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Page d’accueil | Inventaire des publications récentes et pertinentes dans le domaine de la gouvernance des entreprises, rédaction de billets sur ces activités, utilisation d’un outil de recherche très performant en fonction de thèmes et de catégories

En quoi le « Financial CHOICE Act » de 2017 est-il préjudiciable pour les actionnaires ?


Aujourd’hui, je partage avec vous un changement législatif proposé par la nouvelle équipe de la Maison-Blanche sur le droit des actionnaires.

Si elle est adoptée, cette loi aura des conséquences très importantes pour les actionnaires, notamment les petits actionnaires représentés par des fonds de placement institutionnels.

La lettre ci-dessous provient de Jeff Mahoney, secrétaire général du « Council of Institutional Investors ». Ce billet signé par 50 cosignataires dans le domaine des investissements institutionnels est paru sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum le 20 juin.

L’article énonce cinq raisons qui expliquent en quoi le Financial CHOICE Act sera nuisible aux actionnaires.

Bonne lecture. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

 

May 17, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Longworth House Office Building, Room 1233
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-4901

Re: The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017

Dear Speaker Ryan:

On behalf of the Council of Institutional Investors and the undersigned investors, I am writing to share with you our concerns about several provisions currently included in the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (Act).

The Council of Institutional Investors (CII) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of corporate, public and union employee benefit funds and endowments with more than 120 members with combined assets that exceed $3 trillion. In addition, our associate (nonvoting) members include more than 50 asset management firms that manage assets in excess of $20 trillion.

Member funds include major long-term shareowners with a duty to protect the retirement assets of millions of American workers. CII strives to educate it members and the public about good corporate governance, shareowner rights and related investment issues, and to advocate on our members’ behalf.

As significant long-term investors, CII member funds have a deep, abiding interest in ensuring that the U.S. capital markets are on a sound footing. Americans suffered enormously from the 2001 Enron scandal and the 2008 financial crisis—they lost jobs, homes and retirement savings—and we can’t go back.

We are deeply troubled by provisions of the Act that would threaten prudent safeguards for oversight of companies and markets, including sensible reforms that investors need to hold management and boards of public companies accountable, and that foster trust in the integrity of the markets.

We stand ready to work with you and your colleagues in Congress to ensure that U.S. markets are safe, vibrant and fair for all investors and all Americans. Our concerns with the Act include the following five key areas:

The bill would:

Set prohibitively costly hurdles on shareholder proposals. The bill would require a shareholder wishing to put a proposal on a company’s annual meeting ballot to own at least 1% of the stock for three years (the current requirement is $2,000 worth of stock for one year). That would raise the ownership threshold to file a shareholder proposal to $7.5 billion at Apple, $3.4 billion at Exxon Mobil and $2.6 billion at Wells Fargo, for example.

Roll back curbs on abusive pay practices. Shareholders would get an advisory vote on executive compensation only when there is undefined “material” change in CEO pay; most U.S. public companies offer investors say-on-pay votes annually. Clawbacks of unearned executive compensation would be limited.

Restrict the right of shareholders to vote for directors in contested elections for board seats. The bill would bar the use of “universal proxy” cards that give investors freedom of choice to vote for the specific combination of director nominees they believe best serves their interests.

Create an intrusive new regulatory scheme for proxy advisors that provide shareholders with independent research they need to vote responsibly. The bill would drive up costs for investors, and potentially would muzzle critical commentary from proxy advisory firms, and even drive some proxy advisors out of business.

Shackle the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including with excessive cost-benefit analysis requirements, unwise limits on enforcement and Congressional review requirements that appear designed to foster the ability of special interests to block needed rules. These provisions would severely undercut the SEC’s ability to fulfill its mission to protect investors, police markets and foster capital formation.

Sincerely,


Jeff Mahoney
General Counsel
Council of Institutional InvestorsMarcie Frost
Chief Executive Officer
California Public Employees’ Retirement System

Gail H. Stone
Executive Director
Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System

Anne Sheehan
Director of Corporate Governance
California State Teachers’ Retirement System

Gregory W. Smith
Executive Director
Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association

Nancy K. Kopp
Maryland State Treasurer
Maryland State Treasurer’s Officer

Denise L. Nappier
Connecticut State Treasurer
Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds

Mansco Perry III
Executive Director and CIO
Minnesota State Board of Investment

Sheila Morgan-Johnson
Interim Executive Director/CIO
District of Columbia Retirement Board

Thomas Lee
Executive Director and CIO
New York State Teachers’ Retirement System

Michael McCauley
Senior Officer
Investment Programs & Governance
Florida State Board of Administration

Scott Stringer
New York City Comptroller

Scott Zdrazil
Senior Investment Officer
Corporate Governance
Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association

Thomas P. DiNapoli
New York State Comptroller

R. Dean Kenderdine
Executive Director
Secretary to the Board
Maryland State Retirement and Pension System

Karen Carraher
Executive Director
Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Tobias Read
Oregon State Treasurer
Oregon State Treasury

Jay Huish
Executive Director
San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System

Randi Weingarten
President
American Federation of Teachers Pension Plan

Mindy Lubber
President and CEO
Ceres

Helen Ninos
Interim Executive Director
School Employees Retirement System of Ohio

Dieter Waizenegger
Executive Director
CtW Investment Group

Jeff Davis
Executive Director
Seattle City Employees’ Retirement System

Theresa Whitmarsh
Executive Director
Washington State Investment Board

Tim Driscoll
Executive Vice President
International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers

Alfred Campos
Federal Lobbyist
National Education Association

Heather Slavkin Corzo
Director, Office of Investment
AFL-CIO

Janice J. Fueser
Research Coordinator, Corporate Governance
UNITE HERE

Charles Jurgonis
Plan Secretary
AFSCME Employees Pension Plan

Kurt Kreienbrink, CFA
Manager, Socially Responsible Investing & Investor Advocacy
Portico Benefit Services

Anita Skipper
Senior Analyst – Corporate Governance
Aviva Investors

David H. Zellner
Chief Investment Officer
Wespath Benefits and Investments

Brian Minns
Manager, Sustainable Investing
Addenda Capital

Kathleen Woods
Chair, Corporate Responsibility Committee
Adrian Dominican Sisters, Portfolio Advisory Board

Andrew Behar
Chief Executive Officer
As You Sow

Bryan Thomson
SVP, Public Equities
British Columbia Investment Management Corporation

Karen Watson
CFA Chief Investment Officer
Congregation of St. Joseph

Sister Teresa George, D.C.
Provincial Treasurer and Chair of Investment Committee
Daughters of Charity, Province of St. Louise

Tim Goodman
Director – Engagement
Hermes Investment Management

Louise Davidson
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Council of Superannuation Investors

Andrew Shapiro
Managing Member & President
Lawndale Capital Management, LLC

Clare Payn
Head of Corporate Governance
Legal & General Investment Management

Kwai San Wong, CFA
Stewardship Analyst
Sarasin & Partners

Cllr Kieran Quinn
Chair
Local Authority Pension Fund Forum

Euan A. Stirling
Head of Stewardship and ESG Investment
Standard Life Investments

Jerry Judd
Senior Vice President & Treasurer
Mercy Health

Susan Makos
Vice President of Social Responsibility
Mercy Investment Services

Michelle de Cordova
Director, Corporate Engagement and Public Policy
NEI Investments

Larisa Ruoff
Director of Shareholder Advocacy
and Corporate Engagement
The Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge

Jonas D. Kron
Senior Vice President
Trillium Asset Management

Freddie Woolfe
Responsible Investment Analyst
Newton Investment Management

Paul Clark
Head, Corporate Governance
UBS Asset Management

Bess Joffe
Managing Director
Head of Stewardship & Corporate Governance
Nuveen, the investment management arm of TIAA

Elizabeth Fernando
Head of Equities
USS Investment Management Ltd

Compte rendu hebdomadaire de la Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance | 15 juin 2017


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au  15 juin 2017.

J’ai relevé les principaux billets, tout en me limitant au Top 1o.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « harvard law school forum on corporate governance »

 

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  1. Breaking the Ice: Investors Warm to Climate Change
  2. Perk Disclosures: Reminders for Executives and Directors
  3. Compensation Goals and Firm Performance
  4. The Global Rise of Corporate Saving
  5. The 200 Highest-Paid CEOs in 2016
  6. The CEO Pay Ratio Beyond Dodd Frank: Live and Local
  7. M&A Activism: A Special Report
  8. Distracted Directors
  9. The Dangerous “Promise of Market Reform”: No Shareholder Proposals
  10. Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 2017 M&A Report

Rôle des administrateurs dans la prévention de risques à la santé | un cas vécu dans une OBNL


À nouveau, je vous présente un cas de gouvernance, publié en juin 2017, sur le site de Julie Garland McLellan* qui décrit une situation dans laquelle un membre de conseil d’une OBNL évalue les conséquences d’une décision pouvant entraîner des risques pour la santé des clients et conduire à une perte de réputation.

Les administrateurs connaissent maintenant le contexte de la décision prise par le conseil. Cependant, une nouvelle administratrice n’est pas « confortable » avec la décision ; elle se questionne sur le risque occasionné à la santé des athlètes à la suite d’une prise de position du conseil trop peu contraignante.

Notons que la directrice de la sécurité de l’entreprise avait qualifié d’infondée les arguments invoqués par une équipe sportive de ne pas utiliser les mesures de protection suggérées.

Le cas présente la situation de manière assez succincte, mais explicite ; puis, trois experts en gouvernance se prononcent sur le dilemme qui se présente aux personnes qui vivent des situations similaires.

Que devrait faire la nouvelle administratrice Pandora dans les circonstances ?

Je vous invite à lire les opinions des experts en allant sur le site de Julie.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

 

Rôle des administrateurs dans la prévention de risques à la santé | un cas vécu dans une OBNL

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « risques des obnl »

 

Pandora is a new NED on a peak sporting body board. She loves the sport and is thrilled to contribute. However, she is a bit worried about the risks of a recent board conversation.

Her sport has physical risks and is very dangerous if proper precautions are not taken; these include the use of personal protective equipment. At her most recent board meeting the directors discussed the revised sports safety guidelines which mandate the wearing of personal protective equipment during competitions. One of the directors mentioned that a large local club routinely participates in competitions with players who are clearly not wearing safety gear. Another director stated that the club had objected to the draft guidelines on the basis that, in some circumstances, the safety equipment might hamper players’ movements and create other risks. The safety manager, who was presenting to the board, clarified that the club had, indeed, made that claim but that it was, in her opinion, spurious.

The board then discussed the issues associated with banning the non-compliant club from competitions. This was considered a difficult action because the club is very successful and their absence would upset fans. Also, the club is in a high socio economic demographic and contributes funds and political connections to the sport.

Pandora is worried because the discussion was minuted and the decision was to write to the club and remind them of the need to wear safety equipment but not to threaten expulsion from the competition. Is her board now at risk and has she let down the whole sport by being a party to this conversation and failing to persuade her board colleagues to take firmer action?

What can Pandora do?


*Julie Garland McLellan is a practising non-executive director and board consultant based in Sydney, Australia. www.mclellan.com.au/newsletter.html

Doit-on limiter le nombre d’années qu’un administrateur siège à un conseil afin de préserver son indépendance ?


On voit de plus en plus apparaître des mesures restrictives eu égard au nombre d’années de présence des administrateurs indépendants sur les CA des grandes entreprises.

Les autorités réglementaires de quelques pays (dont la France et le Royaume-Uni) émettent des directives sur le nombre maximal de mandats des administrateurs indépendants. En général, on parle d’une durée n’excédant pas une limite de 9 à 12 ans. Notons qu’au Canada, l’OSC et l’AMF n’émettent pas de directives relatives aux nombres d’années passées sur un conseil d’administration. Il en est de même aux É.U. où 24 % des administrateurs indépendants siègent au même conseil depuis plus de 15 ans !

Les autorités réglementaires devraient-elles imposer un nombre d’années maximal aux mandats des administrateurs, en se basant sur le « fait » qu’un trop grand nombre d’années peut nuire à leur indépendance vis-à-vis de la direction ? C’est l’objet de l’étude du professeur Stefano Bonini de la Stevens Institute of Technology, publiée sur le site de la Harvard Law School Forum.

Dans l’ensemble, l’étude montre qu’il faudrait tenir compte des caractéristiques individuelles des administrateurs de longue durée, plutôt que d’utiliser la mesure de la moyenne dans l’évaluation du phénomène de longue durée.

L’auteur pose deux questions :

(1) Comment le nombre d’années que les administrateurs passent sur des CA influence-t-il la performance de l’organisation ?

(2) Qu’est-ce qui détermine une présence de longue durée sur un CA ?

Voici les conclusions de l’étude :

First, consistent with Katz and McIntosh (2014), we posit that board-wide term limits may be detrimental to the board itself, the company, and the shareholders, in particular if such limits force valuable directors off the board. This is in line with ISS (2017) that states: “term and age limits, as they have been typically applied, may not be the solutions, because they force the arbitrary retirement of valuable directors.”

Second, our results show that Long Tenured (LT) directors are disproportionately more likely to be nominated as Lead Independent Directors (LID), a role that has become increasingly relevant in listed companies, following a set of regulation changes in the U.S. stock market. Since firms recognize the value of LT directors and leverage on it by appointing LT directors as LID, an unconditional tenure limit would negatively affect the effectiveness of the LID function and ultimately weaken the governance of companies.

Je vous invite à lire un résumé de l’article en question et j’attends vos commentaires.

 

On Long-Tenured Independent Directors

 

A growing number of countries, such as UK and France, have adopted tenure-related guidelines or tenure restrictions for independent directors. Most countries adopt a comply-or-explain approach to regulating tenure recommending a maximum tenure for a corporate director between nine and twelve years. In the United States however, where explicit limits are absent, a recent survey by GMI Ratings, the leading independent provider of global corporate governance and research, shows that 24% of independent directors in Russel 3,000 firms have continuously served in the same firm for fifteen years or more.

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Long-Tenured Directors »We argue that long-tenured directors are superiorly skilled individuals who provide tangible value added to their firms. An extension of tenure length allows directors to accumulate information about past events in the firm and about responses to exogenous market shocks that help firms weather crises and discontinuities. In support of the view that the effectiveness of one independent director is also the result of a long build-up process, William George, a Harvard Business School professor and independent director, stated: “When directors are truly independent of the companies they serve, they generally lack the […] knowledge about the industry or business […]. [O]f the nine boards I served on as an independent director I had industry-specific knowledge in exactly none of them.”

Research on independent directors usually adopts as the main dependent variable the average tenure across independent board members (e.g., Vafeas 2003; Huang 2013). Given that multiple regulation changes have increased the fraction of independent board members that now represent 70% to 80% of the board, average board tenure measures significantly confound the effect of a single long tenure that is diluted by the majority of board members who experience shorter tenures. This view is aligned with best practice recommendations compiled by Institutional lnvestor Services (ISS, a shareholder activist group) (2017): “While investors in the past have focused on average board tenure, they are beginning to pay attention to individual director tenure as well, particularly for directors serving in board leadership roles like lead director or key committee chairs.” Our research focuses on the puzzling phenomenon of extremely long tenures that do not occur board-wide, but are specific to a single director. Switching the focus to individual, abnormal tenures allows us to isolate the strongly beneficial effects on firm performance that increase in the single director tenure and level off after a surprisingly long period. Differently, the average tenure of independent board members does not increase firm value and in some specifications, appear to have a negative impact on firm performance and firm stability.

The positive effects documented in our paper raise two important questions: first, how do LT directors affect performance? Second, what determines long tenure?

The first question deals with the nature of independent directors, who protect firm stakeholders by monitoring the firm, its management, and the external environment (ICGN 2014). In this respect, the directors’ task is crucially related to the quality and amount of information the director can gather and process. Our tests confirm that long-tenured directors can gather and store valuable information that they share with other independent board members, generating a moderate-to-null sensitivity of the firm performance to the opaqueness of the outside information environment. Also, superior information translates into a significantly lower external litigation risk as documented by a set of tests on the likelihood of LT firms to be defendants in security class action lawsuits. This protection effect is robust to alternative specifications of the litigation risk variable.

Addressing the second question requires looking at observable individual factors, but, more importantly, finding proxies for unobservable characteristics. We show that not all board members are equally likely to become long-tenured directors. Personal characteristics and the market perception of traits and skills positively impact the probability of one individual becoming a long-tenured director. Directors with a high-quality education, such as graduate degrees and degrees from Ivy League colleges, are significantly more likely to evolve into LT directors, compared with other independent board members. However, unobservable skills may still explain their long association with a firm. Looking at contemporaneous board directorships at the time of the first appointment in the firm in which a director eventually becomes a LT board member, we show that ex-ante these individuals held a substantially larger number of board appointments than did other directors. This suggests that firms at large recognized these candidates’ superior qualities and competed for their services. Consistent with the market’s ability to identify skilled directors, we document superior performance of firms in which LT directors hold appointments as independent, but not long-tenured, directors.

The complete paper is available for download here.

Compte rendu hebdomadaire de la Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance | 8 juin 2017


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 8 juin 2017.

J’ai relevé les principaux billets, tout en me limitant au Top 1o.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « harvard law school forum on corporate governance »

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « harvard law school forum on corporate governance »

 

 

  1. Decreasing Patience for IPOs with Poor Shareholder Rights
  2. Appraisal Decision Sole Reliance on Merger Price: PetSmart
  3. The Role of Social Capital in Corporations: A Review
  4. On Long-Tenured Independent Directors
  5. Why Your Board Should Refocus on Key Risks
  6. The Limits of Gatekeeper Liability
  7. The Long Game: Incentive Pay Aims at Generating Lasting Return
  8. The Corporate Demand for External Connectivity: Pricing Boardroom Social Capital
  9. Criticism of Governance Provisions in Proxy Contest Leads to Reincorporation
  10. Retired or Fired: How Can Investors Tell If the CEO Left Voluntarily?

 

Gouvernance des sociétés d’État | une étude montre des problèmes dans la moitié d’entre elles


Yvan Allaire, président exécutif du conseil de l’Institut sur la gouvernance (IGOPP) vient de publier, en collaboration avec François Dauphin, un nouveau document de recherche intitulé « Nos sociétés d’État sont-elles bien gouvernées ? » lequel a fait l’objet d’une analyse succincte par le journaliste Gérald Fillion de la Société Radio-Canada.

Selon l’IGOPP, « les contribuables s’attendent à ce que ces sociétés fassent bon usage des fonds publics qui leur sont confiés, que leur gestion soit efficace, efficiente et transparente, que leur mandat soit clair et pertinent. Leur conseil d’administration, s’appuyant sur des règles et principes de saine gouvernance, devrait jouer un rôle essentiel à cet égard ».

Je crois que ce rapport de recherche saura intéresser les spécialistes de la gouvernance qui œuvrent dans les sociétés d’État et dans les autres organisations parapubliques. Personnellement, je crois que les auteurs ont élaboré une méthodologie de recherche tout à fait pertinente pour évaluer la bonne gouvernance, non seulement des sociétés d’État, mais également de tous les types d’organisation.

 

 

Vous trouverez ci-dessous une analyse de Gérald Filion, suivie de la référence au document de recherche de l’IGOPP.

 

Sur 46 sociétés d’État au Québec seulement 23 obtiennent la note de passage en matière de gouvernance, selon une étude préparée par les chercheurs Yvan Allaire et François Dauphin.

Si les grandes sociétés se démarquent, notamment la Caisse de dépôt, la SAQ et Loto-Québec, d’autres affichent de faibles résultats qui pourraient amener le gouvernement à devoir repenser leur modèle de gouvernance. Parmi les derniers de classe, on compte l’École nationale de police, le Musée national des beaux-arts de Québec et l’Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec.

Ce rapport, publié jeudi par l’Institut sur la gouvernance d’entreprises publiques et privées, s’intéresse à 47 instruments de mesure de la gouvernance des sociétés pour établir un pointage sur 100. La note de passage est établie à 60. Ont été exclues de l’étude 13 sociétés jugées inactives dans les faits ou trop petites. Les 46 sociétés d’État retenues encaissent annuellement des revenus de 63 milliards de dollars et comptent 65 000 employés.

L’Institut sur la gouvernance évalue les sociétés sur les compétences des administrateurs, la transparence, la reddition de compte, la structure du conseil et le déroulement des séances du conseil. Et les résultats sont très inégaux.

L’École nationale de police échoue sur tous les plans, tout particulièrement sur les questions de compétence et de nomination. À l’autre bout du spectre, la Société d’habitation du Québec se démarque à tous les niveaux, avec une note parfaite dans la composition et la structure de son conseil, qui touche surtout à la question de l’indépendance.

L’Institut recommande au gouvernement de revoir certaines lois jugées « désuètes » pour encadrer les sociétés, de rendre publics les profils d’expertise et d’expérience des administrateurs et une foule d’informations pertinentes à leur propos.

Il propose aussi que le gouvernement cesse de rendre le dépôt du rapport annuel des sociétés d’État obligatoire à l’Assemblée nationale avant de le rendre public. Les rapports doivent être disponibles dans des délais plus rapides selon l’Institut sur la gouvernance. Actuellement, il faut attendre 6 mois en moyenne après la fin de l’exercice pour avoir accès au rapport annuel.

Les conseils d’administration des sociétés d’État, écrivent les chercheurs, doivent adopter des principes qui dépassent les exigences de la loi, surtout au chapitre de la « divulgation des profils de compétence, divulgation non obligatoire, mais non prohibée. »

Les conseils doivent s’assurer également que l’information, sur les sites internet des sociétés d’État, est facilement accessible, notamment les résultats de la société, ses stratégies ainsi que les indicateurs de performance. De plus, « une divulgation exhaustive des éléments de rémunération des hauts dirigeants est incontournable. »

Le gouvernement se mêle de tout

L’Institut illustre, chiffres à l’appui, combien le gouvernement s’assure de garder le contrôle sur les nominations des administrateurs.

« Ainsi, écrivent Yvan Allaire et François Dauphin, dans seulement cinq cas avons-nous trouvé une participation claire de la part du conseil dans le processus de sélection des candidats et candidates au poste d’administrateur. Bien sûr, le manque de transparence fausse peut-être en partie les données pour cet élément. Néanmoins, la participation du conseil dans le processus de sélection est extrêmement importante pour assurer non seulement la présence de compétences et d’expériences complémentaires au groupe, mais aussi pour faciliter l’obtention (ou le maintien) d’une dynamique de groupe fonctionnelle. »

Sur les 46 sociétés d’État, seulement trois établissent publiquement sur leur site un lien entre la biographie des administrateurs et les compétences recherchées au conseil.

L’Institut sur la gouvernance est d’avis également qu’une personne ne devrait pas siéger à plus de cinq conseils d’administration en même temps. Or, « au moins quinze (32,6 %) des sociétés comptaient au minimum un membre du conseil siégeant sur plus de cinq conseils d’administration, incluant quelques présidents de conseil. »

Aussi, « 19 sociétés (41,3 %) ne fournissent pas l’information sur l’assiduité des membres aux réunions du conseil. »

Les auteurs constatent également qu’il y a « une différence importante entre les organisations assujetties à la Loi québécoise sur la gouvernance des sociétés d’État promulguée en 2006 et celles qui ne le sont pas. En effet, les sociétés assujetties doivent divulguer davantage d’information, ne serait-ce que pour s’y conformer. Aussi, elles ont en moyenne une note de 70,7, comparativement à 45,2 pour les sociétés qui ne se conforment qu’aux exigences de leurs lois respectives. »

Manque de transparence

C’est pas moins de dix sociétés sur les 46 qui n’ont pas d’indicateur de performance ou de cible pour les évaluer, ou qui ne publient pas leur plan stratégique. Ce manque de transparence touche notamment la Commission de la capitale nationale, Héma-Québec et la Société de la Place des Arts de Montréal.

Yvan Allaire et François Daupin affirment également que « la transparence quant à la rémunération des hauts dirigeants des sociétés d’État peut et devrait être grandement améliorée, ne serait-ce que pour se rapprocher des exigences imposées aux sociétés pourtant dites “privées”.»

Enfin, les auteurs invitent les sociétés d’État à rendre publics la teneur des formations offertes aux administrateurs et les processus d’évaluation des membres du conseil. Cela dit, près du quart des sociétés d’État ne font pas d’évaluation et ne dévoilent pas cette information.

 

Je vous invite à lire l’ensemble du document sur le site de l’IGOPP, notamment pour connaître les 47 critères de mesure de la gouvernance.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

Nos sociétés d’État sont-elles bien gouvernées? |  L’IGOPP leur attribue des notes de gouvernance

 

Compte rendu hebdomadaire de la Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance | 1er juin 2017


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 1er juin 2017.

J’ai relevé les principaux billets, tout en me limitant au Top 1o.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « harvard law school forum on corporate governance »

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « harvard law school forum on corporate governance »

  1. Bank Governance and Systemic Stability: The “Golden Share” Approach
  2. Snap and the Rise of No-Vote Common Shares
  3. Potential Regulatory Relief—Financial CHOICE Act 2.0
  4. The Origins of Corporate Social Responsibility
  5. M&A Deal Terms in 2017: What Can Deal Teams Expect?
  6. Cybersecurity Must Be High on the Board Agenda
  7. Dancing with Activists
  8. U.S. Proxy Season Half-Time Update
  9. What’s (Still) Wrong with Credit Ratings
  10. 2017 M&A Report

Nouvelle étude sur les retombées des comportements activistes | Bebchuk


Les administrateurs de sociétés doivent être beaucoup plus informés des conséquences que les fonds activistes peuvent avoir sur la conduite des entreprises publiques (cotées).

Il plane un air de mystère, et un certain mutisme, sur la nature des opérations et sur les objectifs poursuivis par les investisseurs activistes.

Pourtant, même si le phénomène est de plus en plus répandu, on constate un manque flagrant de formation des administrateurs de sociétés sur les types d’arrangements recherchés par les activistes.

Les pionniers de la recherche dans ce domaine, Lucian Bebchuk* et ses collègues, viennent de publier un billet sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, qui fait la lumière sur le comportement des investisseurs activistes.

Que recherchent les activistes ? Ils veulent convaincre les directions et les conseils d’administration que leurs préconisations conduiront à une meilleure valorisation de l’entreprise.

Ils souhaitent tirer parti des faiblesses de certaines organisations dans le but premier de faire profiter leurs investissements, tout en améliorant la rentabilité des entreprises qui ont des problèmes de gouvernance, de leadership et de vision stratégique.

Quels sont les résultats de la recherche des auteurs eu égard aux motivations, à la nature des arrangements ainsi qu’à leurs conséquences ?

L’étude montre que les négociations sur les modifications organisationnelles souhaitées, reliées au renouvellement du leadership et à la remise en question des opérations, sont difficiles à convenir.

Les fonds activistes préfèrent de loin arriver à des ententes sur la composition du conseil d’administration susceptible de favoriser les changements escomptés.

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « actionnaires activistes »

Les fonds activistes à l’assaut des grands groupes | Le Monde

 

L’étude indique que les modifications à la constitution du CA mènent souvent :

  1. au remplacement du PDG (CEO) ;
  2. à des paiements accrus aux actionnaires ;
  3. à une plus forte probabilité de vente ou de privatisation de l’entreprise.

 

Finalement, l’étude montre que les avantages obtenus par les actionnaires activistes ne se font pas au détriment des autres investisseurs. Également, le prix des actions est généralement à la hausse à la suite des négociations sur les arrangements.

Les auteurs dévoilent aussi les moyens utilisés par les fonds activistes pour arriver à leurs fins (« a look into the black box »).

Je suis personnellement convaincu que certaines conséquences non anticipées se produisent et que cette étude doit être mise en relation avec d’autres recherches, notamment celles du professeur Yvan Allaire**.

 

Afin de mettre en valeur de bonnes pratiques mises en places par des conseils d’administration des sociétés québécoises, le journal Les Affaires, en collaboration avec l’Institut des administrateurs de sociétés (IAS), le Collège des administrateurs de sociétés et l’Institut sur la gouvernance  (IGOPP), a tenu le 1er avril dernier une Grande soirée de la gouvernance. Durant cette soirée, le professeur Yvan Allaire, président exécutif du conseil d’administration de l’IGOPP a dévoilé en primeur une étude sur l’enjeu des investisseurs activistes et leurs conséquences pour les conseils d’administration.

 

Conclusions préliminaires de cette étude :

(1) Les fonds de couverture activistes ne sont pas des « super‐cracks » de la finance, ni de la stratégie, ni des opérations, comme certains semblent le croire (et eux s’évertuent à le faire croire) ;

(2) Leurs recettes sont connues, convenues et prévisibles et ne comportent jamais (ou presque) de perspectives de croissance ;

(3) Leur succès provient surtout de la vente des entreprises ciblées (ou de « spin‐offs ») ;

(4) L’appui important qu’ils reçoivent des fonds institutionnels est surprenant et malencontreux ;

(5) La gouvernance fiduciaire pratiquée depuis Sarbanes‐Oxley et la perte de confiance dans les conseils qui en a résulté leur ouvre toute grande la porte des entreprises.

 

Bonne lecture. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

Dancing with Activists

 

We recently released a study, entitled Dancing with Activists, that focuses on “settlement” agreements between activist hedge funds and target companies. Using a comprehensive hand-collected data set, we provide the first systematic analysis of the drivers, nature, and consequences of such settlement agreements.

Our study identifies the determinants of settlements, showing that settlements are more likely when the activist has a credible threat to win board seats in a proxy fight. We argue that, due to incomplete contracting, settlements can be expected to contract not directly on the operational or leadership changes that activists seek but rather on board composition changes that can facilitate operational and leadership changes down the road. Consistent with the incomplete contracting hypothesis, we document that settlements focus on boardroom changes and that such changes are subsequently followed by increases in CEO turnover, increased payout to shareholders, and higher likelihood of a sale or a going-private transaction.

We find no evidence to support concerns that settlements enable activists to extract significant rents at the expense of other investors by introducing directors not supported by other investors or by facilitating “greenmail.” Finally, we document that stock price reactions to settlement agreements are positive and that the positive reaction is higher for “high-impact” settlements. Our analysis provides a look into the “black box” of activist engagements and contributes to understanding how activism brings about changes in its targets.

Below is a more detailed account of the analysis and findings of our study.

In August 2013, Third Point, the hedge fund led by Daniel Loeb, disclosed a significant stake in the auction house Sotheby’s, criticized the company for its poor governance and its failure to take advantage of a booming market for luxury goods, and called for the ouster of the company’s CEO. Third Point launched a proxy fight for board representation and both sides prepared for a contested election at the company’s upcoming annual meeting. However, the day before the scheduled annual shareholder meeting, the company’s board of directors and the activist fund entered into a settlement agreement in which Sotheby’s agreed to appoint three of the Third Point director candidates and Third Point agreed to discontinue the proxy fight. The settlement terms did not require the company to make any of the operational and executive changes that Third Point was seeking. However, ten months later, Sotheby’s announced the hiring of a new CEO, the appointment of a new board chairman, and a plan to return capital to its investors.

While such settlements used to be rare, they now occur with significant frequency, and they have been attracting a great deal of media and practitioner attention. Understanding settlement agreements is important for obtaining a complete picture of the corporate governance landscape and the role of activism within it. Using a comprehensive, hand-collected dataset of settlement agreements, we provide in this study the first systematic empirical investigation of activist settlements. We study the drivers of settlements, their growth over time, their impact on board composition, their consequences for the operational and personnel choices that targets make, and the stock market reaction accompanying them. We further study the aftermath of settlements in terms of CEO turnover, payouts to shareholders, M&A activity, and operating performance.

With the growing recognition of the importance of hedge fund activism, a large empirical literature on the subject has emerged (see Brav et al. (2015b) for a recent survey). This literature has studied the initiation of activist interventions—the time at which activists announce their presence, usually by filing Schedule 13(d) with the SEC after passing the 5% ownership threshold, and the stock market reactions accompanying such announcements. This literature has also studied extensively the changes in the value, performance and behavior of firms that take place during the years following activist interventions; among other things, researchers have studied the changes in Tobin’s Q, return on assets (ROA), payouts to shareholders, capital structure, likelihood of an acquisition, and accounting practices that ultimately follow activist interventions. But there has been limited empirical work on the “black box” in between—the channels through which activists’ influence is transmitted and gets reflected in targets’ economic outcomes. In particular, the determinants, nature and role of settlement agreements—and the cooperation between activists and targets that they introduce—have not been subject to a systematic empirical examination. We attempt to help fill this gap.

We begin by investigating the factors that determine the likelihood that an activist will be able to obtain a settlement agreement. Building on insights from the economics of settlements, we hypothesize that an activist will need to have a credible threat to win seats in a proxy fight to be able to extract a settlement agreement. Consistent with this hypothesis, we find that the likelihood of a settlement agreement in general, and a “high-impact” settlement agreement involving a substantial change in company leadership, covaries with several factors that are associated with improved odds for the activist in winning board seats in a proxy fight.

We quantify the upward trend in activist settlements. In particular, we show that the unconditional likelihood of a settlement increased threefold from the time period 2000-2002 (3%) to the period 2003-2005 (9%), increased by another 56% during 2006-2008 (14%) and by 29% during 2009-2011 (18%). These results hold when controlling for target and activist characteristics. Consistent with the view that settlements require activists having a credible threat to win board seats in a proxy fight, we argue that the increase in the settlement rate was driven by the growing willingness of institutional investors and proxy advisors to support activists, which in turns strengthened the credibility of the activist’s threat to win seats in a contest.

Turning to the terms of settlements, we explain the cost and difficulty of entering into contractual agreements that specify ultimate outcomes—the types of changes in operations, strategy, payouts or executive personnel that activists often seek. We document that settlements indeed rarely stipulate directly such outcomes. Rather, activists commonly settle on changes in board composition. We demonstrate that settlements are a key channel through which activists bring about board changes and we investigate the nature of these changes, showing that they bring about an increase in the number of activist-affiliated and activist-desired directors, well-connected directors and decrease the number of old and long-tenured directors.

Why do activists settle on changes in board composition if their ultimate goal is in bringing about operational or personnel changes? We argue that introducing individuals into the boardroom who are sympathetic, or at least open to the changes sought by the activist, is an intermediary step that can facilitate and bring about such changes. Consistent with this view, we show that, while settlements generally do not specify an ouster of the CEO, settlements are followed by a considerable increase in CEO turnover and in the performance-sensitivity of CEO turnover in the years following the settlement. Thus, settlements often plant the seeds for a subsequent CEO removal that is more face-saving to the CEO and the incumbent directors than an immediate ouster would be. Similarly, while settlement agreements generally do not specify operational changes, we document that such changes do follow in subsequent years. Settlements are followed by increased payouts to shareholders, a higher likelihood of target firms being acquired, and improvements in ROA.

We also investigate concerns raised by practitioners and the media that settlements between activists and targets enable activists to extract rents at the expense of other shareholders who are not “at the table” when the settlement is negotiated. We examine two suggested channels for such rent extraction and find little evidence that settlements provide activists with significant rents at other shareholders’ expense. First, we find no evidence that settlements enable activists to put directors on the board who are not supported by other shareholders. Directors who enter the board through settlements do not receive less voting support at the following annual general meeting than incumbent directors or those activist directors who get on the board without a settlement. Second, we find little evidence that settlements produce a significant incidence of “greenmail” by getting the target to purchase shares from the activist at a premium to the market price; buybacks of activist shares occur in a very small fraction of settlement agreements and, when they do occur, they are typically executed at the market price.

Finally, we analyze the stock market reactions accompanying the announcement of a settlement agreement. Settlements are accompanied by positive abnormal stock returns. Furthermore, we find that the positive abnormal returns are especially large when the settlement is “high impact” in terms of introducing two or more new directors or providing for an immediate CEO turnover. This pattern is consistent with the view that the market welcomes the boardroom and leadership changes that activist settlements produce and inconsistent with the view that such changes can be expected to be disruptive and detrimental to other shareholders.

Our study is available for download here.


*Lucian Bebchuk is Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance, and Director of the Program on Corporate Governance, at Harvard Law School; Alon Brav is Professor of Finance at Duke University; Wei Jiang is Professor of Finance at Columbia Business School; and Thomas Keusch is Assistant Professor at the Erasmus University School of Economics. This post is based on their study, Dancing with Activists, available here. This study is part of the research undertaken by the Project on Hedge Fund Activism of the Program on Corporate Governance. Related Program research includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Bebchuk, Brav and Jiang (discussed on the Forum here); and The Law and Economics of Blockholder Disclosure by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert J. Jackson Jr. (discussed on the Forum here).

**Yvan Allaire, Voir la publication « L’IGOPP dévoile une étude sur l’enjeu des investisseurs activistes et leurs conséquences pour les conseils », site de l’IGOPP.

 

Facteurs qui influencent la rémunération des dirigeants d’OBNL ?


Qu’est-ce qui influence la rémunération des dirigeants d’organisation sans but lucratif. C’est la question à laquelle Elizabeth K. Keating et Peter Frumkin ont tenté de répondre dans une recherche scientifique notoire, dont un résumé est publié dans la revue Nonprofit Quaterly.

L’établissement d’une juste rémunération dans toute organisation est un domaine assez complexe. Mais, dans les entreprises à but non lucratif, c’est souvent un défi de taille et un dilemme !

Lorsque l’on gère l’argent qui vient, en grande partie, du public, on est souvent mal à l’aise pour offrir des rémunérations comparables au secteur privé. Les comparatifs ne sont pas faciles à établir…

Cependant, il faut que l’organisation paie une rémunération convenable ; sinon, elle ne pourra pas retenir les meilleurs talents et faire croître l’entreprise.

Bien sûr, la situation a beaucoup évolué au cours des 30 dernières années. On conçoit plus facilement maintenant que les services rendus pour gérer de telles organisations doivent être rémunérés à leur juste valeur. Mais, le secteur des OBNL est encore dominé par des salaires relativement bas et par la contribution de généreux bénévoles…

 

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Publications de Gouvernance Expert – Gestion PME et OBNL

Contrairement à la plupart des entreprises privées, les OBNL rémunèrent leur personnel selon un salaire fixe. Cependant, les comparaisons avec le secteur privé ont amené plusieurs OBNL à offrir des rémunérations basées sur la performance (ex. : les résultats de la collecte de fonds, la compression des dépenses, les surplus dégagés).

Dans la plupart des OBNL, les augmentations de salaires des dirigeants demeurent des sujets chauds… très chauds, étant donné les moyens limités de ces organisations, la propension à faire appel au bénévolat et les contraintes liées aux missions sociales.

Les auteurs de l’étude ont développé trois hypothèses pour expliquer les comportements de rémunération dans le secteur des entreprises à but non lucratif :

  1. Les PDG qui gèrent des organisations de grandes tailles seront mieux rémunérés ;
  2. Les rémunérations des PDG d’OBNL ne seront pas basées sur la performance financière de leurs organisations ;
  3. Les rémunérations des PDG d’OBNL ne seront pas déterminées par la liquidité financière.

En résumé, les recherches montrent que les hypothèses retenues sont validées dans presque tous les secteurs étudiés. C’est vraiment la taille et la croissance de l’organisation qui sont les facteurs déterminants dans l’établissement des rémunérations des hauts dirigeants. Dans ce secteur, la bonne performance ne doit pas être liée directement à la rémunération.

La plupart des administrateurs de ces organisations ne sont pas rémunérés, souvent pour des raisons de valeurs morales. Cependant, je crois que, si l’entreprise en a les moyens, elle doit prévoir une certaine forme de rémunération pour les administrateurs qui ont les mêmes responsabilités fiduciaires que les administrateurs des entreprises privées.

Je crois personnellement qu’une certaine compensation est de mise, même si celle-ci n’est pas élevée. Les administrateurs se sentiront toujours plus redevables s’ils retirent une rémunération pour leur travail. Même si la rétribution est minimale, elle contribuera certainement à les mobiliser davantage.

Cette citation résume assez bien les conclusions de l’étude :

One final implication of our analysis bears on the enduring performance-measurement quandary that confronts so many nonprofit organizations. We believe that nonprofits may rely on organizational size to make compensation decisions, drawing on free cash flows when available, rather than addressing the challenge of defining, quantifying, and measuring the social benefits that they produce. Nonprofits typically produce services that are complex and that generate not only direct outputs but also indirect, long-term, and societal benefits. These types of services often make it difficult to both develop good outcome measures and establish causality between program activity and impact. In the absence of effective metrics of social performance and mission accomplishment, many organizations rely on other factors in setting compensation. Perhaps, once better measures of mission fulfillment are developed and actively implemented, nonprofits will be able to structure CEO compensation in ways that provide appropriate incentives to managers who successfully advance the missions of nonprofit organizations, while respecting the full legal and ethical implications of the nondistribution constraint.

Pour plus d’information concernant le détail de l’étude, je vous conseille de prendre connaissance des extraits suivants.

Bonne lecture !

What Drives Nonprofit Executive Compensation?

 

To test our first hypothesis, we relied on two variables: lagged total fixed assets and lagged total program expenses. We chose total fixed assets as a proxy for scale of operations and total program expenses as a measure of the annual budget.15 To test our second hypothesis, we developed two variables associated with pay-for-performance compensation: administrative efficiency and dollar growth in contributed revenue.16 To test our third hypothesis, we selected three variables that determine whether an organization is cash constrained or has free cash flows: lagged commercial revenue, liquid assets to expenses measure, and investment portfolio to total assets measure.17

Since the nonprofit industry is quite heterogeneous, we explored the compensation question in the major subsectors: arts, education, health, human services, “other,” and religion.18

Arts

The compensation of arts CEOs increases more rapidly relative to program expenses than in the other subsectors, and the remuneration of arts CEOs is negatively associated with commercial revenue share. This stands in contrast to the positive relation of this factor in the remaining subsectors.

Greater administrative efficiency, higher liquidity, and a more extensive endowment are associated with higher compensation, but generating additional contributions is not. Overall, the organizational-size variables explain a substantially greater proportion of the variation in compensation for arts CEOs than the other two factors combined.

Education

While arts executive pay is closely related to program expenses, CEOs at educational institutions receive compensation that is significantly associated with fixed assets. These organizations include primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities. Unlike the arts CEOs, educational leaders are better compensated when their organizations have growth in contributions but not when they are more administratively efficient.

Health

Due to the competition in the health subsector between for-profit and nonprofit firms, one might expect that compensation would be more heavily weighted toward the pay-for-performance variables. Instead, we found that CEO compensation in this subsector is strongly related to organizational size. It is weakly tied to administrative efficiency, and is not significantly related to growth in contributions. From these results, we concluded that compensation in the health subsector is not closely tied to classic pay-for-performance measures.

With regard to free cash flows, we found that the sensitivity of CEO remuneration to increases in the commercial revenue share is highest in the health subsector. Health CEO remuneration is also quite sensitive to the relative size of the endowment. We found no significant relation between health CEO compensation and liquidity. Overall, the organization-size variables explain a greater portion of the variation in pay in the health subsector than the pay-for-performance and free cash flow variables combined.

Human Services and “Other”

CEO compensation in the human-services and “other” subsectors exhibit considerable similarities in the magnitude of the coefficients. Total program expenses are significantly related to compensation, with a $10–$11 gain in compensation for each $1,000 increase in program expenses. In neither case are total fixed assets significantly associated with remuneration. CEOs in both subsectors can expect to be financially rewarded for greater administrative efficiency and when the share of commercial revenue is higher and the relative size of the investment portfolio is larger. One striking difference is that CEOs in the other subsectors receive substantially higher compensation when contributions are increased, while CEOs of human-service providers oddly receive significantly lower compensation when liquidity is higher. In both subsectors, the organizational-size variables had more power to explain compensation than the other two variable groups combined.

Religion

Compensation for religious leaders differs substantially from the other sectors. First, “base” pay and both organizational-size variables are insignificant. In the area of pay-for-performance, the regression results indicate that compensation is not directly associated with growth in contributions. More unusually, it is negatively related to administrative efficiency. In one regard, the CEOs of religious organizations are similar to their counterparts: their compensation is significantly associated with the commercial-revenue share and the relative size of the investment portfolio. For CEOs of this subsector, the size hypothesis was most strongly supported, but it did not dominate the other two hypotheses combined.

Conclusions

We found that nonprofit CEOs are paid a base salary, and many CEOs also receive additional pay associated with larger organizational size. Our results indicate that while pay-for-performance is a factor in determining compensation, it is not prominent. In fact, in all the subsectors we studied, CEO compensation is more sensitive to organizational size and free cash flows than to performance. While our analysis suggests that nonprofits may not literally be violating the nondistribution constraint, we did find evidence that CEO compensation is significantly higher in the presence of free cash flows. In only one subsector (education), however, did we find evidence that free cash flow is a central factor.

___________________________________________

*This article is adapted from “The Price of Doing Good: Executive Compensation in Nonprofit Organizations,” an article by the authors published in the August 2010 issue (volume 29, issue 3) of Policy and Society, an Elsevier/ ScienceDirect publication. The original report can be accessed here.

Compte rendu hebdomadaire de la Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance | 25 mai 2017


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 25 mai 2017.

J’ai relevé les principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « harvard law school forum on corporate governance »

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « harvard law school forum on corporate governance »

  1. Do Exogenous Changes in Passive Institutional Ownership Affect Corporate Governance and Firm Value?
  2. It Pays to Write Well
  3. Mutual Fund Companies Have Significant Power to Increase Corporate Transparency
  4. Just How Preferred is Your Preferred?
  5. Private Investor Meetings in Public Firms: The Case for Increasing Transparency
  6. Court of Chancery’s Guidance on “Credible Basis” Standard for Obtaining Books
  7. Recent Board Declassifications: A Response to Cremers and Sepe
  8. SEC Enforcement Actions Against Public Companies and Subsidiaries Keep Pace
  9. Dual-Class Stock and Private Ordering: A System That Works
  10. 2017 IPO Report

 

L’émission d’action à droit de vote multiple | Un processus d’offre qui fonctionne bien !


Aujourd’hui, je vous présente le point de vue très tranché de David J. Berger* sur l’émission d’action à droit de vote multiple.

L’auteur démontre que les offres d’actions de ce type sont en pleine croissance et que les bourses Nasdaq et NYSE sont favorables à l’émission de telles actions. Aux É.U., environ 10 % des entreprises cotées en bourse utilisent  une telle structure de capital.

Il avance que les organismes de régulation tels que la SEC (ou l’AMF au Québec) ne doivent pas s’immiscer dans le processus d’offre parce que le système fonctionne bien et que différents arrangements d’émission d’action doivent être envisagés pour tenir compte des besoins particuliers des entreprises publiques.

Cette prise de position est radicalement différente de celle de Bebchuk et Kastiel qui, comme présentée dans mon billet du 17 mai (La gouvernance des entreprises à droit de vote multiple), souhaite que la SEC réglemente sur le caractère permanent de la structure d’action à vote multiple.

Je crois que vous trouverez cette publication intéressante en ce sens qu’elle présente l’autre face de la médaille.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont appréciés.

 

Dual-Class Stock and Private Ordering: A System That Works

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Dual-Class Stock »

 

 

Dual-class stock has become the target of heightened attention, particularly in light of Snap’s recent IPO. While the structure remains popular for companies trying to respond to the short-term outlook of public markets—including companies in the technology and media sectors, as well as companies in more traditional industries ranging from shipping and transportation to oil and gas, and everything in between—dual-class stock continues to be the subject of considerable attack by various investor groups and some academics. Further, while a majority of dual-class companies are not technology companies, young technology companies continue to be the primary focus of governance activists. [1]

Despite the controversy over dual-class stock, we believe that the present system of private ordering with respect to dual-class stock will—and should—continue. Private ordering allows boards, investors, and other corporate stakeholders to determine the most appropriate capital structure for a particular company, given its specific needs. So long as the company makes appropriate disclosure of its capital structure, including the implications of this structure to its investors, we believe there is no need for further regulation on this issue.

The benefits of a system of private ordering have become increasingly apparent in the U.S. and across the globe. For example, both Nasdaq and the NYSE continue to actively solicit and list companies with multi-classes of stock. According to a recent Council of Institutional Investors (CII) study, about 10 percent of publicly listed companies have multi-class structures. This includes not just newly public and/or prominent technology companies such as Alphabet (formerly Google), Facebook, and Snap, or even numerous media companies such as CBS, Liberty Media, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Scripps, and Viacom, but also companies in every industry ranging from financial services (Berkshire Hathaway, Evercore, Houlihan Lokey, etc.) to consumer products (Constellation Brands, Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Nike, Panera Bread, etc.) to transportation and industrial companies (Swift Transportation, TerraForm, Quaker Chemical, Nacco Industries, etc.).

As the companies identified above demonstrate, many of the dual- or multi-class companies listed by the NYSE and Nasdaq continue to be among the most successful in the world—both financially and from a governance perspective. The success and prominence of these companies make it unlikely that there will be a broad effort among the exchanges to require them to change their governance structure.

The success of many dual-class companies has also led both Nasdaq and the NYSE to continue to support dual-class listings. For example, Nasdaq recently released a report (discussed on the Forum here) that included an endorsement of dual-class stock, including laying out the arguments why companies with dual-class stock should continue to be listed. [2] Among the reasons cited by Nasdaq was the recognition that encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation in the U.S. economy is best done by “establishing multiple paths entrepreneurs can take to public markets.” Because of this, each “publicly traded company should have flexibility to determine a class structure that is most appropriate and beneficial for them, so long as this structure is transparent and disclosed up front so that investors have complete visibility into the company. Dual-class structures allow investors to invest side-by-side with innovators and high-growth companies, enjoying the financial benefits of these companies’ success.” [3] While the NYSE has not recently issued any public statements on multi-class stock, it continues to actively seek to list companies with multi-class stock, including Alibaba, which chose to list on the NYSE after the Hong Kong stock exchange raised significant questions about its governance structure.

The trend towards private ordering on dual-class shares can also be seen globally. For example, less than two years ago, Hong Kong’s stock exchange rejected a proposal to allow companies with dual-class stock to list on its exchange. However, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) recently announced a new study to determine whether to permit dual-class listings (including possibly creating a separate exchange for companies listing dual-class stock). While the SFC’s decision includes consideration of a new trading exchange in Hong Kong for companies with multi-class structures, its actions have been widely interpreted as essentially reversing its prior decision. Additionally, the SFC’s chairman recently announced that the SFC “supports the consultation to allow the public to share their views on the dual-shareholding structure,” and he made it clear that the SFC was “open minded” about the possibility of listing dual-class companies.

Singapore appears to be going through a similar transition. Singapore also historically did not allow listings of dual-class companies, but in February 2017, the country released a paper titled “Possible Listing Framework for Dual-Class Share Structures.” The proposal has been the subject of considerable debate, with many large institutional investors (including those based in the U.S.) opposed to allowing any type of dual-class listing. At the same time, the head of Singapore’s Investors Association, which represents more than 70,000 retail investors and is the largest organized investor group in Asia, has become an outspoken advocate of dual-class stock, arguing that “retail investors are not idiots” and that any “capital market that is aspiring to be leading” should offer this alternative.

The trend can also be seen in Europe. In 2007, the EU considered imposing a one-share/one-vote requirement on publicly traded companies, but abandoned the idea at the time of the 2008 financial crisis. Now many EU countries are adopting some form of “time-based voting” shares, to encourage long-term investors by giving more votes to shareholders who own their shares for longer periods. [4] For example, France has adopted the “Florange Act,” which generally provides that shareholders who own their shares for two years will receive two votes per share. Italy has also considered loyalty shares, while in many of the Nordic countries companies with shares with multiple voting rights are common. [5]

At the same time, critics of dual-class stock in the U.S., especially within the institutional investor community, remain quite vocal. For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) Investor Advisory Committee recently held a hearing on dual-class stock, where its use was sharply criticized by Commissioner Stein (whose term ends in June), as well as a representative from CII. [6] During the meeting, representatives from CII and other institutional investors urged the SEC to use its regulatory authority over the exchanges to limit the ability of companies to have dual-class structures, while also calling upon the companies that create the benchmark indexes to exclude companies with non-voting stock from these indexes (ironically, many of the same companies that create these indexes are CII members and among the world’s largest institutional investors).

More recently, two of the country’s leading academics, Harvard Law School professors Lucian Bebchuk and Kobi Kastiel, published an article (discussed on the Forum here) calling for a mandatory sunset provision on all dual-class stock for public companies. [7] The Bebchuk and Kastiel piece argues that “public officials and investors cannot rely on private ordering to eliminate dual-class structures that become inefficient with time,” and for that reason “[p]ublic officials and institutional investors should consider precluding or discouraging IPOs that set a perpetual dual-class structure.” Bebchuk and Kastiel conclude that “[p]erpetual dual-class stock, without any time limitation, should not be part of the menu of options” for public companies.

We disagree with Bebchuk and Kastiel on the need for additional regulation in this area and, further, do not believe that the SEC will adopt the Bebchuk and Kastiel proposal. While the SEC has not recently taken a formal position on dual-class stock, its new leadership is certainly familiar with the issue. For example, while Chairman Clayton was a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, he represented many companies with dual-class share structures, and William Hinman, the SEC’s new Director of Corporate Finance, represented Alibaba in its IPO. Mr. Hinman, who was based in Silicon Valley before taking his new position at the SEC, was also involved in a number of other IPOs where companies have dual-class stock. While it is impossible to predict the future positions of the SEC, Chairman Clayton has emphasized that one of his top priorities is to reverse the decline in U.S. public companies that has occurred over the last 20 years. As Nasdaq recognized, one way to foster increased numbers of IPOs (as well as companies staying public rather than going private) is by allowing companies (and entrepreneurs) the option of dual-class shares and other alternative capital structures.

We agree with Nasdaq and believe that dual-class stock is an issue that is best left to private ordering. For some companies, dual-class stock is both necessary and appropriate to respond to the corporate governance misalignment that exists in our capital markets today. In particular, many of the rules governing our capital markets have the practical impact of favoring short-term investors. When responding to this governance misalignment it is understandable that some companies may choose dual-class (or multi-class) stock. While multiple classes of stock are obviously not the right model for all companies (and it must be noted that there are many different types of capital structures even within the multi-class framework), there is no single capital structure that is right for all companies. Given the dynamics of our capital markets and the ever-changing needs of entrepreneurs and companies, a company’s capital structure is best left to a company’s investors and a system of private ordering based upon full disclosure.

Endnotes

1The Council of Institutional Investors recently published a list of dual-class companies in the Russell 3000. The list can be found here: http://www.cii.org/files/3_17_17_List_of_DC_for_Website(1).pdf.(go back)

2A copy of Nasdaq’s Blueprint for Market Reform can be found here: http://business.nasdaq.com/media/Nasdaq%20Blueprint%20to%20Revitalize%20Capital%20Markets_tcm5044-43175.pdf, discussed on the Forum here.(go back)

3Id. at 16.(go back)

4For a lengthier discussion on time-based voting and its possibilities in the U.S., see David J. Berger, Steven Davidoff Solomon, and Aaron Jedidiah Benjamin, “Tenure Voting and the U.S. Public Company,” 72 Business Lawyer 295 (2017).(go back)

5According to ISS, 64 percent of Swedish companies have two share classes with unequal votes, while 54 percent of French companies have shares entitled to double-voting rights. See“ISS Analysis: Differentiated Voting Rights in Europe” (2017), available at https://www.issgovernance.com/analysis-differentiated-voting-rights-in-europe/.(go back)

6WSGR partner David J. Berger was also a panelist at this forum, and explained why companies and investors may support dual-class shares (or at least allow for private ordering on this issue). A copy of Mr. Berger’s remarks can be found here: https://www.sec.gov/spotlight/investor-advisory-committee-2012/berger-remarks-iac-030917.pdf.(go back)

7See Lucian Bebchuk and Kobi Kastiel, “The Untenable Case for Perpetual Dual-Class Stock,” available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2954630 (discussed on the Forum here).(go back)

_________________________________________

*David J. Berger is Partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. This post is based on a Wilson Sonsini publication by Mr. Berger, Steven E. Bochner, and Larry Sonsini.

Les conseils d’administration doivent se préoccuper davantage des relations humaines au sein des entreprises | L’expertise en RH sur le CA est essentielle


Dans ce billet, je tiens à souligner que plusieurs problèmes de relations humaines au sein de l’entreprise sont totalement inconnus du conseil. C’est pourquoi le CA doit nécessairement compter sur des administrateurs qui sont préoccupés par les aspects humains de l’organisation. Ces administrateurs sauront poser les bonnes questions afin de mieux connaître le moral des troupes ainsi que le degré de sensibilité de la direction par rapport aux « problèmes de RH ».

Les conseils d’administration sont beaucoup plus intéressés par les perspectives stratégiques et les résultats financiers. Quels sont les sentiments des employés envers la haute direction ? Trop souvent, on constate une distance énorme entre les employés et les dirigeants, si bien qu’on a l’impression que ceux-ci vivent dans un autre monde. L’exemple de Bombardier est éloquent à ce sujet…

Les comités de ressources humaines semblent davantage se préoccuper du bien-être de la haute direction que de la santé du climat de travail organisationnel. À cet égard, les cadres intermédiaires doivent jouer leurs rôles de leaders auprès de leurs employés, en échangeant fréquemment avec eux, en fixant des objectifs réalistes, en les aidant à se développer et en reconnaissant la valeur de leur contribution.

À mon avis, le conseil d’administration doit se doter d’un tableau de bord faisant état des aspects humains liés au succès de l’entreprise. À titre d’exemple, mentionnons la qualité du travail, la rotation du personnel, les défis de recrutement, les plaintes, la rémunération des employés en comparaison de celle de la haute direction, le moral des employés, l’appréciation du travail, la fierté d’appartenir à l’organisation, les indices de bonne réputation de l’entreprise en tant qu’employeur, etc.

La culture de l’organisation est généralement un facteur très négligé par les administrateurs. C’est pourquoi le Collège des administrateurs de sociétés a conçu un module ayant pour thème : Leadership, communications et ressources humaines. Ce module aborde la culture organisationnelle et son influence sur la performance de l’entreprise, ainsi que le leadership du management et l’importance que les membres du conseil doivent y accorder.

Enfin, les administrateurs doivent être conscients de la qualité de leur bassin de talents, lequel constitue assurément un avantage concurrentiel unique.

Je vous recommande la lecture d’un court article de Janet Candido*, paru dans le Globe and Mail du 19 mai, qui milite pour l’ajout d’experts en RH sur les conseils d’administration.

Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

 

Why HR expertise is a critical addition to your board

 

 

For most public companies, the board of directors is usually composed of experienced, senior leaders who focus on high-level issues such as finance and strategy, believing these two functions, specifically, to be the foremost way to protect the interests of the shareholder. But an often-overlooked – yet equally important – role among boards is that of HR leadership, an increasingly popular point of view that’s also widely advocated by Richard Leblanc, professor at York University and expert on corporate governance.

As an example, a number of e-mails from senior employees in a company were disparaging of the company’s CEO, coupled with issues raised in an employee engagement survey that pointed to a complete lack of confidence in the CEO’s leadership. These issues – which included being dismissive of employee complaints, expecting unpaid overtime (so his budget looked good) and an unwillingness to accept accountability while blaming others – were unknown to the board and the chair of the board felt they should have been more aware.

In fact, they should have been more aware. While the directors are all very competent professionals, well versed in their areas of specialty, they had never thought to question issues of human capital. They focused on the business side of things, believing that the CEO was on top of the people issues. There was no HR expertise on this board, a mistake that led to some costly missteps. Had an independent HR leader been involved, he/she would have seen the signs: increased turnover, difficulty hiring top talent, an apathetic leadership team and missed deadlines. Eventually, this resulted in lost productivity and revenue, as well as damage to the company’s reputation, a situation that is much harder to fix – and takes more time.

If the board is there to protect the interests of the stakeholders, part of doing so requires an understanding of the culture and the depth of talent within the organization. Attention must be paid to employee engagement factors. In their course of duty, boards discuss issues and make decisions, but understanding the impact that these decisions will have on the culture is critical.

Board members may not know exactly what information they should be getting and discussing when it comes to people issues or even how to evaluate that information once received, but the best way to change this is to stop assuming and start asking questions. Are they comfortable with the depth of talent in the organization as it relates to the ongoing operations, as well as specific initiatives that the board is considering? Are there enough skilled people in place? Is the leadership engaged and committed? Do they have the confidence of the employees? Do employees understand the objectives of the company and do they feel good about where they are working?

Without this information, any board debates around strategy cannot be complete. The strategy being discussed and proposed can succeed or fail on the strength of the human capital, so this must be a consideration. And the board needs to understand where the organization is vulnerable.

It is easy to assume the CEO has the operations well in hand. In most cases, they likely do, but it can be disastrous if not. Even a CEO may not have the specific depth of skills or knowledge to accurately predict or interpret the impact certain strategies may have when it comes to human capital. The board is not doing its job if it doesn’t take this into consideration.

While an internal CHRO can provide some input, they cannot replace the independent oversight role of a board member or adviser. An HR leader who does not report to the CEO is not beholden, first and foremost; they will understand the impact of the information provided and the risks, if any, that exist. He or she can identify gaps in the information provided and any areas of vulnerability. This will result in a more robust debate that provides greater insight to a well-designed, well-executed process and plan.


*Janet Candido is the principal of Candido Consulting Group.

Compte rendu hebdomadaire de la Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance | 18 mai 2017


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 18 mai 2017.

J’ai relevé les principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « harvard law school forum on corporate governance »

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « harvard law school forum on corporate governance »

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  3. Five Investor Trends Driving Say on Pay in 2017
  4. Texas Bill Targets Activist Investors, Advisors
  5. The Consequences of Managerial Indiscretions
  6. Reviving the U.S. IPO Market
  7. The Fiduciary Dilemma in Large-Scale Organizations: A Comparative Analysis
  8. Dual-Class: The Consequences of Depriving Institutional Investors of Corporate Voting Rights
  9. Looking Behind the Declining Number of Public Companies
  10. The Promise of Market Reform: Reigniting America’s Economic Engine

La gouvernance des entreprises à droit de vote multiple


Voici un excellent article de Blair A. Nicholas*, publié aujourd’hui, sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, qui aborde un sujet bien d’actualité, et très controversé : le futur de la gouvernance dans le contexte d’émission d’actions à droit de vote multiple.

L’auteur présente l’historique de ce mouvement, montre les failles attribuables à ce genre de structure de capital, et suggère certains moyens pour contrer les lacunes observées dans le domaine de la gouvernance.

Plusieurs investisseurs institutionnels se déclarent défavorables à l’émission d’actions à droit de vote multiple, mais on assiste quand même à un accroissement sensible de ce type de structure actionnariale. Par exemple, le nombre d’entreprises américaines qui ont opté pour cette formule a quadruplé en dix ans, passant de 6 à 27. La plupart des entreprises en question sont dans le domaine des technologies : Google, Alibaba, Facebook, LinkedIn, Square, Zynga, Snap inc. Certaines entreprises ont commencé à émettre des actions sans droit de vote en guise de dividende…

Également, ce type d’arrangement est l’apanage de plusieurs entreprises québécoises qui cherchent à maintenir le pouvoir entre les mains des familles entrepreneuriales : Bombardier, Groupe Jean Coutu, Alimentation Couche-Tard, Power Corporation, etc. Est-ce dans « l’intérêt supérieur » de la société québécoise ?

Selon Blair, les études montrent que les entreprises à droit de vote multiple ont des performances inférieures, et que leur structure de gouvernance est plus faible.

Academic studies also reveal that dual-class structures underperform the market and have weaker corporate governance structures. For instance, a 2012 study funded by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute, and conducted by Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., found that controlled firms with multi-class capital structures not only underperform financially, but also have more material weaknesses in accounting controls and are riskier in terms of volatility.

The study concluded that multi-class firms underperformed even other controlled companies, noting that the average 10-year shareholder return for controlled companies with multi-class structures was 7.52%, compared to 9.76% for non-controlled companies, and 14.26% for controlled companies with a single share class. A follow-up 2016 study reaffirmed these findings, noting that multi-class companies have weaker corporate governance and higher CEO pay.

Je vous invite également à lire l’article de Richard Dufour dans La Presse : Actions à droit de vote multiple : Bombardier critiqué

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « droit de vote multiple »

On pourrait dire que « quand ça va mal dans ce genre d’entreprise, on dirait que rien ne va bien ! » L’exemple de Hollinger est éloquent à cet égard.

Par contre, « quand ça va bien, on dirait qu’il n’y a rien qui va mal ! » Ici, l’exemple de Couche-Tard est approprié.

Bonne lecture !

Quelle est votre opinion sur ce sujet ?

Dual-Class: The Consequences of Depriving Institutional Investors of Corporate Voting Rights

Recent developments and uncertainties in the securities markets are drawing institutional investors’ attention back to core principles of corporate governance. As investors strive for yield in this post-Great Recession, low interest rate environment, large technology companies’ valuations climb amid the promises of rapid growth. But at the same time, some of these successful companies are asking investors to give up what most regard as a fundamental right of ownership: the right to vote. Companies in the technology sector and elsewhere are increasingly issuing two classes or even three classes of stock with disparate voting rights in order to give certain executives and founders outsized voting power. By issuing stock with 1/10th the voting power of the executives’ or founders’ stock, or with no voting power at all, these companies create a bulwark for managerial entrenchment. Amid ample evidence that such skewed voting structures lead to reduced returns long run, many public pension funds and other institutional investors are standing up against this trend. But in the current environment of permissive exchange rules allowing for such dual-class or multi-class stock, there is still more that investors can do to protect their fundamental voting rights.

The problem of dual-class stock is not new. In the 1920s, many companies went public with dual-class share structures that limited “common” shareholders’ voting rights. But after the Great Depression, the NYSE—the dominant exchange at the time—adopted a “one share, one vote” rule that guided our national securities markets for decades. It was only in the corporate takeover era of the 1980s that dual-class stock mounted a comeback, with executives receiving stock that gave them voting power far in excess of their actual ownership stake. Defense-minded corporate executives left, or threatened to leave, the NYSE for the NASDAQ’s or the American Exchange’s rules, which permitted dual-class stock. In a race to the bottom, the NYSE suspended enforcement of its one share, one vote rule in 1984. While numerous companies have since adopted or retained dual-class structures, they remain definitively in the minority. Prominent among such outliers are large media companies that perpetuate the managerial oversight of a particular family or a dynastic editorial position, such as The New YorkTimes, CBS, Clear Channel, Viacom, and News Corp.

Now, corporate distributions of non-voting shares are on the rise, particularly among emerging technology companies. They have also been met with strong resistance from influential institutional investors. In 2012, Google—which already protected its founders through Class B shares that had ten times the voting power of Class A shares—moved to dilute further the voting rights of Class A shareholders by issuing to them third-tier Class C shares with no voting rights as “dividends.” Shareholders, led by a Massachusetts pension fund, filed suit, alleging that executives had breached their fiduciary duty by sticking investors with less valuable non-voting shares. On the eve of trial, the parties agreed to settle the case by letting the market decide the value of lost voting rights. When the non-voting shares ended up trading at a material discount to the original Class A shares, Google was forced to pay over $560 million to the plaintiff investors for their lost voting rights.

Facebook followed suit in early 2016 with a similar post-IPO plan to distribute non-voting shares and solidify founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s control. Amid renewed investor outcry, the pension fund Sjunde AP-Fonden and numerous index funds filed a suit alleging breach of fiduciary duty. Also in 2016, Barry Diller and IAC/InterActive Corp. tried a similar gambit, creating a new, non-voting class of stock in order to cement the control of Diller and his family over the business despite the fact that they owned less than 8% of the company’s stock. The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), which manages the largest public pension fund in the United States, filed suit in late 2016. [1] Both suits are currently pending.

To forego the ownership gymnastics of diluting existing shareholders’ voting rights by issuing non-voting shares as dividends, the more recent trend is to set up multi-class structures with non-voting shares from the IPO stage. Alibaba was so intent on going public with a dual-class structure that it crossed the Pacific Ocean to do so. The company first applied for an IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange, but when that exchange refused to bend its one share, one vote rule, the company went public on the NYSE. LinkedIn, Square, and Zynga also each implemented dual-class structures before going public. Overall, the number of IPOs with multi-class structures is increasing. There were only 6 such IPOs in 2006, but that number more than quadrupled to 27 in 2015. The latest example is Snap Inc., which earlier this year concluded the largest tech IPO since Alibaba’s, and took the unprecedented step of offering IPO purchasers no voting rights at all. This is a stark break from tradition, as prior dual-class firms had given new investors at least some—albeit proportionally weak—voting rights. As Anne Sheehan, Director of Corporate Governance for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (“CalSTRS”), has concluded, Snap’s recent IPO “raise[s] the discussion to a new level.”

Institutional investors such as CalSTRS are increasingly voicing opposition to IPOs promoting outsized executive and founder control. In 2016, the Council for Institutional Investors (“CII”) called for an end to dual-class IPOs. The Investor Stewardship Group, a collective of some of the largest U.S.-based institutional investors and global asset managers, including BlackRock, CalSTRS, the Vanguard Group, T. Rowe Price, and State Street Global Advisors, launched a stewardship code for the U.S. market in January, 2017. The code (discussed on the Forum here), called the Framework for Promoting Long-Term Value Creation for U.S. Companies, focuses explicitly on long-term value creation and states as core Corporate Governance Principle 2 that “shareholders should be entitled to voting rights in proportion to their economic interest.” Proxy advisory firm, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., has also voiced strong opposition to dual-class structures.

The Snap IPO in particular has elicited investors’ rebuke. After Snap announced its intended issuance of non-voting stock, CII sent a letter to Snap’s executives, co-signed by 18 institutional investors, urging them to abandon their plan to “deny[] outside shareholders any voice in the company.” The letter noted that a single-class voting structure “is associated with stronger long-term performance, and mechanisms for accountability to owners,” and that when CII was formed over thirty years ago, “the very first policy adopted was the principle of one share, one vote.” Anne Simpson, Investment Director at CalPERS, has strongly criticized Snap’s non-voting share model, stating: “Ceding power without accountability is very troubling. I think you have to relabel this junk equity. Buyer beware.” Investors have also called for stock index providers to bar Snap’s shares from becoming part of major indices due to its non-voting shares. By keeping index fund investors’ cash out of such companies’ stock, such efforts could help provide concrete penalties for companies seeking to go to market with non-voting shares.

There are many compelling reasons why institutional investors strongly oppose dual-class stock structures that separate voting rights from cash-flow rights. In addition to the immediate deprivation of investors’ voting rights, there is ample evidence that giving select shareholders control, that is far out of line with their ownership stakes, reduces company value. Such structures reduce oversight by, and accountability to, the actual majority owners of the company. They hamper the ability of boards of directors to execute their fiduciary duties to shareholders. And they can incentivize managers to act in their own interests, instead of acting in the interest of the company’s owners. Hollinger International, a large international newspaper publisher now known as Sun-Times Media Group, is a striking example. Although former CEO, Conrad Black, owned just 30% of the firm’s equity, he controlled all of the company’s Class B shares, giving him an overwhelming 73% of the voting power. He filled the board with friends, then used the company for personal ends, siphoning off company funds through a variety of fees and dividends. Restrained by the dual-class stock structure, Hollinger stockholders at-large were essentially powerless to rein in such actions. Ultimately, the public also paid the price for the mismanagement, footing the bill to incarcerate Black for over three years after he was convicted of fraud. This is a classic example of dual-class shares leading to misalignment between management’s actions and most owners’ interests.

The typical retort from proponents of dual-class structures is that depriving most investors of equal voting rights allows managers the leeway to make forward-thinking decisions that cause short-term pain for overall long-term gain. This assertion, however, ignores that many investors—and in particular public pension funds and other long-term institutional investors—are themselves focused on long-term gains. If managers have good ideas for long-term investments, such prominent investors will likely support them.

Academic studies also reveal that dual-class structures underperform the market and have weaker corporate governance structures. For instance, a 2012 study funded by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute, and conducted by Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., found that controlled firms with multi-class capital structures not only underperform financially, but also have more material weaknesses in accounting controls and are riskier in terms of volatility. The study concluded that multi-class firms underperformed even other controlled companies, noting that the average 10-year shareholder return for controlled companies with multi-class structures was 7.52%, compared to 9.76% for non-controlled companies, and 14.26% for controlled companies with a single share class. A follow-up 2016 study reaffirmed these findings, noting that multi-class companies have weaker corporate governance and higher CEO pay. As IRCC Institute Executive Director Jon Lukomnik summarized, multi-class companies are “built for comfort, not performance.”

Proponents of dual-class structures also argue that investors who prize voting power can simply take the “Wall Street Walk,” selling shares of companies that resemble dictatorships while retaining shares of companies with a more democratic voting structure. That is often easier said than done. For instance, passively managed funds may not be able to simply sell individual companies’ stock at will. Structural safeguards such as equal voting rights should ensure investors’ ability to guide and correct management productively as events unfold. If the only solution is for investors to abandon certain investments after dual-class systems have done their damage, owners lose out financially and discussions in corporate boardrooms and C-suites across the country will suffer from a lack of diversity, perspective, and accountability.

Ultimately, arguments regarding investor choice also ignore that failures in corporate governance can impose costs not only on corporate shareholders, but also on society at large. When dual-class stock structures prevent boards and individual shareholders from effectively monitoring corporate executives, that monitoring function can be exported to third parties, including the courts and government regulators. Regulators may need to step up disclosure provisions to ensure transparency of such controlled companies, and courts may be called upon to remedy the behavior of unchecked executives. In the monitoring and in the clean-up, the externalities placed upon outsiders make corporate voting rights an issue of public policy.

As the trend of issuing dual-class or multi-class stock continues, institutional investors should remain vigilant to protect shareholders’ voting rights. Pre-IPO investors can oppose the issuance of non-voting shares during IPOs. Investors in publicly traded companies can speak out against proposed changes to share structures or resort to litigation when necessary, such as in the Google, Facebook, and IAC cases. Institutional investors may also lobby Congress, regulators, and the national exchanges to revive the traditional ban on non-voting shares or make it harder to issue no-vote shares. For instance, in the wake of the Snap IPO, CII Executive Director Ken Bertsch and other investors met with the SEC Investor Advisory Committee. They encouraged the SEC to work with U.S.-based exchanges to (1) bar future no-vote share classes; (2) require sunset provisions for differential common stock voting rights; and (3) consider enhanced board requirements for dual-class companies in order to discourage rubber-stamp boards. Whether by working with regulators, securities exchanges, index providers, or corporate boards, institutional investors that continue to fight for shareholder voting rights will be working to promote open and responsive capital markets, and the long-term value creation that comes with them.

Endnotes

1Our firm, Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, represents CalPERS in this litigation.(go back)

_______________________________________

*Blair A. Nicholas is a partner and Brandon Marsh is senior counsel at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP. This post is based on a Bernstein Litowitz publication by Mr. Nicholas and Mr. Marsh.

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

Qu’est-ce qu’un président « exécutif » de conseil d’administration ? | Le cas de Bombardier 


Voici un article de Karim Benessaieh publié dans la section Actualité expliquée de La Presse+ Affaires le 13 mai 2017.

L’auteur apporte les précisions requises quant aux titres et fonctions du président du conseil de Bombardier, Pierre Beaudoin.

Pierre Beaudoin était président et chef de la direction (CEO ou PDG) de Bombardier depuis 2008. En 2015, il devient le président « exécutif » du conseil d’administration de Bombardier.

Récemment, ce dernier a renoncé à la portion « exécutive » de ses fonctions. Qu’est-ce que cela implique pour le commun des mortels ?

C’est exactement ce à quoi Karim Benessaieh a tenté de répondre dans son article, reproduit ci-dessous, auquel j’ai participé.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

Un président exécutif, ça mange quoi en hiver ?

 

Qu’est-ce qu’un président exécutif ? Peut-on être PDG, président du conseil d’administration et chef de la direction en même temps ? Dans la tempête qui ébranle Bombardier depuis six semaines, il est facile de se perdre dans les étiquettes. La Presse a demandé à deux experts en gouvernance d’éclairer notre lanterne.

 

À quoi a renoncé exactement Pierre Beaudoin en retirant la partie « exécutive » de son mandat ?

À la base, Pierre Beaudoin, fils de Laurent Beaudoin et de Claire Bombardier et donc petit-fils de Joseph-Armand Bombardier, est le président du conseil d’administration de l’entreprise depuis 2015. Son rôle est de « gérer le conseil et [d’]établir l’ordre du jour » pour les 15 membres de cette instance, comme le précise le site de Bombardier, qui ne fait aucune référence à l’aspect « exécutif » de son travail.

Dans l’avis de convocation des actionnaires, cette semaine, on reprend la formule un peu vague selon laquelle M. Beaudoin est en outre chargé de « la définition d’une orientation stratégique et [de] la gestion des relations entretenues avec certaines parties prenantes et avec la clientèle ». Ce sont ces dernières responsabilités qu’il a perdues.

Vous ne nous éclairez pas beaucoup…

Désolé, c’était la réponse officielle. C’est que le « président exécutif » est une bête un peu curieuse souvent associée aux entreprises familiales ou dont le fondateur est encore bien présent. Aux États-Unis, peu de confusion : pour 50 % des entreprises cotées en Bourse, le PDG (ou CEO) est également président du conseil d’administration. Le président du conseil, dans ces cas, est « exécutif » de facto. Au Canada, seulement 14 % des entreprises sont dirigées par un PDG qui est en même temps président du conseil d’administration.

Par contre, dans une sorte de formule mitoyenne, certaines entreprises d’ici ont donné des responsabilités élargies à leur président du conseil en lui ajoutant l’étiquette « exécutif » : il devient dans les faits un deuxième PDG.

Au Québec, CGI, Couche-Tard et Cascades ont donné ce titre à celui qui préside leur conseil d’administration. « C’est une formule hybride, résume Michel Nadeau, directeur général de l’Institut sur la gouvernance. Ça reflète généralement une situation temporaire où le nouveau PDG apprend à gérer, avec l’entrepreneur fondateur. »

Et c’est bien d’avoir un président du conseil qui se mêle d’administration ?

Un peu de contexte ici. Depuis plus d’une décennie, au Canada et en Europe, les autorités réglementaires, les experts en gouvernance et les investisseurs institutionnels comme la Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec suggèrent fortement de séparer les fonctions de président du conseil d’administration et de président de l’entreprise. Aucune loi n’impose cette division des tâches, cependant.

« On veut éviter les conflits d’intérêts, explique Jacques Grisé, président de l’Ordre des administrateurs agréés du Québec. Séparer les deux postes est un signe de bonne gouvernance, et on est en train de le reconnaître même aux États-Unis, où ça s’améliore graduellement. »

C’est le conseil d’administration qui embauche le PDG et fixe sa rémunération, rappelle M. Nadeau. « Le président exécutif est un peu coincé entre les deux. Quand il arrive avec une proposition de rémunération qui inclut la sienne, c’est bizarre. Quand il travaille 40 heures par semaine avec le PDG alors qu’il doit pouvoir le confronter au conseil d’administration, ça donne une situation incongrue. » C’est une « simple question de logique », estime-t-il, qu’il n’y ait pas un cumul des pouvoirs au sein d’une entreprise. « Il faut un superviseur et un supervisé, un contrepoids. »

Est-ce que les entreprises qui séparent les fonctions de président du conseil et de PDG s’en portent financièrement mieux ?

« Les études ne sont pas très claires en ce sens, mais on voit que partout dans le monde, on essaie d’implanter cette séparation », répond M. Grisé. Cette question précise fait partie d’un vaste ensemble, la bonne gouvernance, qui comprend bien d’autres exigences, rappelle M. Nadeau. « Dans le cas de Bombardier, ç’aurait été une bonne chose d’avoir un président du conseil indépendant. C’est souhaitable, mais il faut être réaliste : dans une entreprise contrôlée par une famille, c’est demander de l’héroïsme. »

_______________________________________

Karim Benessaieh est reporter économique à La Presse depuis 2000.
Ce texte provenant de La Presse+ est une copie en format web. Consultez-le gratuitement en version interactive dans l’application La Presse+.

Compte rendu hebdomadaire de la Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance | 11 mai 2017


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 11 mai 2017.

J’ai relevé les principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

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Le rôle du secrétaire général d’une société


Plusieurs personnes se questionnent sur le rôle d’un secrétaire général (corporatif) dans la gouvernance des entreprises.

Simon Osborne, directeur général de l’ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators), explique en quoi les tâches des secrétaires corporatifs sont importantes pour tous les types d’organisations, même quand celles-ci sont de petites tailles. Le secrétaire a essentiellement un rôle-conseil auprès des administrateurs et du président du conseil.

Même si les PME n’ont pas l’obligation d’avoir un secrétaire à leur service, Osborne souligne les nombreux avantages pour celles-ci d’embaucher une personne qui fera le lien entre la gouvernance du conseil et la direction de l’entreprise.

Quelles sont les qualifications des personnes qui occupent de telles fonctions ? L’extrait ci-dessous résume assez bien leurs profils.

There is a qualification standard in the 2006 Companies Act and that includes barristers, solicitors, someone from a regulated accountancy body or, if you’re from Scotland, an advocate. Ideally, the individual will be a chartered secretary. A business should appoint someone with emotional intelligence and the ability to form good working relationships – the person needs to be able to negotiate, listen and influence. It’s not a role for prima donnas. They need resilience and fortitude because the pressures under which they will work are significant. Choose someone with the ability to give wise advice without upsetting people.

L’article présente également une petite vidéo sur le rôle du secrétaire d’entreprise.

Que pensez-vous de l’importance de cette fonction trop souvent mal comprise, ou carrément négligée ?

Bonne lecture !

The company secretary

 

Private businesses don’t have a legal duty to appoint a company secretary, yet many astute firms still fill the position. Simon Osborne, chief executive of qualifying body ICSA, explains why the job is crucial to companies of all sizes

Following the Companies Act 2006, private businesses are no longer legally required to employ a company secretary, but with British firms facing ongoing regulatory change and corporate governance pressures, many still fill the role.

Following the Companies Act 2006, private businesses are no longer legally required to employ a company secretary, but with British firms facing ongoing regulatory change and corporate governance pressures, many still fill the role.

This, says Simon Osborne, chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA), is because the burden of duties that was previously undertaken by a company secretary has not eased: “Private companies that have abolished the role have suffered the loss of an independent thinker – someone with a sharp focus on the way the company does business,” he says.

Osborne has spent more than two decades as a company secretary for public and private businesses. He took over the helm of ICSA, which has 33,000 members across 72 countries, in 2011. Here, he explains what the role of company secretary entails – and why it can be vital to small businesses…

 

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Director What does the role of the company secretary involve?

The company secretary is an adviser to the chair and the board on a company’s values, purpose, and governance framework. It involves strategic thinking around why and how the company is doing business and the compliance procedures needed to ensure it operates in accordance with its values. Duties include maintaining company registers, ensuring filings are made promptly and on time with Companies House, keeping the minutes of board and committee meetings, and ensuring director service contracts are up to date. But a company secretary can also be involved with HR, pensions, risk management and insurance.

Why do some private companies still employ a company secretary even though there is no longer a legal requirement? And who does the burden fall on if a firm doesn’t have one?

The burden falls on the directors. Despite the requirement being abolished for private businesses [it still exists for public companies], the work hasn’t gone away and there are liabilities that directors face if particular work isn’t undertaken. Companies House is vigilant in chasing up directors if, for example, accounts aren’t filed on time. There is a much more serious risk of fixed penalties being levied these days, so it doesn’t pay to cut corners. It’s important that SMEs understand that as they grow they will have to move away from ‘kitchen table governance’ to a more mature form of governance, and that means having access to someone who can be a wise friend to members of the board.

What about small businesses that can’t afford to employ a full-time company secretary?

It’s very important that small companies have access to someone who can assist them with the duties that a company secretary in a bigger business would undertake. SMEs don’t necessarily have to employ someone full time – they could, for instance, have an arrangement with a freelance chartered secretary or hire on a part-time basis. There is evidence that shows good governance and better financial performance go hand-in-hand, and a company secretary can help with that.

What are the biggest benefits of employing a company secretary?

Having access to a governance, risk and compliance professional – someone with a grounding in finance, risk, strategy and law, and an understanding of the law of meetings. It’s easy to think of some meetings as a doddle, but sometimes they go wrong or unexpected things happen. Agenda-setting can be viewed as a bureaucratic function but it actually needs some thought, and so do meeting minutes – it’s important to remember that one day those minutes may be read by a judge in a court of law.

What qualifications does a company secretary need and what should business leaders look for when appointing?

There is a qualification standard in the 2006 Companies Act and that includes barristers, solicitors, someone from a regulated accountancy body or, if you’re from Scotland, an advocate. Ideally, the individual will be a chartered secretary. A business should appoint someone with emotional intelligence and the ability to form good working relationships – the person needs to be able to negotiate, listen and influence. It’s not a role for prima donnas. They need resilience and fortitude because the pressures under which they will work are significant. Choose someone with the ability to give wise advice without upsetting people.

What advice would you give to business leaders who might not have a great understanding of the importance of the role, particularly new or young directors?

Good chief executives recognise the value of a company secretary, but ICSA did some research with Henley Business School [The Company Secretary: Building trust through corporate governance report] and discovered that there is still a need to educate some non-executive directors and head-hunting firms. Increasingly, search firms are being used for recruitment purposes and I’m not sure they understand what the role involves. Younger directors have more humility on the matter. Most new directors would be able to see the value of having a wise adviser. The role of a director is becoming increasingly professionalised – you wouldn’t go to a doctor, dentist or accountant who doesn’t keep up to date so it shouldn’t be any different with boards. A company secretary is a valuable employee so should be cherished.

_________________________________________

Simon Osborne, Chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA)

Pour télécharger le rapport de l’ICSA et de la Henley Business School, visitez le site icsa.org.uk

Compte rendu hebdomadaire de la Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance | 4 mai 2017


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 4 mai 2017.

J’ai relevé les principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

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Caractéristiques de la nouvelle cuvée des administrateurs indépendants aux É.U.


Voici un excellent résumé des caractéristiques de la nouvelle cuvée d’administrateurs indépendants en 2016.

Cet article, publié sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum, est basé sur une publication du EY Center for Board Matters.

La recherche porte sur les nouveaux administrateurs recensés dans le Fortune 100.

L’article présente les 10 expertises les plus recherchées, les caractéristiques de la diversité, l’expérience antérieure des nouveaux administrateurs, la distribution des âges et l’appartenance à l’un ou l’autre des trois principaux comités du CA.

J’aimerais connaître vos réactions en réponse à cette recherche d’Ernst Young (EY).

Croyez-vous que cette étude américaine peut se transposer à la situation des conseils d’administration au Canada ?

Bonne lecture !

Independent Directors: New Class of 2016

 

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Today’s boards are navigating disruptive changes, a dynamic geopolitical and regulatory environment, shifting consumer and workforce demographics, and shareholder activist activity amid a push by leading investors for a more long-term strategic focus. These demands highlight the critical role boards play in helping companies manage risk and seize strategic opportunities.

To see how boards are keeping current and strategically aligning board composition to company needs, we reviewed the qualifications and characteristics of independent directors who were elected to Fortune 100 boards for the first time in 2016 (Fortune 100 Class of 2016). We also looked at some of the same data for the Russell 3000, and we highlight those findings at the end of this post.

This post highlights five key findings about the Fortune 100 Class of 2016; but first it’s worth noting that nearly 60% of Fortune 100 companies added at least one independent director following the company’s 2015 annual meeting. These boards added an average of 1.8 directors—and close to one-fifth of these boards added three or more directors.

 

The Fortune 100 Class of 2016 brings a wide range of strengths into the boardroom

 

Based on the qualifications highlighted in corporate disclosures, expertise in corporate finance or accounting was most frequently cited. More than half of directors assigned to the audit committee were recognized as financial experts. Companies also highlighted leadership positions in multinational corporations, managing global operations or detailed knowledge of certain markets of particular interest to company strategy. Board experience (public or private) or corporate governance expertise also was commonly cited.

 

Top 10 skills and expertise of Fortune 100 Class of 2016

The Fortune 100 Class of 2016 enhances gender diversity

 

Nearly 40% of the Fortune 100 Class of 2016 are women, compared to less than a quarter of incumbents and less than one-fifth of the exiting directors. Newly appointed women directors also are slightly younger than male counterparts (57 compared to 59).

 

Distribution of Fortune 100 female directorships

Only about half of the Fortune 100 Class of 2016 are current or former CEOs

 

While experience as a CEO is often cited as a historical first cut for search firms, about half of the Fortune 100 class of 2016 have non-CEO backgrounds as corporate executives or have non-corporate backgrounds (e.g., scientists, academics and former government officials). Ten percent worked at an institutional investor, an experience which was highlighted to communicate the company’s interest in shareholder perspectives. Another 9% were described as bringing experience in innovation or having the capability to drive innovation. It’s also notable that 17% of the entering class appear to be joining a public company board for the first time.

 

Fortune 100 Class of 2016 director backgrounds (% of directors)

The Fortune 100 Class of 2016 tends to be younger than their director counterparts

 

The average age of entering directors was 58, compared to 64 for incumbents and 68 for the exiting group. Although most directors are between 50 and 67, nearly 10% of the entering class was under 50 compared to 1% of incumbent directors. Over half of exiting directors were age 68 or older.

 

Distribution of Fortune 100 directorships by age

Members of the Fortune 100 Class of 2016 are mainly being added to audit committees

 

Entering directors are more likely to join the audit committee during their first year on the board. While the committee service of incumbent directors appears to be fairly evenly distributed, the exiting group was most likely to hold positions on the nominating and governance committees.

 

Distribution of Fortune 100 key committee membership

How does the Russell 3000 Class of 2016 compare?

 

Significantly fewer Russell 3000 companies added at least one independent director following the company’s 2015 annual meeting, and those that did added fewer independent directors. The Russell 3000 Class of 2016 independent directors tend to be slightly younger than the Fortune 100 Class of 2016, and when it comes to key committee membership, they’re also most likely to join the audit committee in their first year on the board. Just around a quarter is female, however, showing that smaller company boards have a steeper climb ahead to achieve gender parity.

 

Questions for the nominating and governance committee to consider

 

How current and relevant are the skills of incumbent directors to the company’s long-term strategy?

Given increasing attention to director qualifications, including by shareholder activists, do existing company disclosures effectively communicate the strengths of incumbent directors?

How diverse is the board—defined as including considerations such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality—in addition to skills and expertise?

How can the board’s existing succession planning efforts and approach to considering director candidates be enhanced?

Le démantèlement de la réglementation « Dodd-Frank Act » est-il souhaitable du point de vue de la bonne gouvernance ?


Plusieurs experts de la gouvernance des sociétés cotées se demandent ce qu’il adviendra de la législation Dodd-Frank Act, sachant que Donald Trump a promis d’effectuer un démantèlement presque total de cette réglementation qui a été mise en place à la suite de la crise financière de 2007-2008.

L’article de Gregg Gelzinis* du Center for American Progress publié sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, tente de faire la lumière sur une proposition gouvernementale appelée Financial CHOICE Act ou FCA.

L’auteur montre que les raisons invoquées pour modifier la réforme Dodd-Frank Act ne tiennent pas la route. Voici un extrait de la conclusion.

The question remains: What is the problem President Trump and his allies in Congress are trying to solve? Lending is up. Bank profits are up. Consumer credit costs are down. The economy is steadily improving.

Yes, much more needs to be done to make the economy work for hard-working Americans, but financial deregulation is not the path to that end. [16]

In fact, it is a path toward exactly the opposite: booms and busts that leave taxpayers holding the bag for Wall Street’s excesses, greater concentration of economic power and less accountability for wrongdoing that harms ordinary consumers and investors, and major changes to financial regulation and monetary policy that would damage the real economy. Now that is a problem.

L’avenir nous dira ce que nous réservent les « nouvelles » règles de gouvernance prônées par la nouvelle administration américaine.

Évidemment, la réglementation canadienne, toujours très liée à celle de la SEC, devra s’ajuster, sans trop de heurts !

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont appréciés des lecteurs.

 

President Trump’s Dangerous CHOICE

 

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During his campaign, Donald Trump promised a near-dismantling of the Dodd-Frank Act, the core piece of financial reform legislation enacted following the 2007-2008 financial crisis. [1] He doubled down on that promise once in office, vowing to both “do a big number” on and give “a very major haircut” to Dodd-Frank. [2] In early February, he took the first step in fulfilling this dangerous promise by signing an executive order directing U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin to conduct a review of Dodd-Frank. [3] Per the executive order, Secretary Mnuchin will present the findings in early June. [4] While the country waits for President Trump’s plan, it is useful to analyze one prominent way Trump and Congress might choose to gut financial reform—through the Financial CHOICE Act, or FCA. [5]

Introduced in the last Congress by U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and expected to be reintroduced in the coming weeks, the Financial CHOICE Act offers a blueprint for how Trump might view these issues. During the presidential campaign, Rep. Hensarling briefed Trump on his ideas regarding financial deregulation and was reportedly on Trump’s short list for treasury secretary. [6] The FCA would deregulate the financial industry and put the U.S. economy in the same perilous position it was in right before the 2007–2008 financial crisis. The precrisis regime of weak regulation and little oversight created an environment of unchecked financial sector risk and widespread predatory consumer practices, which precipitated the Great Recession and brought the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse. And the argument repeated by President Trump and other advocates of financial deregulatory proposals—that bank lending has been crushed under the weight of financial regulations over the past six years—has been thoroughly debunked by bank lending data. [7]

Before delving into the specifics of the Financial CHOICE Act, it is helpful to put Rep. Hensarling’s deregulatory efforts in context. To justify dismantling financial reform, President Trump and his congressional allies know that they must outline a problem. President Trump argues that the main problem with financial reform is bank lending. He believes that banks are not making enough loans due to the burdens of Dodd-Frank. What is his evidence? Nothing more than anecdotal remarks that his friends cannot get loans. [8] As Figure 1 demonstrates, a lack of loans is simply not the case. Overall lending and business lending in particular, has increased significantly since the financial crisis and the passage of Dodd-Frank. Moreover, credit card lending, auto lending, and mortgage lending have increased since 2010, when Dodd-Frank was passed. [9] Bank profits are also higher than ever. [10]

 

 

Chairman Hensarling makes similar arguments about the perceived unavailability of credit, adding that financial reform has not encouraged economic growth and has hurt community banks. [11] Again, the data contradict these charges. Figure 2 highlights the steady economic growth the country experienced under President Barack Obama. And while the scars of the devastating Great Recession remain, the financial reforms put in place to prevent the recurrence of exactly that kind of economic catastrophe have not damaged growth. Indeed, since the end of the financial crisis and the passage of Dodd-Frank, community bank lending and profitability are both up. [12] It is fair to say that the number of community banks has declined over time. This trend, however, started in the 1980s and is caused by economies of scale, technology, and long-running trends toward banking deregulation, as well as other factors—not the 2010 passage of the Dodd-Frank Act. [13]

 

 

Hensarling presents his approach as a moderate adjustment to Dodd-Frank, but in reality it is a thorough demolition of financial reform. The complete publication (available here) analyzes how Hensarling’s approach erodes the financial stability safeguards that the real economy needs to thrive, from mitigation of systemic risk to financial sector accountability and consumer protection. It also explains how the bill further concentrates—and makes even more unaccountable—economic power in the hands of those that will serve their own interests at the expense of the real economy. Finally, the report details how the FCA eliminates the consumer and investor protections that guard against the predatory financial practices that wreaked havoc on consumers and investors prior to the financial crisis.

It is necessary to note that just about every provision in the report could fit under the rubric of financial stability safeguards. For example, consumer financial protection protects ordinary consumers from abuses and the broader financial system from the proliferation of dangerous consumer loans that can bring down entire firms and markets. Similarly, the Volcker Rule is a key bulwark against the high-risk bets that brought down major firms in 2008, and yet it also aims to reorient large bank trading toward real economy-serving purposes. The report discusses certain provisions under one section rather than another should not be taken as a substantive comment on the merit or usefulness of the provision to financial stability. The report’s different sections reflect an effort to highlight how the Dodd-Frank Act and financial reform yield a broad array of public benefits. Similarthe report highlights examples of broader themes in the FCA rather than focusing on minute details: Failure to discuss any particular provision should not be read as a substantive judgment regarding its relative merits.

The report is based on the version of the Financial CHOICE Act released in September 2016, as well as a memo outlining this year’s planned changes to that version. [14] A new version, which may have some further modifications, is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Financial reform enacted through the Dodd-Frank Act has made a lot of necessary progress since the crisis. U.S. banks have more substantial loss-absorbing capital cushions, increasingly rely on stable sources of funding, undergo rigorous stress testing, and plan for their orderly failure. President Trump’s intent to dismantle these reforms only helps Wall Street’s bottom line—ignoring the memory of every family who lost their home, every worker who lost his or her job, and every consumer who was peddled a toxic financial product. [15]

The question remains: What is the problem President Trump and his allies in Congress are trying to solve? Lending is up. Bank profits are up. Consumer credit costs are down. The economy is steadily improving. Yes, much more needs to be done to make the economy work for hard-working Americans, but financial deregulation is not the path to that end. [16] In fact, it is a path toward exactly the opposite: booms and busts that leave taxpayers holding the bag for Wall Street’s excesses, greater concentration of economic power and less accountability for wrongdoing that harms ordinary consumers and investors, and major changes to financial regulation and monetary policy that would damage the real economy. Now that is a problem.

The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Endnotes

1Billy House and Kevin Cirilli, “Trump’s Dodd-Frank Plan Will Be Early Test of Republican Unity,” Bloomberg, May 19, 2016, available at https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-05-19/trump-s-dodd-frank-plan-will-be-early-test-of-republican-unity. (go back)

2Glenn Thrush, “Trump Vows to Dismantle Dodd-Frank ‘Disaster,’” The New York Times, January 30, 2017, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/30/us/politics/trump-dodd-frank-regulations.html?_r=0; Jessica Dye, “Trump vows ‘major haircut’ for Dodd-Frank,” Financial Times, April 4, 2017, available at https://www.ft.com/content/fb08a355-f7fc-3021-8c92-d94af9a2f35b. (go back)

3Executive Order no. 13,772, Code of Federal Regulations (2017), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/03/presidential-executive-order-core-principles-regulating-united-states. (go back)

4Ibid. (go back)

5Financial CHOICE Act of 2016, H. Rept. 5983, 114 Cong. 2 sess. (Government Printing Office, 2016), available at https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/hr5983/BILLS-114hr5983rh.pdf. (go back)

6Donna Borak, “Donald Trump, Jeb Hensarling Meet on Dodd-Frank Alternative,” The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2016, available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-jeb-hensarling-meet-on-dodd-frank-alternative-1465335535; Damien Palette, Ryan Tracy, and Michael C. Bender, “Trump Team Considering Rep. Jeb Hensarling as Treasury Secretary,” The Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2016, available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-considering-rep-jeb-hensarling-as-treasury-secretary-1478812583. (go back)

7Jim Puzzanghera, “Trump says businesses can’t borrow because of Dodd-Frank. The numbers tell another story,” Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2017, available at http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-trump-bank-loans-20170226-story.html; Matt Egan, “Banks are lending a ton, despite Trump’s claims,” CNN Money, February 13, 2017, available at http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/13/investing/bank-business-lending-dodd-frank-trump/. (go back)

8Zeke Faux, Yalman Onaran, and Jennifer Surane, “Trump Cites Friends to Say Banks Aren’t Making Loans. They Are.,” Bloomberg, February 4, 2017, available at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-04/trump-cites-friends-to-say-banks-aren-t-making-loans-they-are. (go back)

9Kate Berry, “Four myths in the battle over Dodd-Frank,” American Banker, March 10, 2017, available at https://www.americanbanker.com/news/four-myths-in-the-battle-over-dodd-frank. (go back)

10Matt Egan, “American bank profits are higher than ever,” CNN Money, March 3, 2017, available at http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/03/investing/bank-profits-record-high-dodd-frank/. (go back)

11Jeb Hensarling, “After Five Years, Dodd-Frank Is a Failure,” The Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2015, available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/after-five-years-dodd-frank-is-a-failure-1437342607. (go back)

12Gregg Gelzinis and others, “The Importance of Dodd-Frank, in 6 Charts,” Center for American Progress, March 27, 2017, available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/news/2017/03/27/429256/importance-dodd-frank-6-charts/. (go back)

13Ibid. (go back)

14Ylan Mui, “Memo from a key congressman outlines plan to gut Dodd-Frank bank rules,” CNBC, February 9, 2017, available at http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/09/dodd-frank-hensarling-memo-reveals-plan-to-scrap-bank-regulations.html. (go back)

15Wall Street is not monolithic, and firms may have differing views on the provisions of the Financial CHOICE Act, but on the whole, this agenda is clearly aligned with the interests of financial institutions and not the American public.

_______________________________________

*Gregg Gelzinis is a Special Assistant for the Economic Policy team at the Center for American Progress. This post is based on a Center for American Progress publication by Mr. Gelzinis, Ethan GurwitzSarah Edelman, and Joe Valenti. Additional posts addressing legal and financial implications of the Trump administration are available here.

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