Les conséquences de l’activisme des actionnaires sur l’efficacité de la gouvernance | Un point de vue controversé !


Voici un document très engagé de la firme Latham & Watkins sur la progression de l’activisme en gouvernance des sociétés. Comme vous le constaterez, la firme Lathan & Watkins présente un tableau assez sombre de l’avenir d’une gouvernance marquée par les recommandations de firmes procurant des avis « indépendants »  telles que ISS et Glass Lewis. Selon cet article, l’activisme des actionnaires et des investisseurs institutionnels est alimenté par tout un courant de pensée (« alternate universe ») en gouvernance qui, toujours selon l’article, va à l’encontre de la création de valeur des entreprises américaines cotées en bourse.

Selon l’article, l’adoption de la législation Dodd-Frank qui oblige le vote annuel « Say on Pay » est une victoire pour les défenseurs de la saine gouvernance. Il semble que l’activisme comme mécanisme de régulation de la gouvernance est en forte progression même, si selon les auteurs, c’est une pure perte de temps, d’énergie et d’argent.

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, quelques extraits de la lettre de la firme Latham & Watkins Corporate Governance Commentary. Pour simplifier la lecture j’ai enlevé les références aux citations que vous pourrez retrouver dans l’article original ci-joint. On y présente des arguments qui vont souvent à l’encontre des croyances populaires ! Le moins que l’on puisse dire, c’est que les auteurs n’y vont pas avec le dos de la cuillère !  Bonne lecture. Vos commentaires sont appréciés.

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« Corporate governance activism seems to be going from strength to strength, with Say on Pay providing new leverage and, as important, a new cause with great visceral appeal ».

English: Study on alternative investments by i...
English: Study on alternative investments by institutional investors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Corporate Governance Activism : Here To Stay ?

« Corporate governance activism’s fundamental structure as an alternate universe, essentially separate from the value creation function of its institutional investor clientele, has not changed and is not likely to do so in the future. The proxy advisory services, principally ISS and Glass Lewis, are a permanent part of the alternate universe of corporate governance and the crucial enablers of the universe’s key function — exercise of the share voting franchise ».

« Missing from most discussions of the alternate corporate governance universe are:

  1. Recognition that the inhabitants of the parallel universe of corporate governance are not principals in their own right, but rather merely agents of the institutional investor industry, which in turn is an agent of the ultimate beneficial owners of the bulk of the equity securities of US companies.
  2. Consideration of the large and growing agency costs imposed on the ultimate beneficial owners of public companies by the corporate governance universe, not only as a result of its own operation and growth, but also as a result of the significant expansion of the governance function at public companies needed to cope with the demands and distractions of corporate governance activism.
  3. Most fundamentally, understanding that the foundation of the parallel universe of corporate governance activism — the precept that the shares of all portfolio companies be voted on all matters — is not imposed by the fiduciary duties of institutional investors. Rather, it is the product of a misreading of the legal requirements of fiduciary principles which, properly understood, require voting of shares by fiduciaries only if doing so creates more value than cost — a test that is clearly not met in most voting situations ».

« The obvious path of correction would be:

  1. Recognition that there is no convincing empirical evidence that voting to advance so-called corporate governance best practices causes value creation.
  2. Adherence by institutional investors to the cost benefit analysis that should be the basis for each voting decision, rather than simply voting all shares on all matters utilizing the cumbersome and costly machinery of corporate governance’s alternate universe.
  3. Dismantling of the unnecessary and costly corporate governance universe that has developed at institutional investors and at portfolio companies, along with the enablers of that universe (including, in particular, the proxy advisory firms), thereby eliminating unnecessary agency costs from our public company governance structure ».

« Share voting decision makers at most institutional investors inhabit an alternate universe from investment decision makers.

Two incompatible economic and philosophical belief systems drive these alternate universes :

  1. Investing professionals, overwhelmingly, are rationally apathetic about exercising the voting franchise embedded in stock ownership. Absent a readily observable and positive correlation between exercise of the corporate franchise and creation of shareholder value (as is the case in most M&A votes and proxy contests), investing professionals view the task of making voting decisions on each ballot item for each of their portfolio companies as not merely time consuming and distracting but, worse, economically wasteful.
  2. On the other hand, notwithstanding the lack of a demonstrable connection between what is labeled good corporate governance and a positive increase in share valuation, corporate governance advocates continue to maintain that good corporate governance does, in the aggregate, enhance share values. Accordingly, in their view, voting on all ballot issues at each and every portfolio company in order to achieve better corporate governance is a value creator. Starting from this core ideology, corporate governance advocates have successfully persuaded many national politicians, most regulators of the securities and investment industries and virtually all of the financial press, that its so-called corporate governance best practices are an essential requirement for shareholder value creation and that professional investment managers, as a matter of their fiduciary duty to their customers, should be required to vote all portfolio shares on all ballot matters ».
  1. Corporate Governance After the Financial Crisis (delawarelitigation.com)
  2. Myths and Realities of Say on Pay « Engagement » (blogs.law.harvard.edu)
  3. Why Corporate Governance Isn’t Working (daviddoughty.wordpress.com)
  4. ISS and Glass Lewis 2013 season guidelines address compensation, governance (business.financialpost.com)
  5. Les facteurs-clés à prendre en considération par les administrateurs de sociétés en 2013 (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)