Voici une étude vraiment très intéressante publiée par David A. Bell* associé de la firme Fenwick & West LLP, et paru sur le blogue du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.
L’auteur étudie les caractéristiques des pratiques de gouvernance des entreprises du Silicon Valley 150 Index [SV 150] et des sociétés publiques du S&P 100 et il décortique les changements significatifs au cours des dernières années eu égard aux éléments suivants :
Actions à multiples votes — leur utilisation a triplé depuis 4 ans dans les entreprises du Silicon Valley 150 Index [SV 150].
Élection d’administrateurs à des périodes différentes [Classified Boards] — peu de changement à cet égard, les entreprises en faisant usage encore à environ 50 %
Administrateurs internes — le nombre d’administrateurs issus de la direction est en diminution constante depuis 5 ans.
Leadership du CA — la combinaison des rôles de président du conseil et de PDG est encore très importante dans les deux cas. Les entreprises de la Silicon Valley sont moins susceptibles d’avoir le même président du conseil et PDG (35 % des entreprises du SV 150, comparé à 76%des sociétés du S&P 100).
Diversité des genres — on constate un accroissement du nombre de femmes sur les conseils. Les femmes représentent 19,1 % des membres des 15 plus grandes entreprises du SV 150 et 21,6 % des femmes du S&P 100.
Vote à la majorité —le vote à la majorité est de plus en plus adopté par les sociétés du S&P 100 (92 %), comparativement aux entreprises du SV 150 (47 %).
Règles concernant l’acquisition d’actions par la direction — elles sont de plus en plus répandues (96 % dans les sociétés du S&P 100, comparées à 61 % dans les entreprises du SV 150)
Administrateurs dirigeants — on note une diminution significative du nombre d’administrateurs provenant de la haute direction des entreprises au cours de 10 dernières années (de 8,8 à 6,2 dans les entreprises du SV 150, et de 13,2 à 10,7 dans les sociétés du S&P 100).
Je vous invite à lire l’article au complet si vous souhaitez avoir plus d’information sur l’une ou l’autre de ces pratiques. Voici un résumé des principales conclusions.
Bonne lecture !
Since 2003, Fenwick has collected a unique body of information on the corporate governance practices of publicly traded companies that is useful for Silicon Valley companies and publicly-traded technology and life science companies across the U.S. as well as public companies and their advisors generally. Fenwick’s annual survey covers a variety of corporate governance practices and data for the companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100) and the high technology and life science companies included in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150). 
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:
- Dual-class Stock. There is a clear multi-year trend of increasing use of dual-class stock structures among SV 150 companies, which allow founders or other major long-term holders to retain control of a company through special shares with outsized voting rights. Their use has tripled since 2011 to 9.4%, up from 2.9%.
- Classified Boards. Companies in the S&P 100 have inherent protection from hostile takeovers in part due to their much larger size, so we’ve seen them declassify in recent years from ~47% a little more than a decade ago down to only 10% in the 2015 proxy season (though that is unchanged from 2014). During that same 10 year period the number of SV 150 companies with classified boards has held firm at ~45%, though with the top 15 companies in Silicon Valley (measured by revenue) now having rates lower than their S&P 100 peers.
- Insiders. While there has been a longer term downward trend in insiders in both groups, the percentage of insider directors has held essentially steady over the past five years in the SV 150 but has declined slightly in the S&P 100 over the same period.
- Board Leadership. Silicon Valley companies are also substantially less likely to have a combined chair/CEO (35% compared to 76% in the S&P 100). Where there is a board chair separate from the CEO, the S&P 100 are about as likely as SV 150 companies to have a non-insider chair (in the 2015 proxy season, 58% compared to 60%, respectively).
- Gender Diversity. Overall, 2015 continued the long term trend in the SV 150 of gradually increasing numbers of women directors (both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of board members), as well as the trend of declining numbers of boards without women members. The rate of increase for the SV 150 continues to be higher than among S&P 100 companies. Women directors make up an average of 19.1% of board members among the top 15 companies of the SV 150, compared to 21.6% among their peers in the S&P 100. The number of SV 150 companies without women directors fell to 48 (compared to 57 in the 2014 proxy season and 72 companies as recently as the 2012 proxy season).
- Majority Voting. While there is a clear trend toward adoption of some form of majority voting in both groups, the rate of adoption remains substantially higher among S&P 100 companies (92% compared to 47% of SV 150 companies in the 2015 proxy season, in each case unchanged from the 2014 proxy season), although in the S&P 100 majority voting declined 5% from the 2011 proxy season (compared to an 11% increase for the SV 150).
- Stock Ownership Guidelines. Stock ownership guidelines for executive officers remain substantially more common among S&P 100 companies (in the 2015 proxy season, 96% compared to 61% in the SV 150), though there was a marked increase among the SV 150 in the 2015 proxy season. There has been a substantial increase for both groups over the course of the survey (from 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 10% lower for directors compared to officers over the period of the survey, while the SV 150 has been slightly higher for directors compared to officers in recent years).
- Executive Officers. 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, which continued in the 2015 proxy season. The SV 150 moved from an average of 8.8, maximum of 18 and minimum of 4 in the 1996 proxy season to an average of 6.2, maximum of 14 and minimum of 2 in the 2012 proxy season. The S&P 100 companies moved from an average of 13.2, maximum of 41 and minimum of 5 in 1996 proxy season to an average of 10.7, maximum of 21 and minimum of 3 in the 2014 proxy season.
In complete publication, available here, we present statistical information for a subset of the data we have collected over eleven years. These include:
– makeup of board leadership
– number of insider directors
– gender diversity on boards of directors
– size and number of meetings for boards and their primary committees
– frequency and number- of other standing committees
– majority voting
– board classification
– use of a dual-class voting structure
– frequency and coverage of executive officer and director stock ownership guidelines
– frequency and number of shareholder proposals
– number of executive officers
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 company size or scale on the relevant governance practices.
The complete publication is available here.
*David A. Bell is partner in the corporate and securities group at Fenwick & West LLP. This post is based on portions of a Fenwick publication titled Corporate Governance Practices and Trends: A Comparison of Large Public Companies and Silicon Valley Companies (2015 Proxy Season).