 100 RANK
Oracle Corp Safra A. Catz $40.7 4
Pepsico Indra K. Nooyi $25.9 7
General Dynamics Corp Phebe N. Novakovic $21.2 14
Duke Energy Corp Lynn J. Good $21.1 15
Lockheed Martin Corp Marillyn A. Hewson $20.2 16
IBM Virginia M. Rometty $18.0 30
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Margaret C. Whitman $14.8 60
Progressive Corp Susan P. Griffith $9.2 87
Women Ceo Average (N=8) $21.4
Men CEO Average 
(n=92) $16.4

 

Furthermore, similar to the findings on board composition, the larger the company, the higher the pay. Given the context of the Equilar 100 study more generally—that the largest companies by revenue tend to pay their CEOs more—this small sample size is not sufficient to make a claim that women CEOs earn more than men.

For example, using fiscal year 2016 data, it’s clear that the Equilar 100 stands out over all other public companies. (Since the Equilar 100 is an “early look” at proxy season, comprehensive data is not yet available for these other company groups in 2017.) In 2016, Equilar 100 CEOs were awarded $15.0 million at the median, in comparison to $11.0 million for Equilar 500 companies, and just $6.1 million for all public companies with more than $1 billion in revenue.

 

 

In other words, as with board composition, the numbers do indicate that women CEOs earn more than men at face value, but there is more than meets the eye. Ultimately, proof of greater equity in executive compensation and board diversity when women are CEOs is inconclusive from this analysis, highlighting the importance of questioning numbers at face value. Indeed, an academic study was released recently that found there is no meaningful difference in pay between men and women at the CEO level. Each company’s compensation and board refreshment strategy is unique to their circumstances, and monolithic assumptions are not always fair. The gravity of these decisions pored over by each board of directors and their executive teams spotlights the rise of shareholder scrutiny and direct engagement on these matters.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 3 mai 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 3 mai 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

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  1. The Middle-Market IPO Tax
  2. Which Antitakover Provisions Matter?
  3. Indications of Corporate Control
  4. Removing Directors in Private Companies by Written Consent?
  5. Cybersecurity Risk Management Oversight
  6. The Life-Cycle of Dual Class Firms
  7. Missing Pieces Report: The 2016 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards
  8. Busy Directors and Firm Performance: Evidence from Mergers
  9. SEC’s Proposed Standard of Conduct for Investment Advisors
  10. Open Letter Regarding Consultation on the Treatment of Unequal Voting Structures in the MSCI Equity Indexes

 

 

La bonne gouvernance est associée au rendement selon une étude | Le Temps.ch


Aujourd’hui, je partage avec vous un article publié dans le magazine suisse Le Temps.ch qui présente les résultats d’une recherche sur la bonne gouvernance des caisses de retraite en lien avec les recommandations des fonds de placement tels que BlackRock.

L’auteur, Emmanuel Garessus, montre que même si le lien entre la performance des sociétés et la bonne gouvernance semble bien établi, les caisses de retraite faisant l’objet de la recherche ont des indices de gouvernance assez dissemblables. L’étude montre que les caisses ayant des indices de gouvernance faibles ont des rendements plus modestes en comparaison avec les indices de référence retenus.

Également, il ressort de cette étude que c’était surtout la prédominance de la gestion des risques qui était associée à la performance des caisses de retraite.

Comme le dit Christian Ehmann, spécialisé dans la sélection de fonds de placement auprès de Safra Sarasin, « la gouvernance n’est pas une cause de surperformance, mais il existe un lien direct entre les deux ».

Encore une fois, il appert que BlackRock défend les petits épargnants-investisseurs en proposant des normes de gouvernance uniformisées s’appliquant au monde des entreprises cotées en bourses.

J’ai reproduit l’article en français ci-dessous afin que vous puissiez bien saisir l’objet de l’étude et ses conclusions.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

BlackRock contre Facebook, un combat de géants

 

 

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Résultats de recherche d'images pour « gouvernance »

 

 

Le principe de gouvernance selon lequel une action donne droit à une voix en assemblée générale est bafoué par de très nombreuses sociétés, surtout technologiques, au premier rang desquelles on trouve Facebook, Snap, Dropbox et Google. BlackRock, le plus grand groupe de fonds de placement du monde, demande aux autorités d’intervenir et de présenter des standards minimaux, indique le Financial Times.

Le groupe dont Philipp Hildebrand est vice-président préfère un appel à l’Etat plutôt que de laisser les fournisseurs d’indices (MSCI, Dow Jones, etc.) modifier la composition des indices en y intégrant divers critères d’exclusion. Barbara Novick, vice-présidente de BlackRock, a envoyé une lettre à Baer Pettit, président de MSCI, afin de l’informer de son désir de mettre de l’ordre dans les structures de capital des sociétés cotées.

 

Mark Zuckerberg détient 60% des droits de vote

 

De nombreuses sociétés ont deux catégories d’actions donnant droit à un nombre distinct de droits de vote. Les titres Facebook de la classe B ont par exemple dix fois plus de droits de vote que ceux de la classe A. Mark Zuckerberg, grâce à ses actions de classe B (dont il détient 75% du total), est assuré d’avoir 60% des droits de vote du groupe. A la suite du dernier scandale lié à Cambridge Analytica, le fondateur du réseau social ne court donc aucun risque d’être mis à la porte, explique Business Insider. L’intervention de BlackRock n’empêche pas l’un de ses fonds (Global Allocation Fund) d’avoir probablement accumulé des titres Facebook après sa correction de mars, selon Reuters, pour l’intégrer dans ses dix principales positions.

Cette structure du capital répartie en plusieurs catégories d’actions permet à un groupe d’actionnaires, généralement les fondateurs, de contrôler la société avec un minimum d’actions. Les titres ayant moins ou pas de droit de vote augmentent de valeur si la société se développe bien, mais leurs détenteurs ont moins de poids en assemblée générale. Les sociétés qui disposent d’une double catégorie de titres la justifient par le besoin de se soustraire aux réactions à court terme du marché boursier et de rester ainsi concentrés sur les objectifs à long terme. Ce sont souvent des sociétés technologiques.

Facebook respecte très imparfaitement les principes de bonne conduite en matière de gouvernance. Mark Zuckerberg, 33 ans, est en effet à la fois président du conseil d’administration et président de la direction générale. Ce n’est pas optimal puisque, en tant que président, il se contrôle lui-même. Sa rémunération est également inhabituelle. Sur les 8,9 millions de dollars de rémunération, 83% sont liés à ses frais de sécurité et le reste presque entièrement à l’utilisation d’un avion privé (son salaire est de 1 dollar et son bonus nul).

 

Quand BlackRock défend le petit épargnant

 

Le site de prévoyance IPE indique que le fonds de pension suédois AP7, l’un des plus grands actionnaires du réseau social, est parvenu l’an dernier à empêcher l’émission d’une troisième catégorie de titres Facebook. Cette dernière classe d’actions n’aurait offert aucun droit de vote. Une telle décision, si elle avait été menée à bien, aurait coûté 10 milliards de dollars à AP7. Finalement Facebook a renoncé.

BlackRock prend la défense du petit investisseur. Il est leader de la gestion indicielle et des ETF et ses produits restent investis à long terme dans tous les titres composant un indice. Il préfère influer sur la gouvernance par ses prises de position que de vendre le titre. Le plus grand groupe de fonds de placement du monde demande aux autorités de réglementation d’établir des standards de gouvernance en collaboration avec les sociétés de bourse plutôt que de s’en remettre aux fournisseurs d’indices comme MSCI.

La création de plusieurs classes d’actions peut être justifiée par des start-up en forte croissance dont les fondateurs ne veulent pas diluer leur pouvoir. BlackRock reconnaît ce besoin spécifique aux start-up en forte croissance, mais le gérant estime que «ce n’est acceptable que durant une phase transitoire. Ce n’est pas une situation durable.»

Le géant des fonds de placement aimerait que les producteurs d’indices soutiennent sa démarche et créent des «indices alternatifs» afin d’accroître la transparence et de réduire l’exposition aux sociétés avec plusieurs catégories de titres. L’initiative de BlackRock est également appuyée par George Dallas, responsable auprès du puissant International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN).

La gouvernance des «bonnes caisses de pension»

 

La recherche économique a largement démontré l’impact positif d’une bonne gouvernance sur la performance d’une entreprise. Mais presque tout reste à faire en matière de fonds de placement et de caisses de pension.

«La gouvernance n’est pas une cause de surperformance, mais il existe un lien direct entre les deux. Les caisses de pension qui appartiennent au meilleur quart en termes de bonne gouvernance présentent une surperformance de 1% par année par rapport au moins bon quart», explique Christian Ehmann, spécialisé dans la sélection de fonds de placement auprès de Safra Sarasin, lors d’une présentation organisée par la CFA Society Switzerland, à Zurich.

Ce dernier est avec le professeur Manuel Ammann coauteur d’une étude sur la gouvernance et la performance au sein des caisses de pension suisses (Is Governance Related to Investment Performance and Asset Allocation?, Université de Saint-Gall, 2016). «Le travail sur cette étude m’a amené à porter une attention particulière à la gouvernance des fonds de placement dans mon travail quotidien», déclare Christian Ehmann. Son regard porte notamment sur la structure de l’équipe de gestion, son organisation et son système de gestion des risques. «Je m’intéresse par exemple à la politique de l’équipe de gérants en cas de catastrophe», indique-t-il.

Claire surperformance

 

L’étude réalisée sur 139 caisses de pension suisses, représentant 43% des actifs gérés, consiste à noter objectivement la qualité de la gouvernance et à définir le lien avec la performance de gestion. L’analyse détaille les questions de gouvernance en fonction de six catégories, de la gestion du risque à la transparence des informations en passant par le système d’incitations, l’objectif et la stratégie d’investissement ainsi que les processus de placement. Sur un maximum de 60 points, la moyenne a été de 21 (plus bas de 10 et plus haut de 50). La dispersion est donc très forte entre les caisses de pension. Certaines institutions de prévoyance ne disposent par exemple d’aucun système de gestion du risque.

Les auteurs ont mesuré la performance sur trois ans (2010 à 2012), le rendement relatif par rapport à l’indice de référence et l’écart de rendement par rapport au rendement sans risque (ratio de Sharpe). Toutes ces mesures confirment le lien positif entre la gouvernance et la performance (gain de 2,7 points de base par point de gouvernance). Les moteurs de surperformance proviennent clairement de la gestion du risque et du critère portant sur les objectifs et la stratégie d’investissement. Les auteurs constatent aussi que même les meilleurs, en termes de gouvernance, sous-performent leur indice de référence.

La deuxième étape de la recherche portait sur l’existence ou non d’une relation entre le degré de gouvernance et l’allocation des actifs. Ce lien n’a pas pu être établi.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 26 avril 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 26 avril 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »



Huit (8) principes de base à respecter pour devenir un président de conseil d’administration exemplaire


Voici un article très intéressant publié dans l’édition d’avril 2018 de la Harvard Business Review qui porte sur l’identification des grands principes qui guident les comportements des présidents de conseil d’administration.

L’auteur, Stanislav Shekshnia*, est professeur à l’Institut européen d’administration des affaires (INSEAD) et chercheur émérite dans le domaine de la gouvernance. Son article est basé sur une enquête auprès de 200 présidents de conseils.

Que doit-on retenir de cette recherche eu égard aux rôles distinctifs des présidents de conseils d’administration et aux caractéristiques qui les distinguent des CEO ?

Huit principes ressortent de ces analyses :

(1) Be the guide on the side; show restraint and leave room for others

(2) Practice teaming—not team building

(3) Own the prep work; a big part of the job is preparing the board’s agenda and briefings

(4) Take committees seriously; most of the board’s work is done in them

(5) Remain impartial

(6) Measure the board’s effectiveness by its inputs, not its outputs

(7) Don’t be the CEO’s boss

(8) Be a representative with shareholders, not a player.

Je vous invite à lire l’article au complet puisqu’il regorge d’exemples très efficaces.

Bonne lecture !

 

How to Be a Good Board Chair

 

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*Stanislav Shekshnia is a professor at INSEAD. He is also a senior partner at Ward Howell, a global human capital consultancy firm, and a board member at a number of public and private companies in Central and Eastern Europe.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 19 avril 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 19 avril 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »



 

Les actions multivotantes sont-elles préjudiciables pour les actionnaires ?


Nous avons souvent publié des billets qui abordent diverses conséquences liées à l’émission d’actions à votes multiples. L’article intitulé, « ACTIONS MULTIVOTANTES : LE MODÈLE DE BOMBARDIER SOULÈVE DES VAGUES », publié dans La Presse le 21 juillet 2015 avait d’ailleurs fait couler beaucoup d’encre.

Ces émissions d’actions sont-elles fondées, justifiées, légitimes et équitables dans le contexte de la gouvernance des sociétés cotées en bourse ? Voici ce que pense Yvan Allaire, président de l’Institut sur la gouvernance d’organisations privées et publiques, dans un article paru dans Les Affaires le 9 mai 2016Pourquoi le Canada a besoin des actions multivotantes ?

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, un article publié par David J. Berger de la firme Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, et par Laurie Simon Hodrick de la Stanford Law School, paru sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, qui fait le point sur cette épineuse question.

Les études montrent que ces types d’arrangements ne sont pas immanquablement dommageables pour les actionnaires, comme nous laissent croire plusieurs groupes d’intérêt tels que le Conseil des investisseurs institutionnels et la firme de conseil Institutional Shareholder Services (« ISS »). Plusieurs militent en faveur d’une durée limitée pour de telles émissions d’actions.

Les récentes émissions d’actions à classes multiples des entreprises de haute technologie ne nous permettent pas, à ce stade-ci, de statuer sur les avantages à long terme pour les actionnaires.

Les auteurs concluent qu’il est trop hâtif pour se prononcer définitivement sur la question, et pour réglementer cette structure de capital.

Bonne lecture !

 

 

 

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Clarion calls for regulating dual-class stock have become a common occurrence. For example, the Council of Institutional Investors (“CII”) has called upon the NYSE and Nasdaq to adopt a rule requiring all companies going public with dual-class shares to include a so-called “sunset provision” in their charter, which would convert the company to a single class of stock after a set period of years. CII has also urged index providers to discourage the inclusion of firms with dual-class structures (and both the S&P Dow Jones and FTSE Russell indices have already done so). Many individual CII members, along with some of the world’s largest mutual funds and other investors, have joined together in the “Framework for U.S. Stewardship and Governance” to take a strong stance against dual class structures.

Proxy advisory services have also announced their opposition to dual-class companies. For example, Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) has announced a plan to recommend against directors at companies with differential voting rights if there are no “reasonable sunset” provisions. Even the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee has raised its own concerns about dual-class stock companies, calling on the SEC to “devote more resources” to “identify risks” arising out of governance disputes from dual-class structures. [1]

Yet what is the empirical evidence supporting these calls for regulation of dual-class companies? Dual-class companies have existed for nearly a century, going back to the Dodge Brothers’ IPO in 1925 and Ford’s IPO in 1956. Historically, technology companies did not adopt a dual-class capital structure. Rather, until Google’s (now Alphabet) 2004 IPO, most dual-class companies were family businesses, media companies seeking to ensure their publications could maintain journalistic editorial independence, or other companies led by a strong group of insiders. These companies often adopted their dual-class structures to avoid the pressures of having to focus primarily on short-term variations in stock price.

Many of these older dual-class companies were the focus of a seminal 2010 paper that found that dual class firms tend to be more levered and to underperform their single class counterparts, with increased insider cash flow rights increasing firm value and increased insider voting rights reducing firm value. [2]

Since 2010, there have been an increasing number of technology companies going public with dual-class (or multi-class) share structures. Anecdotal evidence is mixed, but the early empirical evidence on the performance of these newer dual-class companies as a group is quite interesting. In particular, though many of these companies have not been public for very long, the limited available data suggests that these newer dual-class companies might even be out-performing single-class structured companies.

For example, MSCI, one of the largest global index providers, recently released a study showing that companies with “unequal voting stocks in aggregate outperformed the market over the period from November 2007 to August 2017.” [3] The study further concluded that excluding these companies “from market indexes would have reduced the indexes’ total returns by approximately 30 basis points per year over [the] sample period.” The differential was even greater in North America, where stocks with unequal voting rights outperformed stocks with the more traditional one-share/one-vote structure by 4.5% annually.

Recent academic research corroborates the outperformance of the newly public companies with dual-class stock. For example, one study concludes that dual-class companies, avoiding short-term market pressures, have more growth opportunities and obtain higher market valuations than matched single-class firms [4] Even with respect to perpetual dual-class stock companies, research shows that these companies, when controlled by a founding family, “significantly and economically” outperform nonfamily firms. [5] Another study maintains that it might be more efficient to give more voting power to shareholders who are better informed, thereby allowing them more influence, and correspondingly less voting power to those who are less informed, including passive index funds. Passive investors would pay a discounted price in exchange for waiving their voting rights. [6]

We have begun our own preliminary research on these issues, with considerations including corporate control, liquidity, capital allocation, “next generation” issues, and using stock as currency for acquisitions and to reward employees. While still in its initial stage, our analysis also raises fundamental questions about how much value shareholders perceive in having voting stock versus non-voting stock in these relatively new to market technology companies. For example, consider Classes A and C of Alphabet, issued through a stock dividend four years ago, which are different only in specific ways, most notably that A has one vote per share and C has none. [7] Atypically, for each of the last three trading days in February, Alphabet’s non-voting class C share, GOOG, had a higher closing market price than its voting class A share, GOOGL. [8] More broadly, since GOOG was introduced on April 3, 2014, the correlation between the two classes’ stock prices is 99.9%, and they have similar stock price standard deviations, betas, trading volume, and short interest. [9]

We believe that it is too early to make a definitive determination from an economic standpoint as to whether having dual-class stock is better or worse for investors in the current market environment, especially for younger companies. Any consideration to limit dual-class stock, including adoption of mandatory sunset provisions, must be based on analysis not anecdotes. It should also recognize the changing nature of public markets, including the following:

  1. The dominance of shareholder primacy has led boards of single-class companies to feel short-term pressure from shareholders. As no less an authority than Delaware Chief Justice Strine has frequently recognized, boards respond to those who elect them. In today’s world, for most public companies that is a handful of institutional investors, as by 2016 institutional investors owned 70% of all public shares, while just three money managers held the largest stock position in 88% of the companies in the S&P 500. [10] While many of these institutions emphasize that they are long-term holders, directors of companies with high institutional investor ownership continue to feel the pressure to take actions to achieve short-term stock increases. For example, a recent survey of over 1000 directors and C-level executives by McKinsey and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (“CPPIB”) found that nearly 80% of these executives felt “especially pressured” to demonstrate strong financial results in two years or less. [11]
  2. The changing nature of the public and private capital markets. The increased use by technology companies of dual-class capital structures when entering the public markets must be viewed within the changing nature of both the public and private markets for technology companies. According to the Wall Street Journal, more money was raised in private markets than in public markets in 2017, while the number of public companies continues to decline—the number of public companies has fallen by about half since 1996. [12] SEC Commissioner Clayton (among others) has spoken repeatedly about the problems arising out of the decline in the number of public companies. Limiting the ability of public companies to have different capital structures will certainly impact the decision by some companies about whether or not to go public.
  3. Dual-class stock and alternative capital structures across the world. Regulators considering how to respond to the growth of dual-class stock should consider the growing acceptance of dual-class stock in markets globally. For example, in recent months both Hong Kong and Singapore have opened their markets to dual-class listings. Many European markets already have rules allowing for dual-class companies or other similar structures that allow companies to focus on longer-term principles as well as non-shareholder constituencies. Even in the U.S., newer markets, such as the Long-Term Stock Exchange, are working to list companies with alternative capital structures, so that companies can focus on building a business, in apparent recognition that surrendering to the current dominance of shareholder primacy may not be the best governance structure for all companies.

For these reasons, we believe that the current effort to mandate some form of one-share one-vote for all public companies in the U.S. is premature. The limited empirical evidence on the technology and emerging growth companies that are the target of these regulations is insufficient to support the adoption of new regulations, as the evidence that is available indicates that the most recent group of dual-class companies may have performed as well, if not better, than those with a single class of stock.

______________________________________

Notes

See “Recommendation of the Investor As Owner Subcommittee: Dual-Class and Other Entrenching Governance Structures in Public Companies,” February 27, 2018, available at https://www.sec.gov/spotlight/investor-advisory-committee-2012/iac030818-investor-as-owner-subcommittee-recommendation.pdf.(go back)

Paul Gompers, Joy Ishii, and Andrew Metrick, “Extreme Governance: An Analysis of Dual-Class Shares in the United States,” Review of Financial Studies 23, 1051-1087 (2010). See also Ronald Masulis, Cong Wang, and Fei Xie, “Agency Problems at Dual-Class Companies” Journal of Finance64, 1697-1727 (2009).(go back)

Dmitris Melas, “Putting the Spotlight on Spotify: Why have Stocks with Unequal Voting Right Outperformed?” MSCI Research, April 3, 2018. The study’s findings are robust to controlling for common factors including country, sector, and style factor exposures.(go back)

Bradford Jordan, Soohyung Kim, Nad Mark Liu, “Growth Opportunities, Short-Term Market Pressure, and Dual-Class Share Structure,” Journal of Corporate Finance 41, 304-328 (2016).(go back)

See Ronald Anderson, Ezgi Ottolenghi, and David Reeb, “The Dual Class Premium: A Family Affair,” August 2017.(go back)

Dorothy Shapiro Lund, “Nonvoting Shares and Efficient Corporate Governance,” Stanford Law Review 71 (forthcoming 2019).(go back)

There are also class B shares with 10 votes per share, 92.7% of which are owned by executives Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page as of December 31, 2017, representing 56.7% of the total voting power (source: Alphabet 10K).(go back)

GOOG also closed higher than GOOGL on March 14, March 16, and March 20, 2018. This is not the first such finding: In 1994, Comcast’s nonvoting shares often sold for more than its voting shares. See Paul Schultz and Sophie Shive, “Mispricing of Dual-Class Shares: Profit Opportunities, Arbitrage, and Trading,” Journal of Financial Economics 98, 524-549 (2010).(go back)

For the past four years, GOOG and GOOGL have standard deviations (betas) of 176.6 (1.24) and 177.8 (1.23), respectively.  GOOGL is slightly more liquid than GOOG, as GOOGL daily share volume averages 2.3 million shares, while GOOG averages 1.97 million shares.  GOOGL and GOOG have short interest of 3.4 million and 3.6 million shares, respectively.(go back)

10 See The Hon. Kara M. Stein, Commissioner, Securities and Exchange Commission, The Markets in 2017: What’s at Stake, February 24, 2017.(go back)

11 See Dominic Barton and Mark Wiseman, Investing for the Long-Term, Harvard Business Review, 2014.(go back)

12 Jean Eaglesham and Coulter Jones, “The Fuel Powering Corporate America: $2.4 Trillion in Private Fundraising,” Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2018.(go back)

______________________________

*David J. Berger is a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; and Laurie Simon Hodrick is Visiting Professor of Law and Rock Center for Corporate Governance Fellow at Stanford Law School, Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and A. Barton Hepburn Professor Emerita of Economics in the Faculty of Business at Columbia Business School. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Untenable Case for Perpetual Dual-Class Stock (discussed on the Forum here) and The Perils of Small-Minority Controllers (discussed on the Forum here), both by Lucian Bebchuk and Kobi Kastiel.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 12 avril 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 12 avril 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top ten »

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Activist Arbitrage in M&A Acquirers
  2. In the Spirit of Full Cybersecurity Disclosure
  3. Unequal Voting and the Business Judgment Rule
  4. Agency Conflicts Around the World
  5. Real Talk on Executive Compensation
  6. The Cost of Political Connections
  7. Review and Analysis of 2017 U.S. Shareholder Activism
  8. 10 Tips for Upcoming Annual Shareholder Meetings
  9. The Information Value of Corporate Social Responsibility
  10. The Purpose of the Corporation

Quelle est la raison d’être d’une entreprise ?


Quelle est la raison d’être d’une entreprise sur le plan juridique ? À qui doit-elle rendre des comptes ?

Une entreprise est-elle au service exclusif de ses actionnaires ou doit-elle obligatoirement considérer les intérêts de ses parties prenantes (stakeholders) avant de prendre des décisions de nature stratégiques ?

On conviendra que ces questions ont fréquemment été abordées dans ces pages. Cependant, la réalité de la conduite des organisations semble toujours refléter le modèle de la primauté des actionnaires, mieux connu maintenant sous l’appellation « démocratie de l’actionnariat ».

L’article de Martin Lipton* fait le point sur l’évolution de la reconnaissance des parties prenantes au cours des quelque dix dernières années.

Je crois que les personnes intéressées par les questions de gouvernance (notamment les administrateurs de sociétés) doivent être informées des enjeux qui concernent leurs responsabilités fiduciaires.

Bonne lecture. ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

The Purpose of the Corporation

 

 

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Whether the purpose of the corporation is to generate profits for its shareholders or to operate in the interests of all of its stakeholders has been actively debated since 1932, when it was the subject of dueling law review articles by Columbia law professor Adolf Berle (shareholders) and Harvard law professor Merrick Dodd (stakeholders).

Following “Chicago School” economics professor Milton Friedman’s famous (some might say infamous) 1970 New York Times article announcing ex cathedra that the social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, shareholder primacy was widely viewed as the purpose and basis for the governance of a corporation. My 1979 article, Takeover Bids in the Target’s Boardroom, arguing that the board of directors of a corporation that was the target of a takeover bid had the right, if not the duty, to consider the interests of all stakeholders in deciding whether to accept or reject the bid, was widely derided and rejected by the Chicago School economists and law professors who embraced Chicago School economics. Despite the 1985 decision of the Supreme Court of Delaware citing my article in holding that a board of directors could take into account stakeholder interests, and over 30 states enacting constituency (stakeholder) statutes, shareholder primacy continued to dominate academic, economic, financial and legal thinking—often disguised as “shareholder democracy.”

While the debate continued and stakeholder governance gained adherents in the new millennium, shareholder primacy continued to dominate. Only since the 2008 financial crisis and resulting recession has there been significant recognition that shareholder primacy has been a major driver of short-termism, encourages activist attacks on corporations, reduces R&D expenditures, depresses wages and reduces long-term sustainable investments—indeed, it promotes inequality and strikes at the very heart of our society. In the past five years, the necessity for changes has been recognized by significant academic, business, financial and investor reports and opinions. An example is the 2017 paper I and a Wachtell Lipton team prepared for the World Economic Forum, The New Paradigm: A Roadmap for an Implicit Corporate Governance Partnership Between Corporations and Investors to Achieve Sustainable Long-Term Investment and Growth, which quotes or cites many of the others.

This year we are seeing important new support for counterbalancing shareholder primacy and promoting long-term sustainable investment. Among the many prominent examples is the January 2018 annual letter from Larry Fink, Chairman of BlackRock, to CEOs:

Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings, and, in the process, sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation, and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth. It will remain exposed to activist campaigns that articulate a clearer goal, even if that goal serves only the shortest and narrowest of objectives. And ultimately, that company will provide subpar returns to the investors who depend on it to finance their retirement, home purchases, or higher education.

This was followed in March by the report of a commission appointed by the French Government recommending amendment to the French Civil Code to add, “The company shall be managed in its own interest, considering the social and environmental consequences of its activity,” following the existing, “All companies shall have a lawful purpose and be incorporated in the common interest of the shareholders.” The draft amendment is intended to establish the principle that each company should pursue its own interest—namely, the continuity of its operation, sustainability through investment, collective creation and innovation. The report notes that this amendment integrates corporate and social responsibility considerations into corporate governance and goes on to state that each company has a purpose not reducible to profit and needs to be aware of its purpose. The report recommends an amendment to the French Commercial Code for the purpose of entrusting the boards of directors to define a company’s purpose in order to guide the company’s strategy, taking into account its social and environmental consequences.

Also in March, the European Commission in its Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growthproposed both corporate governance and investor stewardship requirements:

Subject to the outcome of its impact assessment, the Commission will table a legislative proposal to clarify institutional investors’ and asset managers’ duties in relation to sustainability considerations by Q2 2018. The proposal will aim to (i) explicitly require institutional investors and asset managers to integrate sustainability considerations in the investment decision-making process and (ii) increase transparency, towards end-investors on how they integrate such sustainability factors in their investment decisions in particular as concerns their exposure to sustainability risks.

Further, the Commission proposes a number of other laws or regulations designed to promote ESG, CSR and sustainable long-term investment.

In addition to these examples, there are similar policy statements by major investors and similar efforts at legislation to modulate or eliminate shareholder primacy in Great Britain and the United States. While it is not certain that any legislation will soon be enacted, it is clear that the problems have been identified, support is growing to find a way to address them and if implicit stakeholder governance does not take hold, legislation will ensue to assure it.

_____________________________________

*Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton publication by Mr. Lipton.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 5 avril 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 5 avril 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »



Les responsabilités des administrateurs eu égard à la gestion des risques


Les administrateurs de sociétés doivent apporter une attention spéciale à la gestion des risques telle qu’elle est mise en œuvre par les dirigeants des entreprises.

Les préoccupations des fiduciaires pour la gestion des risques, quoique fondamentales, sont relativement récentes, et les administrateurs ne savent souvent pas comment aborder cette question.

L’article présenté, ci-dessous, est le fruit d’une recherche de Martin Lipton, fondateur de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, spécialisée dans les fusions et acquisitions ainsi que dans les affaires de gouvernance.

L’auteur et ses collaborateurs ont produit un guide des pratiques exemplaires en matière de gestion des risques. Cet article de fond s’adresse aux administrateurs et touche aux éléments-clés de la gestion des risques :

(1) la distinction entre la supervision des risques et la gestion des risques ;

(2) les leçons que l’on doit tirer de la supervision des risques à Wells Fargo ;

(3) l’importance accordée par les investisseurs institutionnels aux questions des risques ;

(4) « tone at the top » et culture organisationnelle ;

(5) les devoirs fiduciaires, les contraintes réglementaires et les meilleures pratiques ;

(6) quelques recommandations spécifiques pour améliorer la supervision des risques ;

(7) les programmes de conformité juridiques ;

(8) les considérations touchant les questions de cybersécurité ;

(9) quelques facettes se rapportant aux risques environnementaux, sociaux et de gouvernance ;

(10) l’anticipation des risques futurs.

 

Voici donc l’introduction de l’article. Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de l’article au complet.

Bonne lecture !

 

Risk Management and the Board of Directors

 

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Overview

The past year has seen continued evolution in the political, legal and economic arenas as technological change accelerates. Innovation, new business models, dealmaking and rapidly evolving technologies are transforming competitive and industry landscapes and impacting companies’ strategic plans and prospects for sustainable, long-term value creation. Tax reform has created new opportunities and challenges for companies too. Meanwhile, the severe consequences that can flow from misconduct within an organization serve as a reminder that corporate operations are fraught with risk. Social and environmental issues, including heightened focus on income inequality and economic disparities, scrutiny of sexual misconduct issues and evolving views on climate change and natural disasters, have taken on a new salience in the public sphere, requiring companies to exercise utmost care to address legitimate issues and avoid public relations crises and liability.

Corporate risk taking and the monitoring of corporate risk remain prominently top of mind for boards of directors, investors, legislators and the media. Major institutional shareholders and proxy advisory firms increasingly evaluate risk oversight matters when considering withhold votes in uncontested director elections and routinely engage companies on risk-related topics. This focus on risk management has also led to increased scrutiny of compensation arrangements throughout the organization that have the potential for incentivizing excessive risk taking. Risk management is no longer simply a business and operational responsibility of management. It has also become a governance issue that is squarely within the oversight responsibility of the board. This post highlights a number of issues that have remained critical over the years and provides an update to reflect emerging and recent developments. Key topics addressed in this post include:

the distinction between risk oversight and risk management;

a lesson from Wells Fargo on risk oversight;

the strong institutional investor focus on risk matters;

tone at the top and corporate culture;

fiduciary duties, legal and regulatory frameworks and third-party guidance on best practices;

specific recommendations for improving risk oversight;

legal compliance programs;

special considerations regarding cybersecurity matters;

special considerations pertaining to environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks; and

anticipating future risks.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 29 mars 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 29 mars 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Joyeuses Pâques à tous mes abonnés.

Bonne lecture !

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »

 


  1. Traceable Shares and Corporate Law

  2. Corporations and the Culture Wars

  3. Toward a Horizontal Fiduciary Duty in Corporate Law

  4. The SEC and Virtual Currency Markets

  5. Senate Rollback of Dodd-Frank

  6. The First Wave of Pay Ratio Disclosures

  7. Blockchain Technology for Corporate Governance and Shareholder Activism

  8. BlackRock Investment Stewardship’s Approach to Engagement on Human Capital Management

  9. Preparing for the Year of the “S”

  10. Emerging Trends in S&P 500 Pay Ratio Disclosures

Comment présenter ses arguments lors d’une AGA dont les membres sont considérés comme réfractaires à une position du conseil ? | Un cas de communication


Aujourd’hui, je partage avec vous un cas publié sur le site de Julie Garland McLellan qui demande beaucoup d’analyse, de stratégie et de jugement.

Dans ce cas, Xandra, la présidente du comité d’audit d’une petite association professionnelle, propose une solution courageuse afin de mettre un terme au déclin du membership de l’organisation : une diminution des frais de cotisation en échange d’une hausse des frais de service et des frais associés à la formation.

La proposition a été jugée inéquitable par les membres, qui ont soulevé leur grande désapprobation, en la condamnant sur les réseaux sociaux.

Plusieurs membres insistent pour que cette décision soit mise au vote lors de l’AGA, et que le PDG soit démis de ses fonctions.

Étant donné que les règlements internes de l’organisation ne permettent pas aux membres de voter sur ces questions en assemblée générale (puisque c’est une prérogative du CA), le président du conseil demande à Xandra de préparer une défense pour le rejet de la requête.

Xandra est cependant consciente que la stratégie de communication arrêtée devra faire l’objet d’une analyse judicieuse afin de ne pas mettre la survie de l’organisation en danger.

Comment la responsable doit-elle procéder pour présenter une argumentation convaincante ?

La situation est exposée de manière assez synthétique ; puis, trois experts se prononcent sur le dilemme que vit Xandra.

Je vous invite donc à prendre connaissance de ces avis, en cliquant sur le lien ci-dessous, et me faire part vos commentaires.

Bonne lecture !

 

Communication des propositions du conseil lors des AGA réfractaires

 

 

This month our case study investigates the options for a board to respond to shareholders who know that they want something but don’t quite know how to get it. I hope you enjoy thinking about the governance and strategic implications of this dilemma:

Xandra chairs the audit committee of a small professional association. She has a strong working relationship with the chair and CEO who are implementing a strategic reform based on ‘user pays services’ to redress a fall in membership numbers and hence revenue. The strategy bravely introduced a reduced membership fee compensated by charges for advisory services and an increase in the cost of member events and education.

Some members felt that this was unfair as they used more services than others and would now pay a higher total amount each year. They have voiced their concerns through the company’s Facebook page and in an ‘open’ letter addressed to the board. In the letter they have said that they want to put a motion to the next AGM asking for a vote on the new pricing strategy and for the CEO to be dismissed. They copied the letter to a journalist in a national paper. The journalist has not contacted the company for comment or published the letter.

The CEO has checked the bylaws and the open letter does not meet the technical requirements for requisitioning a motion (indeed the authors seem to have confused their right to requisition an EGM with the right of members to speak at the AGM and ask questions of the board and auditor).

As the only person qualified in directorship on the association board, the Chair has asked Xandra « how can we push back against this request? »

Xandra is not sure that it is wise to rebuff a clear request for engagement with the members on an issue that is important for the survival of their association. She agrees that putting a motion to a members’ meeting could be dangerous. She also agrees that the matter needs to be handled sensitively and away from emotive online fora where passions are running unexpectedly high

How should she advise her chair?

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