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Propositions des actionnaires américains lors des assemblées annuelles | Tendances observées

23 juillet 2013

Laura J. Finn responsable du blogue Trending in Governance, l’un des blogues en gouvernance du NYSE, nous présente les résultats d’une recherche effectuée sur le site proxymonitor.org qui inventorie l’ensemble des propositions des actionnaires pour les prochaines assemblées annuelles. L’auteure identifie cinq catégories de proposition susceptibles de recevoir un appui significatif des actionnaires :

1. Limiter le nombre de mandats des administrateurs

2. S’incorporer au Delaware

3. Adopter une politique sur la diversité du conseil

4. Limiter la durée des mandats des administrateurs

5. Planifier la succession du PCD

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, les détails concernant ces propositions. Cette tendance générale est-elle également observée au Canada ? Bonne lecture.

Cinq tendances dans les propositions des actionnaires aux É.U. 

(Five Coming Trends in Shareholder Proposals)

Every year shareholders file proposals that garner barely any votes cast in favor by their fellow shareholders. Nevertheless, I like to keep an eye on the “off-beat” corporate governance proposals that are filed each year to see if there may be a coming trend. Here are five such proposals that may gain traction in coming proxy seasons:
1- Curb Excessive Directorships – filed by Kenneth Steiner at three companies this year: AIG, Bank of America, and Exxon Mobil. None of the proposals received more than 6% of votes cast in favor,  but Steiner raised the point that overextended directors may be bad for corporate governance. In the case of AIG, he noted that GMI Ratings, formerly Corporate Library, has rated the company a “high governance risk” since 2007. In all three proposals he asked his fellow shareholders to vote in favor of his proposal “to protect shareholder value.” Apparently, the other shareholders don’t see directors serving on 3 or more boards as problematic.

Network diagram showing corporate interlocks w...

2- Re-incorporate in Delaware – filed by Gerald Armstrong at Chesapeake Energy Corp. This proposal is particularly interesting. After years of shareholders voting in the majority on a number of proposals, like declassifying the board and enacting majority voting, and the company not heeding shareholders’ votes, Armstrong filed this proposal to re-incorporate in the state of Delaware because the state “is known for fairness and integrity.”  Currently, Chesapeake is incorporated in Oklahoma and Armstrong believes the company worked with state legislature to create a law that “all corporations incorporated in Oklahoma with more than 1,000 shareholders be required to have a classified board of directors with three-year terms for each director.” Chesapeake opposed the proposal and the majority of shareholders sided with the company. This energy company is not Delaware-bound, at least for now.

3- Adopt Policy on Board Diversity – filed by NYC Pension Funds at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Currently, the company has no women or minorities on its board, so the purpose of the proposal is four-fold: to include women and minority candidates in the pool of board candidates, expand director searches to include “nominees from both non-executive corporate positions and non-traditional environments such government, academia, and non-profit organizations,” review board composition periodically to find and fill knowledge gaps, and report on the process to shareholders. The company stated in its opposition that it “believes that this proposal would not improve its ability to select the most suitable and qualified candidates for membership on the board and would impose unnecessary administrative burdens and costs.” The shareholders will vote on this proposal next week, July 16. Stay tuned.

4- Director Term Limits – filed by Dennis Rocheleau at General Electric. He argued that term limits “apply to the President of the United States and are in effect for directors at a number of Fortune 500 firms” and believes that GE “need[s] a better board and the sooner the better.” GE argued that term limits would “prevent qualified, experienced and effect directors from serving on the board” and further explained the company believes the proposal was motivated by Rocheleau’s desire to remove specific directors. Shareholders sided with GE, giving a vote of confidence to the company’s nomination and evaluation process.

5- CEO Succession Planning – filed by Laborers’ District Council & Contractors of Ohio at Google. A dozen similar proposals have been filed at Fortune 250 companies in the past three years, though none have received majority support. Google opposed the proposal, stating: “The Leadership Development and Compensation Committee reviews at least annually and recommends to the full board of directors plans for the development, retention, and replacement of executive officers, including the Chief Executive Officer.” At this time, the majority of shareholders feel confident in the board’s ability to handle succession planning without a formal policy.

Shareholder Proposal Developments During the 2013 Proxy Season (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

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