Gouvernance des sociétés : de nombreux défis pour les conseils d’administration en 2012

Excellent article par Brendan Sheehan dans Boardmember.com qui présente les perspectives nouvelles qui s’offrent aux C.A. et aux hauts dirigeants des sociétés cotées en bourse en 2012. De nombreux défis attendent les administrateurs en réponse aux demandes pressantes de groupes d’actionnaires « activistes » , notamment  l’Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS). Je vous encourage à lire l’article au complet mais voici un court extrait :


Gouvernance des sociétés : de nombreux défis pour les conseils d’administration en 2012

« The failure of prominent companies, ongoing scandals, and the stubbornly persistent financial crisis have dramatically changed the landscape for managements and directors at U.S. public companies and provided new vigor to activist shareholders and governance commentators. For boards of directors, keeping track of the latest reforms and ensuring the company is fully compliant has become an even more complicated puzzle.

Many of the post-Enron reforms have concentrated on enhancing transparency and boosting disclosure in proxy statements and other corporate filings. The end result is while shareholders have greater insight into the companies they own, they also now demand a louder voice in the way companies are being managed and directed, even down to who gets hired and how much they get paid. This, in turn, has led to what many observers have characterized as the pendulum swinging too far to one side, creating a need for balance.

In the meantime, with activists gaining broader access to corporate boards and with disclosure policies constantly expanding, directors and management are becoming increasingly more concerned about what shareholders think. This time of year, that interest manifests itself in trying to figure out what is going to happen during proxy season. How are people going to vote? What will be the hot-button issues? Where will the surprises come from?

As with most things, in order to predict the future it can be instructive to look at the past. An examination of recent voting results and proposal activity reveals that, despite all the talk about the shifting focus of activists, the same proposals that surface every year continue to dominate the voting agenda. Majority voting dominated the proposals, as it has in the last four or five years, followed by the repeal of classified board structure, rights to call special meetings, and rights to act by written consent. These four areas have been among the most prevalent proposal topics for many years, and companies generally understand how to address the surrounding issues. Compensation-related proposals were strongly featured as well, and are likely to be the main focus in 2012.

That being said, several new disclosure rules were enacted in late 2010 and during 2011 that, as investors have time to examine the disclosures and get comfortable with them, could spark an increase in activity. In short, most experts feel that investors will start to move away from simple issues like board structure and poison pills and engage with boards on more complicated—and possibly more important—risk- and performance-related issues ».