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Les particularités de la gouvernance des entreprises de haute technologie

8 décembre 2013

Voici un billet de  David A. Bell, associé de la firme Fenwick & West LLP qui a récemment été publié sur le blogue du Harvard Law School. Ce texte est un résumé de la publication Corporate Governance Practices and Trends: A Comparison of Large Public Companies and Silicon Valley Companies (2013) dont le texte complet est disponible ici.

Depuis 2003, Fenwick fait l’inventaire des pratiques de gouvernance issues des corporations du Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100) qui sont pertinentes pour les entreprises de haute technologie cotées de la Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150). Vous trouverez dans le document ci-joint des données comparatives, souvent étonnantes et très significatives, entre les deux groupes sur les thèmes suivants :

  1. Composition du conseil d’administration;
  2. Nombre d’administrateurs exécutifs sur le conseil;
  3. Diversité du membership, notamment la proportion de femmes;
  4. La taille et le nombre de réunions du C.A. et de ses comités statutaires;
  5. Les pratiques du « majority voting » et du « board classification »;
  6. L’utilisation de la structure du vote à classes multiples;
  7. Les directives concernant l’actionnariat des administrateurs;
  8. La fréquence ainsi que le nombre de propositions des actionnaires activistes.

Je vous invite à lire cet extrait, puis si vous souhaitez en savoir plus, lisez aussi le résumé du HLS. Enfin, si l’étude détaillée vous intéresse vous pouvez vous procurer le rapport complet ici.

Corporate Governance at Silicon Valley Companies 2013

In each case, comparative data is presented for the S&P 100 companies and for the high technology and life science companies included in the SV 150, as well as trend information over the history of the survey. In a number of instances we also present data showing comparison of the top 15, top 50, middle 50 and bottom 50 companies of the SV 150 (in terms of revenue), illustrating the impact of scale on the relevant governance practices.

Significant Findings

Governance practices and trends (or perceived trends) among the largest companies are generally presented as normative for all public companies. However, it is also somewhat axiomatic that corporate governance practices should be tailored to suit the circumstances of the individual company involved. Among the significant differences between the corporate governance practices of the SV 150 high technology and life science companies and the uniformly large public companies of the S&P 100 are:

English: Apple's headquarters at Infinite Loop...

English: Apple’s headquarters at Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The number of executive officers tends to be substantially lower in the SV 150 than in the S&P 100 (in the 2013 proxy season, average of 6.5 compared to 11.2). In both groups there has been a long-term, slow but steady decline in the average number of executive officers per company, as well as a narrowing in the range of the number of executive officers in each group.

While there has been a general downward trend in both groups, the SV 150 companies continue to be substantially less likely to have a combined board chair/CEO than S&P 100 companies (in the 2013 proxy season, 37% compared to 72%). Where there is a separate chair, they are also substantially more likely to be a non-insider at SV 150 companies (in the 2013 proxy season, 69% compared to 21%). Lead directors are substantially more common among S&P 100 companies (in the 2013 proxy season, 85% compared to 44%).

The S&P 100 companies tend to have larger boards than SV 150 companies (average of 12.0 compared to average of 8.1 in the 2013 proxy season), and tend toward larger primary committees (audit, compensation and nominating). They are also substantially more likely to have other standing committees (83% of S&P 100 companies do, compared to 23% of SV 150 companies in the 2013 proxy season).

Female directors are substantially more common among S&P 100 companies whether measured in terms of average number of female directors (in the 2013 proxy season, 2.4 compared to 0.8) or in terms of average percentage of each board that are women (in the 2013 proxy season, 19.9% compared to 9.1%). While female board membership peaked among SV 150 companies in the 2008 proxy season (average of 12.3% compared to 17.2% for the S&P 100), the overall trend is clearly upward in both groups (compared to averages of 10.9% in the S&P 100 and 2.1% in the SV 150 in the 1996 proxy season). From the 1996 through 2013 proxy seasons, the percentage of companies with no women directors declined from 11% to 2% in the S&P 100 and 82% to 43% in the SV 150.

SV 150 companies continue to have more insiders as a percentage of the full board, while S&P 100 companies continue to have more insider directors measured in absolute numbers (while there has been and longer term downward trend in insiders, both groups have held essentially steady over the past five proxy seasons).

While there is a clear trend toward adoption of some form of majority voting in both groups, the rate of adoption is substantially higher among S&P 100 companies (92% compared to 44% of SV 150 companies in the 2013 proxy season), although it declined 5% from the 2011 proxy season (compared to a 7% increase for the SV 150).

Stock ownership guidelines for executive officers are substantially more common among S&P 100 companies (in the 2013 proxy season, 95% compared to 53%), although that is a substantial increase for both groups over the course of the survey (compared to 58% for the S&P 100 and 8% for the SV 150 in 2004), including a 9% increase in the SV 150 over the last year. Similar trends hold for stock ownership guidelines covering board members (although the S&P 100 percentage is about 20% lower for directors over the period of the survey).

While classified boards used to be similarly common among both groups (about 44% for S&P 100 and 47% for SV 150 in 2004), there has been a marked long-term decline in the rate of their use among S&P 100 companies but not among SV 150 companies (11% for S&P 100 compared to 45% for SV 150 in the 2013 proxy season). Our data shows that within the SV 150, the rate of adoption fairly closely tracks with the size of company (measured by revenue).

Stockholder activism, measured in the form of proposals included in the proxy statements of companies, continues to be substantially lower among the high technology and life science companies in the SV 150 than among S&P 100 companies (whether measured in terms of frequency of inclusion of any such proposals or in terms of number of proposals). However, over the last two proxy seasons, the largest companies in the SV 150 have closed the gap and are now comparable to the S&P 100 in terms of frequency of having a least one such proposal.

Corporate Governance at Silicon Valley (venitism.blogspot.com)

Réflexions capitales pour les Boards en 2014 – The Harvard Law School (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

2013 Annual Corporate Governance Review (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

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