Je crois que cet article intéressera tous les administrateurs siégeant à des conseils d’administration. Personnellement, je suis très heureux de constater que la démarche ait consisté en des rencontres avec des groupes d’administrateurs chevronnés.
Plusieurs messages très pertinents ressortent des rencontres. Ils sont regroupés selon les catégories suivantes :
La taille du conseil
La composition du conseil
La présidence du conseil
L’évaluation du conseil
Information et prise de décision
Les comités du conseil
Je vous invite à lire l’ensemble du document sur le site de l’IGOPP. Voici un extrait de cet article.
« Une longue expérience comme administrateur de sociétés mène souvent au constat que la qualité de la gouvernance et l’efficacité d’un conseil tiennent à des facteurs subtils, difficilement quantifiables, mais tout aussi importants, voire plus importants, que les aspects fiduciaires et formels.
Cette dimension informelle de la gouvernance prend forme et substance dans les échanges, les interactions sociales, l’encadrement des discussions, le style de leadership du président du conseil, dans tout ce qui se passe avant et après les réunions formelles ainsi qu’autour de la table au moment des réunions du conseil et de ses comités.
Cela est vrai pour tout type de sociétés, que ce soient une entreprise cotée en bourse, un organisme public, une société d’État, une coopérative ou un organisme sans but lucratif.
L’IGOPP estime que pour relever encore l’efficacité des conseils d’administration il est important de bien comprendre ce qui peut contribuer à une dynamique productive entre les membres d’un conseil.
Pourtant, alors que les études sur tous les aspects de la gouvernance foisonnent, cet aspect fait l’objet de peu de recherches empiriques, et ce pour une raison bien simple. Les conseils d’administration ne peuvent donner à des chercheurs un accès direct à leurs réunions ni à leur documentation en raison des contraintes de confidentialité.
Le professeur Richard Leblanc, grâce au réseau de son directeur de thèse de doctorat et co-auteur James Gillies, a pu, rare exception, observer un certain nombre de conseils d’administration en action. Ils ont publié en 2005 un ouvrage Inside the Boardroom, lequel propose une intéressante typologie des comportements dominants des membres de conseil au cours de réunions.
Depuis aucune autre étude empirique n’a été menée sur le sujet. D’ailleurs, l’ouvrage de Leblanc et Gillies, se limitant aux comportements observables lors de réunions formelles, ne nous éclairait que sur une partie du phénomène »
« L’IGOPP a voulu mieux comprendre cette dynamique et, si possible, proposer aux administrateurs et présidents de conseil des suggestions pouvant améliorer la qualité de la gouvernance.
L’IGOPP a donc invité des membres de conseil expérimentés et férus de gouvernance pour un échange sur cet enjeu. Les 14 personnes suivantes ont accepté promptement notre invitation et nous les en remercions chaleureusement:
Jean La Couture
David L. McAusland
Jean-Marie Toulouse, qui a agi comme modérateur des discussions.
Collectivement, nos interlocuteurs siègent au sein de 75 conseils, dont 34 sont des sociétés ouvertes parmi lesquelles 14 ont leur siège hors Québec.
Nous avons tenu quatre sessions, chacune comptant un petit nombre d’administrateurs, de façon à ce que les discussions permettent à tous de s’exprimer pleinement.
Ces sessions furent riches en commentaires, observations pertinentes et suggestions utiles ».
Plusieurs messages très pertinents ressortent des rencontres. Ils sont regroupés selon les catégories suivantes :
La taille du conseil
La composition du conseil
La présidence du conseil
L’évaluation du conseil
Information et prise de décision
Les comités du conseil
En conclusion, l’auteur mentionne que « ce texte tente de rendre justice aux échanges entre les 14 administrateurs chevronnés qui ont participé à cette recherche de pistes d’amélioration de la dynamique des conseils d’administration et donc de la gouvernance de nos sociétés ».
Au lendemain du référendum mené en Grande-Bretagne (GB), on peut se demander quelles sont les implications juridiques d’une telle décision. Celles-ci sont nombreuses ; plusieurs scénarios peuvent être envisagés pour prévoir l’avenir des relations entre la GB et l’Union européenne (UE).
Ben Perry de la firme Sullivan & Cromwell et Simon Witty de la firme Davis Polk & Wardwell ont exploré toutes les facettes légales de cette nouvelle situation dans deux articles parus récemment sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.
Ce sont deux articles très approfondis sur les répercussions du Brexit. On doit admettre que le processus de retrait de l’UE est complexe, qu’il y a plusieurs modèles dont la GB peut s’inspirer (Suisse, Norvégien, Islandais, Liechtenstein), et que le vote n’a pas d’effets légaux immédiats. En fait, le processus de sortie et de renégociation peut durer trois ans !
Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de ces deux articles afin d’être mieux informés sur les principales avenues conséquentes au retrait de la GB de l’UE.
Aujourd’hui, je vous présente le texte de l’article de Witty (The Legal Consequences of Brexit) qui met l’accent sur les répercussions prévisibles qu’aura ce retrait sur le marché des capitaux, les fusions et acquisitions, les différends liés aux contrats, les lois antitrusts, les services financiers et les mesures de taxation.
On June 23, 2016, the UK electorate voted to leave the European Union. The referendum was advisory rather than mandatory and does not have any immediate legal consequences. It will, however, have a profound effect. With any next steps being driven by UK and EU politics, it is difficult to predict the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU. This post discusses the process for Brexit, the alternative models of relationship that the UK may seek to adopt, and certain implications for the capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, contractual disputes and enforcement, anti-trust, financial services and tax.
The process for exiting the EU
The treaties that govern the EU expressly contemplate a member state leaving. Under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the UK must notify the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU. Once notice is given, the UK has two years to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal. Any extension of the negotiation period will require the consent of all 27 remaining member states. When to invoke the Article 50 mechanism is, therefore, a strategically important decision. In a statement announcing his intention to resign as Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron stated that the decision to provide notice under Article 50 to the European Council should be taken by the next Prime Minister, who is expected to be in place by October 2016.
Any negotiated agreement will require the support of at least 20 out of the 27 remaining member states, representing at least 65% of the EU’s population, and the approval of the European Parliament. If no agreement is reached or no extension is agreed, the UK will automatically exit the EU two years after the Article 50 notice is given, even if no alternative trading model or arrangement has been negotiated. The UK continues to be a member of the EU in the interim period, subject to all EU legislation and rules.
Alternative models of relationship
It is not clear what model of relationship the UK will seek to negotiate with the EU. In the run-up to the referendum, a number of options were suggested. Politicians in favor of withdrawing from the EU did not coalesce around a specific alternative. It is, therefore, unclear what model will ultimately be followed or whether any of the models could be achieved through the Article 50 process. The principal options are outlined below.
The Norwegian model. The UK might seek to join the European Economic Area, as Norway has. The UK would have considerable access to the internal market, i.e., the association of European countries trading with each other without restrictions or tariffs, including in financial services. The UK would have limited access to the internal market for agriculture and fisheries; and it would not benefit from or be bound by the EU’s external trade agreements. In addition, the UK would have to make significant financial contributions to the EU and continue to allow free movement of persons. It would also have to apply EU law in a number of fields, but the UK would no longer participate in policymaking at the EU level, and would be excluded from participation in the European Supervisory Authorities, the key architects of secondary legislation in the financial services sphere. To adopt this model, the UK would require the agreement of all 27 remaining EU member states, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Negotiated bilateral agreements. Like Switzerland, the UK might seek to enter into various bilateral agreements with the EU to obtain access to the internal market in specific sectors (rather than the market as a whole, which would be the case under the Norwegian model). This model would likely require the UK to accept some of the EU’s rules on free movement of persons and comply with particular EU laws. Again, the UK would not participate formally in the drafting of those laws. The UK would also have to make financial contributions to the EU. Negotiating these bilateral agreements would be a difficult and time-consuming process. Switzerland, for instance, has negotiated more than 100 individual agreements with the EU to cover market access in different sectors. As a result of its complexity, it is unclear whether the EU would work with the UK to negotiate this model within the Article 50 timeframe.
Customs union. A customs union is currently in place between the EU and Turkey in respect of trade in goods, but not services. Under this model, Turkey can export goods to the EU without having to comply with customs restrictions or tariffs. Its external tariffs are also aligned with EU tariffs. The UK might seek to negotiate a similar arrangement with the EU. Under such an arrangement, and unless separately negotiated, UK financial institutions (including UK subsidiaries of US holding companies) would not be able to provide financial and professional services into the EU on equal terms with EU member state firms. For example, the EU passporting regime would not be available, meaning UK firms would have to seek separate licensing in each EU member state to provide certain financial services. Furthermore, in areas where the UK would have access to the internal market, it would likely be required to enforce rules that are equivalent to those in the EU. The UK would not be required to make any financial contributions to the EU, nor would it be bound by the majority of EU law.
Free trade agreement. The UK might seek to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU, which would cover goods and services. To do so, it may look to the agreement that was recently agreed between the EU and Canada after seven years of negotiations. This agreement removes tariffs in respect of trade in goods, as well as certain non-tariff barriers in respect of trade in goods and services. Although the UK would not be required to contribute to the EU budget, its exports to the EU would have to comply with the applicable EU standards.
WTO membership. Under this model, the UK would not have any preferential access to the internal market or the 53 markets with which the EU has negotiated free trade agreements. Tariffs and other barriers would be imposed on goods and services traded between the UK and the EU, although, under WTO rules, certain caps would apply on tariffs applicable to goods, and limits would be imposed on particular non-tariff barriers applicable to goods and services. The UK would no longer be required to make any financial contributions to the EU, nor would it be bound by EU laws (although it would have to comply with certain rules in order to trade with the EU).
Implications for UK legislation
Regardless of which model it adopts, the UK will no longer be required to apply some (if not all) EU legislation. The UK has implemented certain EU laws (generally, EU directives) via primary legislation that will continue to be part of English law, unless these are amended or repealed. Other EU laws (generally, EU regulations) have direct applicability in the UK without the need for implementation, which means that these laws would fall away once the UK withdraws from the EU, unless they are transposed into UK law. Finally, thousands of statutory instruments have been made pursuant to the European Communities Act 1972. If this act is repealed upon the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, then, unless transposed into UK law, these statutory instruments will cease to apply as well. Therefore, the UK will have to perform a complex exercise to determine which EU laws and EU-derived laws it wishes to retain, amend or repeal, driven in part by the nature of any agreement reached with the EU during exit negotiations.
How may Brexit affect you?
The UK’s withdrawal from the EU will impact countless areas of the economy. The following section discusses a number of Brexit’s potential implications for the capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, contractual disputes and enforcement, anti-trust, financial services and tax. The extent to which these areas will be affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will depend on the model of relationship that the UK and the EU adopt following the Brexit negotiations.
The financial markets will likely continue to be volatile, particularly during the Brexit negotiations. This may affect the timing of transactions or their ability to be consummated.
The EU Prospectus Directive, which has been transposed into UK law, governs the content, format, approval and publication of prospectuses throughout the EU. Following eventual Brexit, the UK may no longer be bound by the Prospectus Directive and, thus, may seek to amend its prospectus legislation. For example, the Prospectus Directive provides that a company incorporated in an EU member state must prepare a prospectus if it wishes to offer shares to the public and/or request that shares be admitted to trading in the EU, subject to certain exemptions. The UK may wish to expand these exemptions, so that more offers can be made in the UK without a prospectus. Significantly, the Prospectus Directive also provides for the passporting of prospectuses throughout the EU. This means that a company can use a prospectus that has been approved in one member state to offer shares in any other EU member state. Without this passporting regime, UK companies will have to have their prospectuses approved both in the UK and at least one other member state where they wish to offer their shares, which may be particularly costly and time-consuming if the UK amends, for instance, the content requirements for prospectuses following Brexit, so that these no longer align with those prescribed by the Prospectus Directive.
During the Brexit negotiations, transaction documents may need to include specific Brexit provisions, for example to address the uncertainty around the model of relationship to be adopted.
As a result of ongoing uncertainty around the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU, a number of transactions with a UK nexus may be affected pending the Brexit negotiations.
Share sale transactions generally are not subject to much EU law or regulation. Asset and business sales, however, may be more affected by Brexit. For example, the regulations that protect the rights of employees on a business transfer stem from a European directive. When the UK withdraws from the EU, it may no longer be bound by this directive, and, therefore, the UK may wish to amend or repeal the regulations.
Contractual Disputes and Enforcement
As a member of the EU, the UK is part of a framework for deciding jurisdiction in disputes, recognizing judgments of other member states (and having its own courts’ judgments recognized and enforced throughout the EU) and deciding the governing law of contracts. Following Brexit, the UK may no longer be part of this framework which may affect jurisdiction and governing law choices in transaction documents.
Currently, mergers that fall within the scope of the EU Merger Regulation can receive EU-wide clearance, which means that they are not also required to be cleared by individual member states. Following Brexit, mergers with a UK nexus may need to be reviewed by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority separately.
More generally, UK anti-trust legislation is currently based on, and interpreted in line with, EU law, including decisions of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice. Given that UK courts may no longer be required to interpret national law consistently with EU law once the UK withdraws from the EU, businesses face the prospect of having to comply with divergent systems.
Much of the UK’s financial services regulation is based on EU law. This includes legislation such as the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID), which regulates investment services and trading venues, the European Market Infrastructure Regulation, which regulates the derivatives market, the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, which regulates hedge funds and private equity, and the Capital Requirements Directive and the Capital Requirements Regulation, which together represent the EU’s implementation of the international Basel III accords for the prudential regulation of banks. The Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (“BRRD”) has been implemented into UK law via the Banking Act 2009, so the fundamental bank resolution regime should initially survive Brexit. That said, substantial further EU legislative work is expected in this area to modify BRRD (e.g., in relation to the implementation of the TLAC standard), so it is possible that the regimes could diverge rapidly after Brexit. In general with financial services legislation, an assessment will need to be made whether to align with EU legislation or diverge; the greater the divergence, the more the dual burdens on cross-border firms.
As mentioned above, the UK will likely not be part of the European Supervisory Authorities framework and will have no influence in the development of primary or secondary EU legislation and guidance. The UK has been a significant force in the area of financial services legislation and has driven the introduction of, for instance, the BRRD. The UK’s withdrawal may impact the legislative agenda and ultimately the quality of the legislation produced.
Financial institutions established in EEA member states can obtain a “passport” that allows them to access the markets of other EEA member states without being required to set up a subsidiary and obtain a separate license to operate as a financial services institution in those member states. Following Brexit, UK financial services institutions, including subsidiaries of US and other non-EU parent companies, would no longer be able to benefit from passporting (unless the UK were to join the EEA pursuant to the Norway option described above).
Although the UK will likely remain a member of the EU for a substantial period while negotiations are ongoing, there are pressing questions as to how the UK will engage with the ongoing legislative processes that affect the UK financial services industry. There are a number of areas where framework legislation has been passed already, but key secondary legislation is being developed or revised. These areas include the complete overhaul of MiFID and the Payment Services Directive. Even before the UK leaves the EU, we can expect to see a diminished role for the UK Government, UK regulators and UK market participants in shaping the detailed policies and procedures in those areas.
We expect larger financial institutions in the UK, or those based outside the UK that have significant operations in the UK, will wish to contribute to the negotiation process between the EU and UK. In particular, to the extent a unique model for trading relationships is proposed, these institutions may wish to engage with policymakers to minimize disruption and damage to their EU business model.
The EU has influenced many areas of the UK’s tax system. In some cases, this has been through EU legislation which applies directly in the UK; in other cases, EU rules have been adopted through UK legislation (for example, the UK’s VAT legislation is based on principles which apply across the EU); and, in still other cases, decisions of the European Court of Justice have either influenced the development of UK tax rules, or have prevented the UK’s tax authority from enforcing aspects of the UK’s domestic tax code. This complicated backdrop means that the tax impact of Brexit will be varied and difficult to predict.
Areas to watch include the following:
Direct tax: although the UK has an extensive double tax treaty network, not all treaties provide for zero withholding tax on interest and royalty payments. Accordingly, corporate groups should consider the extent to which existing structures rely on EU rules such as the Parent-Subsidiary Directive or the Interest and Royalties Directive to secure tax efficient payment flows. Similarly, corporate groups proposing to undertake cross border reorganisations would need to consider the extent to which existing cross-EU border merger tax reliefs will survive intact. It should also be borne in mind that, even if Brexit occurs, the UK is likely to continue vigorously supporting the OECD’s BEPS initiative such that there may well be considerable constraints and complexities associated with locating businesses outside the UK.
VAT: although VAT is an EU-wide tax regime, it seems inconceivable that VAT will be abolished. However, it is likely that, over time, there will be a divergence between UK VAT rules and EU VAT rules, including as to input VAT recovery on supplies made to non-UK customers. Additionally, UK companies may lose the administrative benefit of the “one stop shop” for businesses operating in Europe.
Customs duty: if the UK left the customs union, exports to and imports from EU countries may become subject to tariffs or other import duties (as well as additional compliance requirements).
Transfer taxes: it seems that the UK would, at least in principle, be able to (re)impose the 1.5% stamp duty/stamp duty reserve tax charge in respect of UK shares issued or transferred into a clearance or depositary receipt system. Accordingly, the position for UK-headed corporate groups seeking to list on the NYSE or Nasdaq may become less certain.
*Ben Perry is a partner in the London office of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication.
*Simon Witty is a partner in the Corporate Department at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. This post is based on a Davis Polk memorandum.
Au lendemain du référendum mené en Grande-Bretagne (GB), on peut se demander quelles sont les implications juridiques d’une telle décision. Celles-ci sont nombreuses ; plusieurs scénarios peuvent être envisagés pour prévoir l’avenir des relations entre la GB et l’Union européenne (UE).
Ben Perry* de la firme Sullivan & Cromwell a exploré toutes les facettes légales de cette nouvelle situation dans un article paru hier sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.
C’est un article très poussé sur les répercussions du Brexit. On doit admettre que le processus de retrait de l’UE est complexe, qu’il y a plusieurs modèles dont la GB peut s’inspirer (Suisse, Norvégien, Islandais, Liechtenstein), et que le vote n’a pas d’effets légaux immédiats. En fait, le processus de sortie et de renégociation peut durer trois ans !
Je vous invite à lire ce très intéressant article afin d’être mieux informés sur les principales avenues conséquentes au retrait de la GB de l’UE.
In a referendum held in the UK on June 23, 2016, a majority of those voting voted for the UK to leave the EU. This post briefly summarizes some of the main legal implications of the “leave” vote and is primarily for the benefit of those outside the UK who have not followed the referendum campaign in detail.
The “leave” vote has no immediate legal effect under either UK or EU law
The UK currently remains a member of the EU and there will not be any immediate change in either EU or UK law as a consequence of the “leave” vote. EU law does not govern contracts and the UK is not part of the EU’s monetary union.
However, the “leave” vote now heralds the beginning of a lengthy process under which (i) the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from, and future relationship with, the EU are negotiated and (ii) legislation to implement the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is enacted (primarily in the UK, but also at the EU level and in other EU member states to the extent necessary).
The terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU will need to be negotiated
The ultimate legal impact of the “leave” vote will depend on the terms that are negotiated in relation to the UK’s future relationship with the EU, as described below. This is currently the principal source of uncertainty as to the legal implications of the “leave” vote. Each of the UK government and the EU will need to formulate their respective positions for the withdrawal negotiations over the coming months. Once this is done, the likely direction for the UK’s future relationship with the EU will become clearer, allowing for a sharper focus on the legal implications.
It is not yet clear what terms the UK will seek to negotiate with the EU (or what the EU will offer to the UK) in relation to its withdrawal from, and future relationship with, the EU. To date, there has been no consensus, even among “leave” campaigners, as to the terms which the UK should seek in these negotiations. The key factor is the extent to which the UK wishes to continue to benefit from any part of the EU single market (i.e., the current EU regime which allows for free movement of goods, services, capital and persons, and freedom of establishment, within the EU).
There are several different existing models that could be adopted, either alone or in combination with one another. These include the following:
Total exit: the UK leaves the EU and does not continue to benefit from any part of the single market. The UK either relies solely on the rules of the World Trade Organization (which include rules governing the imposition of tariffs on goods and services) as the basis for trading with the EU or negotiates a new bilateral trade deal with the EU.
The Norwegian model: the UK leaves the EU but joins the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA is constituted by the EEA Agreement among the 28 EU member states and three countries which are not EU member states (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), and extends the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons beyond the EU to those three countries. Under this arrangement, EU law relating to these four freedoms (which could be modified by the EU without the UK’s consent) would largely continue to apply to the UK, and the UK would continue to have full access to the single market.
The Swiss model: the UK leaves the EU and does not join the EEA as described above. It may instead rejoin EFTA (an intergovernmental organization comprised of European countries who are not members of the EU—the UK was a member of EFTA before it joined the EU in 1973). Currently, only Switzerland is a member of EFTA but not a member of the EEA. Switzerland has (on its own behalf rather than as a member of EFTA) negotiated a large number of sector-specific bilateral agreements with the EU and has access to some parts of the single market, but is excluded from the single market in some major sectors (for example, Switzerland is not part of the single market in the financial services sector).
Although the EU treaty provides a framework for a member state to withdraw from the EU, this particular framework has never been used before and it is therefore not certain how it will operate in practice
The EU treaty provides (in article 50) a mechanism whereby a member state can withdraw from the EU and notify the European Council of its intention to do so. The giving of such a notice triggers the start of a two year time period for the negotiation of a withdrawal agreement between that member state and the EU. The withdrawal agreement is required to be approved by (i) the 27 EU member states excluding the withdrawing member state (by qualified majority rather than unanimously) and (ii) the European Parliament (by simple majority).
No announcement has yet been made by the UK government as to when it intends to deliver any notice of withdrawal under article 50.
The withdrawal of the UK from the EU would take effect either on the effective date of the withdrawal agreement or, in the absence of agreement, two years after the article 50 notice referred to above, unless the UK and all the other EU member states agreed to extend this date.
Although the timescale is not at all clear at this stage, it appears likely that the withdrawal of the UK from the EU (both the conclusion of a withdrawal agreement and the arrangements for the UK’s future relationship with the EU) will take more than two years to negotiate and conclude. Even the withdrawal of Greenland (an autonomous country within the state of Denmark) from the EU, where the issues were far more limited, took three years from the relevant referendum vote to come into effect.
The UK will need to decide the extent to which existing EU law should continue to apply in the UK
Since 1973, the UK has implemented a vast number of EU directives into UK law. These will remain effective as UK law unless they are amended or repealed. This means that, in a total exit, or if the Swiss model were to be adopted, there will of necessity be a massive exercise, spanning several years, in which the UK government will need to determine which aspects of these EU directives it wishes to either (i) retain, (ii) amend or (iii) repeal.
In addition, the UK would need to enact new laws to the extent it wished to retain:
any EU laws which had been enacted by means of EU regulations, which are currently directly applicable in the UK without any implementing measures; or
any other EU laws which had direct effect in the UK without any implementing measures (e.g., provisions of the EU treaty, or EU directives which had not been implemented in the UK within the required timeframe but which were sufficiently clear and precise, unconditional and did not give member states substantial discretion in their application).
This is because those EU laws would, absent any such further UK laws being enacted, automatically cease to have effect in the UK on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU becoming effective.
The current relationship between EU law and UK law is principally governed by a UK statute (the European Communities Act 1972) which, among other things:
provides for the direct application of EU regulations and the direct effect of those EU laws which are stated to have direct effect;
gives the UK government power to introduce delegated legislation to implement EU law generally; and
provides for the supremacy of EU law over UK law.
However, repealing the European Communities Act on its own would not avoid the need for the extensive review of existing UK laws implementing EU directives as described above. There have been some suggestions by “leave” campaigners prior to the referendum that the UK government should seek to repeal the European Communities Act prior to an agreement having been reached on the withdrawal arrangements and future relationship of the UK with the EU, although this would be a politically charged move.
If the Norwegian model were adopted, however, EU law relating to the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons would be likely to continue to largely apply in the UK.
If the UK were not a full participant in the single market, the ability of EU nationals to work in the UK, or the ability of UK nationals to work in the EU, would likely be affected
In a total exit, EU nationals would lose the automatic right to work in the UK, and UK nationals would lose the automatic right to work in the EU, subject to transitional arrangements which would presumably need to be put in place for an interim period. New immigration rules would therefore need to be implemented (i) in the UK in relation to EU nationals and (ii) in the other EU member states in relation to UK nationals.
If the Norwegian model were adopted, as part of having full access to the single market, the UK would likely continue to be bound by the EU treaty principle of free movement of persons, which would continue to enable EU nationals to work in the UK without requiring authorization.
If the Swiss model were adopted, the UK would need to enter into an agreement with the EU setting out the extent to which EU nationals would have the right to work in the UK, and UK nationals would have the right to work in the EU.
There are two related areas which, as they are matters of UK national sovereignty, would not be affected in the same way as the right of non-EU nationals to work in the UK.
First, the current visa requirements for non-EU nationals to work in the UK would remain in place, although additional restrictions on immigration from outside the EU could be imposed by the UK government in any event, and to the extent that nationals of any country had the right to work in the UK as a result of a bilateral agreement between that country and the EU (e.g., Switzerland) that right would cease to apply and new arrangements would need to be negotiated between the UK and that country.
Second, the UK’s current tax regime for individuals who are resident but not domiciled in the UK is not a creation of EU law and would not fall away as a consequence of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
One of the areas of law potentially most affected will likely be the regulation of financial services
Those areas which will be potentially most affected will be those where the EU has embarked on its most significant harmonization efforts in recent years, in particular the regulation of financial services.
Unless the Norwegian model were adopted, the UK government would need to decide whether to retain, amend or repeal a number of significant pieces of EU financial services legislation, notwithstanding that many of these are Basel-based. These include, among others, the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD) IV and other aspects of the bank supervisory regime, the Markets in Financial Instruments (MiFID) II and other aspects of the investment firms’ supervisory regime, the Solvency II Directive and other aspects of the insurance supervisory regime, the Alternative Investment Fund Managers’ Directive (AIFMD) and other aspects of the alternative investment management supervisory regime, the cap on bankers’ bonuses, the Prospectus Directive and the Transparency Directive and other aspects of the capital markets regime, and the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) and other aspects of the derivatives regime.
In addition, unless the Norwegian model were adopted or the application of the Norwegian model had been specifically negotiated for a transitional period as part of the withdrawal arrangements, there would be no right for UK-authorized firms or individuals to provide financial services in the EU on a “passported” basis. Any non-EU financial institution currently using a UK-authorized person to provide financial services elsewhere in the EU would need to obtain authorization from an EU member state by either establishing an authorized branch in an EU member state or obtaining authorization for one of its subsidiaries in an EU member state. The impact of any loss of “passporting” rights would be more serious for some financial institutions than for others.
It is very difficult to predict the overall impact on the UK financial services sector as a whole because, irrespective of whether the UK remains part of the single market for financial services, there are other factors which have historically helped the development of the financial services sector in the UK (such as the availability of talent, support services and other infrastructure and the use of English as the global language for financial services) which will continue to be present.
Other areas of law which would potentially be affected include, among others: M&A and corporate law; capital markets; competition law; and tax. In each of these areas, the extent of the impact will depend on the model which is adopted for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
There is potential for contractual disputes to arise
While it is not possible to anticipate all of the events which may arise as a consequence of the “leave” vote, there may, in some cases, be circumstances which arise which cause parties to claim that provisions either excusing the performance of contractual obligations, or triggering a right to terminate contracts, are capable of being invoked. Any such issues will require careful consideration in light of the relevant contracts as a whole and the possibility that circumstances may continue to change rapidly.
*Ben Perry is a partner in the London office of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication.
Aujourd’hui, je vous propose la lecture d’un article paru dans la revue European Journal of Risk Regulation (EJRR) qui scrute le scandale de Volkswagensous l’angle juridique, mais, surtout, sous l’angle des manquements à la saine gouvernance.
Le texte se présente comme un cas en gouvernance et en management. Celui-ci devrait alimenter les réflexions sur l’éthique, les valeurs culturelles et les effets des pressions excessives à la performance.
Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, l’intégralité de l’article avec le consentement de l’auteure. Je n’ai pas inclus les références, qui sont très abondantes et qui peuvent être consultées sur le site de la maison d’édition lexxion.
Like some other crises and scandals that periodically occur in the business community, the Volkswagen (“VW”) scandal once again highlights the devastating consequences of corporate misconduct, once publicly disclosed, and the media storm that generally follows the discovery of such significant misbehaviour by a major corporation. Since the crisis broke in September 2015, the media have relayed endless détails about the substantial negative impacts on VW on various stakeholder groups such as employees, directors, investors, suppliers and consumers, and on the automobile industry as a whole (1)
The multiple and negative repercussions at the economic, organizational and legal levels have quickly become apparent, in particular in the form of resignations, changes in VW’s senior management, layoffs, a hiring freeze, the end to the marketing of diesel-engined vehicles, vehicle recalls, a decline in car sales, a drop in market capitalization, and the launching of internal investigations by VW and external investigations by the public authorities. This comes in addition to the threat of numerous civil, administrative, penal and criminal lawsuits and the substantial penalties they entail, as well as the erosion of trust in VW and the automobile industry generally (2).
A scandal of this extent cannot fail to raise a number of questions, in particular concerning the cause of the alleged cheating, liable actors, the potential organizational and regulatory problems related to compliance, and ways to prevent further misconduct at VW and within the automobile industry. Based on the information surrounding the VW scandal, it is premature to capture all facets of the case. In order to analyze inmore depth the various problems raised, we will have to wait for the findings of the investigations conducted both internally by the VW Group and externally by the regulatory authorities.
While recognizing the incompleteness of the information made available to date by VW and certain commentators, we can still use this documentation to highlight a few features of the case that deserve to be studied from the standpoint of corporate governance.
This Article remains relatively modest in scope, and is designed to highlight certain organizational factors that may explain the deviant behaviour observed at VW. More specifically, it submits that the main cause of VW’s alleged wrongdoing lies in the company’s ambitious production targets for the U.S. market and the time and budget constraints imposed on employees to reach those targets. Arguably, the corporate strategy and pressures exerted on VW’s employees may have led them to give preference to the performance priorities set by the company rather than compliance with the applicable legal and ethical standards. And this corporate misconduct could not be detected because of deficiencies in the monitoring and control mechanisms, and especially in the compliance system established by the company to ensure that legal requirements were respected.
Although limited in scope, this inquiry may prove useful in identifying means to minimize, in the future, the risk of similar misconduct, not only at VW but wihin other companies as well (3). Given the limited objectives of the Article, which focuses on certain specific organizational deficiencies at VW, the legal questions raised by the case will not be addressed. However, the Article will refer to one aspect of the law of business corporations in the United States, Canada and in the EU Member States in order to emphasize the crucial role that boards in publicly-held companies must exercise to minimize the risk of misconduct (4).
II. A Preliminary Admission by VW: Individual Misconduct by a few Software Engineers
When a scandal erupts in the business community following a case of fraud, embezzlement, corruption, the marketing of dangerous products or other deviant behaviour, the company concerned and the regulatory authorities are required to quickly identify the individuals responsible for the alleged misbehaviour. For example, in the Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and Adelphia scandals of the early 2000s, the investigations revealed that certain company senior managers had acted fraudulently by orchestrating accounting manipulations to camouflage their business’s dire financial situation (5).
These revelations led to the prosecution and conviction of the officers responsible for the corporations’ misconduct (6). In the United States, the importanace of identifying individual wrongdoers is clearly stated in the Principles of Federal Prosecutions of Business Organizations issued by the U.S. Department of Justice which provide guidelines for prosecutions of corporate misbehaviour (7). On the basis of a memo issued in 2015 by the Department of Justice (the “Yatesmemo”) (8), these principles were recently revised to express a renewed commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for corporate wrongdoing.While recognizing the importance of individual prosecutions in that context, the strategy is only one of the ways to respond to white-collar crime. From a prevention standpoint, it is essential to conduct a broader examination of the organizational environment in which senior managers and employees work to determine if the enterprise’s culture, values, policies, monitoring mechanisms and practices contribute or have contributed to the adoption of deviant behaviour (9).
In the Volkswagen case, the company’s management concentrated first on identifying the handful of individuals it considered to be responsible for the deception, before admitting few weeks later that organizational problems had also encouraged or facilitated the unlawful corporate behaviour. Once news broke of the Volkswagen scandal, one of VW’s officers quickly linked the wrongdoing to the actions of a few employees, but without uncovering any governance problems or misbehaviour at the VW management level (10).
In October 2015, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the VW Group in the United States, Michael Horn, stated in testimony before a Congressional Subcommittee: “[t]his was a couple of software engineers who put this for whatever reason » […]. To my understanding, this was not a corporate decision. This was something individuals did » (11). In other words, the US CEO considered that sole responsibility for the scandal lay with a handful of engineers working at the company, while rejecting any allegation tending to incriminate the company’s management.
This portion of his testimony failed to convince the members of the Subcommittee, who expressed serious doubts about placing sole blame on the misbehaviour of a few engineers, given that the problem had existed since 2009. As expressed in a sceptical response from one of the committee’s members: « I cannot accept VW’s portrayal of this as something by a couple of rogue software engineers […] Suspending three folks – it goes way, way higher than that » (12).
Although misconduct similar to the behaviour uncovered at Volkswagen can often be explained by the reprehensible actions of a few individuals described as « bad apples », the violation of rules can also be explained by the existence of organizational problems within a company (13).
III. Recognition of Organizational Failures by VW
In terms of corporate governance, an analysis of misbehaviour can highlight problems connected with the culture, values, policies and strategies promoted by a company’s management that have a negative influence on the behaviour of senior managers and employees. Considering the importance of the organizational environment in which these players act, regulators provide for several internal and external governance mechanisms to reduce the risk of corporate misbehaviour or to minimize agency problems (14). As one example of an internal governance mechanism, the law of business corporations in the U.S., Canada and the EU Member States gives the board of directors (in a one-tier board structure, as prescribed Under American and Canadian corporation law) and the management board and supervisory board (in a two tier board structure, as provided for in some EU Member States, such as Germany) a key role to play in monitoring the company’s activities and internal dealings (15). As part of their monitoring mission, the board must ensure that the company and its agents act in a diligent and honest way and in compliance with the regulations, in particular by establishing mechanisms or policies in connection with risk management, internal controls, information disclosure, due diligence investigation and compliance (16).
When analysing the Volkswagen scandal from the viewpoint of its corporate governance, the question to be asked is whether the culture, values, priorities, strategies and monitoring and control mechanisms established by the company’s management board and supervisory board – in other words « the tone at the top »-, created an environment that contributed to the emergence of misbehaviour (17).
In this saga, although the initial testimony given to the Congressional Subcommittee by the company’s U.S. CEO, Michael Horn, assigned sole responsibility to a small circle of individuals, « VW’s senior management later recognized that the misconduct could not be explained simply by the deviant behaviour of a few people, since the evidence also pointed to organizational problems supporting the violation of regulations (18). In December 2015, VW’s management released the following observations, drawn from the preliminary results of its internal investigation:
« Group Audit’s examination of the relevant processes indicates that the software-influenced NOx emissions behavior was due to the interaction of three factors:
– The misconduct and shortcomings of individual employees
– Weaknesses in some processes
– A mindset in some areas of the Company that tolerated breaches of rules » (19).
Concerning the question of process,VW released the following audit key findings:
« Procedural problems in the relevant subdivisions have encouraged misconduct;
Faults in reporting and monitoring systems as well as failure to comply with existing regulations;
IT infrastructure partially insufficient and antiquated. » (20)
More fundamentally, VW’s management pointed out at the same time that the information obtained up to that point on “the origin and development of the nitrogen issue […] proves not to have been a one-time error, but rather a chain of errors that were allowed to happen (21). The starting point was a strategic decision to launch a large-scale promotion of diesel vehicles in the United States in 2005. Initially, it proved impossible to have the EA 189 engine meet by legal means the stricter nitrogen oxide requirements in the United States within the required timeframe and budget » (22).
In other words, this revelation by VW’s management suggests that « the end justified the means » in the sense that the ambitious production targets for the U.S. market and the time and budget constraints imposed on employees encouraged those employees to use illegal methods in operational terms to achieve the company’s objective. And this misconduct could not be detected because of deficiencies in the monitoring and control mechanisms, and especially in the compliance system established by the company to ensure that legal requirements were respected. Among the reasons given to explain the crisis, some observers also pointed to the excessive centralization of decision-making powers within VW’s senior management, and an organizational culture that acted as a brake on internal communications and discouraged mid-level managers from passing on bad news (23).
IV. Organizational Changes Considered as a Preliminary Step
In response to the crisis, VW’s management, in a press release in December 2015, set out the main organizational changes planned to minimize the risk of similar misconduct in the future. The changes mainly involved « instituting a comprehensive new alignment that affects the structure of the Group, as well as is way of thinking and its strategic goals (24).
In structural terms, VW changed the composition of the Group’s Board of Management to include the person responsible for the Integrity and Legal Affairs Department as a board member (25). In the future, the company wanted to give « more importance to digitalization, which will report directly to the Chairman of the Board of Management, » and intended to give « more independence to brand and divisions through a more decentralized management (26). With a view to initiating a new mindset, VW’s management stated that it wanted to avoid « yes-men » and to encourage managers and engineers « who are curious, independent, and pioneering » (27). However, the December 2015 press release reveals little about VW’s strategic objectives: « Strategy 2025, with which Volkswagen will address the main issues for the future, is scheduled to be presented in mid 2016 » (28).
Although VW’s management has not yet provided any details on the specific objectives targeted in its « Strategy 2025 », it is revealing to read the VW annual reports from before 2015 in which the company sets out clear and ambitious objectives for productivity and profitability. For example, the annual reports for 2007, 2009 and 2014 contained the following financial objectives, which the company hoped to reach by 2018.
In its 2007 annual report,VW specified, under the heading « Driving ideas »:
“Financial targets are equally ambitious: for example, the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand aims to increase its unit sales by over 80 percent to 6.6 million vehicles by 2018, thereby reaching a global market share of approximately 9 percent. To make it one of the most profitable automobile companies as well, it is aiming for an ROI of 21 percent and a return on sales before tax of 9 percent.” (29).
Under the same heading, VW stated in its 2009 annual report:
“In 2018, the Volkswagen Group aims to be the most successful and fascinating automaker in the world. […] Over the long term, Volkswagen aims to increase unit sales to more than 10 million vehicles a year: it intends to capture an above-average share as the major growth markets develop (30).
And in its 2014 annual report, under the heading « Goals and Strategies », VW said:
“The goal is to generate unit sales of more than 10 million vehicles a year; in particular, Volkswagen intends to capture an above-average share of growth in the major growth markets.”
Volkswagen’s aim is a long-term return on sales before tax of at least 8% so as to ensure that the Group’s solid financial position and ability to act are guaranteed even in difficult market periods (31).
Besides these specific objectives for financial performance, the annual reports show that the company’s management recognized, at least on paper, the importance of ensuring regulatory compliance and promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability (31). However, after the scandal broke in September 2015, questions can be asked about the effectiveness of the governance mechanisms, especially of the reporting and monitoring systems put in place by VW to achieve company goals in this area (33). In light of the preliminary results of VW’s internal investigation (34), as mentionned above, it seems that, in the organizational culture, the commitment to promote compliance, CSR and sustainability was not as strong as the effort made to achieve the company’s financial performance objectives.
Concerning the specific and challenging priorities of productivity and profitability established by VW’s management in previous years, the question is whether the promotion of financial objectives such as these created a risk because of the pressure it placed on employees within the organizational environment. The priorities can, of course, exert a positive influence and motivate employees to make an even greater effort to achieve the objectives (35). On the other hand, the same priority can exert a negative influence by potentially encouraging employees to use all means necessary to achieve the performance objectives set, in order to protect their job or obtain a promotion, even if the means they use for that purpose contravene the regulations. In other words, the employees face a « double bind » or dilemma which, depending on the circumstances, can lead them to give preference to the performance priorities set by the company rather than compliance with the applicable legal and ethical standards.
In the management literature, a large number of theoretical and empirical studies emphasize the beneficial effects of the setting of specific and challenging goals on employee motivation and performance within a company (36). However, while recognizing these beneficial effects, some authors point out the unwanted or negative side effects they may have.
As highlighted by Ordóñez, Schweitzer, Galinsky and Bazerman, specific goal setting can result in employees focusing solely on those goals while neglecting other important, but unstated, objectives (37). They also mention that employees motivated by « specific, challenging goals adopt riskier strategies and choose riskier gambles than do those with less challenging or vague goals (38). As an additional unwanted side effet, goal setting can encourage unlawful or unethical behaviour, either by inciting employees to use dishonest methods to meet the performance objectives targeted, or to “misrepresent their performance level – in other words, to report that they met a goal when in fact they fell short (39). Based on these observations, the authors suggest that companies should set their objectives with the greatest care and propose various ways to guard against the unwanted side effects highlighted in their study. This approach could prove useful for VW’s management which will once again, at some point, have to define its objectives and stratégies.
In the information released to the public after the emissions cheating scandal broke, as mentioned above, VW’s management quickly stated that the misconduct was directly caused by the individual misbehaviour of a couple of software engineers. Later, however, it admitted that the individual misconduct of a few employees was not the only cause, and that there were also organizational deficiencies within the company itself.
Although the VW Group’s public communications have so far provided few details about the cause of the crisis, the admission by management that both individual and organizational failings were involved constitutes, in our opinion, a lever for understanding the various factors that may have led to reprehensible conduct within the company. Based on the investigations that will be completed over the coming months, VW’s management will be in a position to identify more precisely the nature of these organizational failings and to propose ways to minimize the risk of future violations. During 2016, VW’s management will also announce the objectives and stratégies it intends to pursue over the next few years.
Un actionnaire activiste (Hedge Funds) qui veut faire élire un de ses partisans à un conseil d’administration ciblé peut-il le rémunérer afin qu’il puisse faire campagne pour son élection à un poste d’administrateur ?
Quelle est la loi à cet égard ? Quelles sont les recommandations de la firme ISS dans ces cas ?
La laisse dorée (« golden leash »), comme on appelle ce lien avec le promoteur de la campagne électorale, est-elle congruente avec le droit des actionnaires ? Ou, cette pratique est-elle sujette à d’éventuels conflits d’intérêts au détriment des actionnaires ?
Il semble bien que cette pratique soit de plus en plus répandue et qu’elle soit « légale », bien que la SEC n’ait pas dit son dernier mot à ce stade-ci. La pratique est appuyée par les grandes firmes de conseil en votation (ISS et Glass Lewis).
L’article publié par Andrew A. Schwartz*, professeur à l’École de droit de l’Université du Colorado, est paru aujourd’hui sur le forum de la HBL School on Corporate Governance. On y présente différentes problématiques, telles que la volonté des CA de bloquer l’élection d’administrateurs externes et la volonté des fonds activistes de remplacer certains administrateurs par des candidats favorables aux changements stratégiques souhaités.
Je crois que vous serez intéressés par une meilleure compréhension de ces pratiques, de plus en plus fréquentes, tolérées et non réglementées.
Qu’en pensez-vous ? Vos opinions sont les bienvenues et elles sont appréciées de nos lecteurs.
There is a battle in progress between activist hedge funds and public companies over so-called “golden leash” payments. This is where an activist shareholder running a proxy contest promises to pay her slate of director-candidates a supplemental compensation, over and above the ordinary director fees paid by the company to all directors. The purpose of the golden leash, according to the hedge funds that invented it, is to help activists recruit highly qualified people to challenge incumbent board members and, once on the board, to push for business decisions that will benefit all shareholders. Because the golden leash serves to enhance corporate democracy by helping activists mount effective proxy contests to challenge the incumbent board, the advisory services ISS and Glass Lewis have voiced support for the practice, as have some othercommentators.
So, should we ban the golden leash—or should we laud it? Both sides of the debate make strong arguments, but I think that neither has focused sufficient analytical attention on the nature of the golden leash itself. Before deciding whether to criticize or defend the golden leash, it is surely vital to understand it first, and I undertake that analysis in my latest article, Financing Corporate Elections. In my view, the golden leash is not, or not only, a payment for service performed as a director. Rather, the golden leash can best be understood as a form of campaign contribution paid by the activist sponsor to a director-candidate in a contested proxy contest. At its most basic, the golden leash is a payment of contingent consideration from an activist to a director-candidate in order to encourage the latter to launch a campaign for office; and the same activist is also willing to bear the costs of running the campaign. This fits well into the conceptual framework of third-party campaign finance, where one party pays the expenses of the political campaign of another.
Accepting the golden leash as a campaign contribution, what are the rules or limits on corporate campaign finance? Are there legal limits on who may contribute to a director-candidate or her campaign, or how much they may contribute? May an incumbent board impose such limits by amending its bylaws? What about disclosure? These are all new questions for corporate elections, and there is no case law on point. Yet analogous questions regarding political campaign finance have been analyzed and resolved for decades under the First Amendment and a line of doctrine derived from the landmark Supreme Court case of Buckley v. Valeo, decided in 1976. The so-called “Buckley framework” is premised in part on a concern that incumbent officeholders may impose such tight limits on campaign finance that they neutralize their political competitors and entrench the incumbents in office. In order to protect our republican form of democracy, Buckley thus imposes strict scrutiny, meaning the government must prove that its campaign finance law or regulation furthers a “compelling interest” and is “narrowly tailored” to achieve that interest.
I contend in Financing Corporate Elections that the underlying logic of the Buckley framework is transferrable to the corporate context via the famous Blasius doctrine of Delaware law.  Incumbent directors, just like incumbent politicians, have an interest in perpetuating themselves in office, and it is easy to imagine that an incumbent board might impose limits on financing corporate elections that have the effect of hindering insurgent campaigns (and thus entrenching the incumbents). I therefore argue that Blasius should be understood to call for a Buckley-like analysis of corporate campaign finance regulation. My proposed “Blasius-Buckley framework” would ask courts to strictly scrutinize board-imposed campaign finance regulations to determine whether they advance a compelling corporate interest in a narrowly tailored fashion.
How would this insight apply to the golden leash and efforts to limit or ban it? Since the golden leash is a form of campaign contribution, then a board-imposed bylaw that regulates it is just the type of campaign finance regulation that should, in my view, be analyzed using the Blasius-Buckley framework. The first issue under Blasius-Buckley is whether there is a compelling corporate interest in regulating the golden leash, and here the answer is almost certain to be yes. The golden leash poses a direct threat to the foundational corporate interest in having a board of directors whose loyalty unquestionably lies with the corporation and its shareholders. When one party makes large payments directly to a director-candidate, as in the golden leash, this clearly raises the specter that the candidate will follow the sponsor’s commands or advance its interests, even if doing so may not be in the best long-term interest of the corporation or its shareholders as a whole. A corporation surely has a compelling interest in preventing this sort of subversion.
The second prong of the Blasius-Buckley framework goes to narrow tailoring, and this part of the analysis would depend on the precise nature of the limits placed by the incumbent directors. An incumbent board that places too-strict limits on the golden leash may thereby hamstring their rivals and effectively entrench themselves in office, which would offend the core value of shareholder sovereignty. Hence, a bylaw that were to ban the golden leash entirely, as the model bylaw proposed by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz appears to do, would probably not pass muster under the narrow-tailoring prong of Blasius-Buckley. But less-draconian bylaws that merely seek to regulate the golden leash would probably survive. Disclosure requirements, reasonable limits on the size and form of golden leash payments, and restrictions on the source of such payments, would likely all qualify as narrowly tailored.
Quelles actions les conseils d’administration sont-ils susceptibles d’adopter dans les cas où leur PDG (CEO) a un comportement « limite » tout en n’étant pas illégal ?
L’article récemment publié par David Larcker* et Brian Tayan** dans la Harvard Business Review présente plusieurs exemples de situations où les CEO captent l’attention du public pour de mauvaises raisons !
Les CA sont les garants de la réputation de l’entreprise et, lorsque confrontés à des comportements fautifs de la part de leur CEO, ils doivent s’assurer de prendre toutes les mesures appropriées.
Les auteurs ont identifié 38 cas de comportements de CEO déviants qui ont un des échos révélateurs et qui ont généré des actions de gestion de crises. L’échantillon des cas retenus a été présenté en cinq grandes catégories :
(1) 34 % des cas impliquent des CEO qui ont menti à propos de leurs affaires personnelles ;
(2) 21 % des cas sont de nature sexuelle, impliquant un subordonné, un entrepreneur ou un consultant ;
(3) 16 % des cas concernent l’utilisation « questionnable » des fonds de l’entreprise ;
(4) 16 % des cas consistent en comportements grossiers ou abusifs ;
(5) 13 % des cas consistent en déclarations publiques qui ont des conséquences négatives sur les clients ou sur un groupe social en particulier.
Les résultats suivants ressortent clairement de l’étude :
– The impact of misbehavior on corporate reputation is significant and long-lasting.
– Shareholders generally (but do not always) react negatively to news of misconduct.
– Most companies take an active approach in responding to allegations of misconduct.
– Corporate punishment for CEO misbehavior is inconsistent.
– CEO misbehavior can reverberate across the organization.
For boards of directors, the lessons are clear: For better or worse, the CEO is often the face of the corporation. When the CEO engages in misconduct, the board has an obligation to investigate the matter, take proactive steps to ensure that it is properly dealt with, and — most important — ensure that corporate reputation, culture, and long-term performance are not damaged.
Je vous invite à lire plus à fond les répercussions de ces mauvais comportements sur la réputation de l’organisation ainsi que les décisions prises par les CA dans chaque situation.
Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.
Most boards of directors know what to do when their CEO is accused of illegal activity. They conduct an independent investigation, and if the allegations are verified, they take corrective action. In most cases, the CEO is terminated.
It is much less obvious what actions the board should take when the CEO is accused of behavior that is questionable but not illegal. For example, if the CEO makes controversial public statements, has personal relations with an employee or contractor, or develops a reputation for being rude, overbearing, or verbally combative, the board must decide what merits investigation. It must also decide whether to address matters publicly or privately. These decisions become even more important when CEO misbehavior is picked up by the media, bringing unwanted public attention that can have an impact on the organization and its reputation.
To examine how corporations handle allegations of CEO misbehavior, we conducted an extensive review of news media between 2000 and 2015. We identified 38 incidents where a CEO’s behavior garnered a meaningful level of media coverage (defined as more than 10 unique news references). We categorized these incidents as follows:
34% involved reports of a CEO lying to the board or shareholders over personal matters, such as a drunk driving offense, undisclosed criminal record, falsification of credentials, or other behavior.
21% involved a sexual affair or relations with a subordinate, contractor, or consultant.
16% involved CEOs making use of corporate funds in a manner that is questionable but not strictly illegal.
16% involved CEOs engaging in objectionable personal behavior or using abusive language.
13% involved CEOs making public statements that are offensive to customers or social groups.
Examining these incidents in detail, five main findings stood out:
The impact of misbehavior on corporate reputation is significant and long-lasting. The incidents that we identified were cited in over 250 news stories each, on average. Furthermore, media coverage was persistent, with references made to the CEO’s actions up to an average of 4.9 years after initial occurrence. For example, news stories today continue to reference former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney’s odd behavior of walking around the company’s offices in his underwear, even though it was first reported over 10 years ago. Boards should not expect allegations of misbehavior to disappear quickly.
Shareholders generally (but do not always) react negatively to news of misconduct. Among the companies in our sample, share prices declined by a market-adjusted 3.1% (1.1% median) over the three-day trading period around the initial news story. For example, Hewlett-Packard stock fell almost 9% following reports that former CEO Mark Hurd had a personal relationship with a female contractor. However, shareholder reactions are not uniformly negative. Of the 38 companies in our sample. 11 exhibited positive stock price returns when CEO misbehavior made the news. Perhaps unexpectedly, there is no discernible relationship between the type of behavior and stock price reaction.
Most companies take an active approach in responding to allegations of misconduct. In 84% of cases, the company issued a press release or formal statement on the matter. In 71% of cases, a spokesperson provided direct commentary to the press. Board members were much less likely to speak to the media, making direct comments only 37% of the time. In over half of cases (55%), the board of directors was known to initiate an independent review or investigation. The board is most likely to announce an independent review in cases of potential financial misconduct. However, the willingness of an individual director to discuss the matter directly with the press does not appear to be associated with the type of behavior involved or the “severity” of the CEO’s actions.
Corporate punishment for CEO misbehavior is inconsistent. In 58% of incidents, the CEO was eventually terminated for his or her actions. Questionable financial practices was the only category of behavior that almost uniformly resulted in termination; all other behaviors resulted in both outcomes (termination and retention) across our sample. Even behavior as straightforward as falsifying information on a resume was treated inconsistently by different boards. In a third of cases (32%), the board took actions other than termination in response to CEO misconduct, such as stripping the CEO of the chair title, removing the CEO from the board, amending the corporate code of conduct, reducing or eliminating the CEO’s bonus, other director resignation, and other changes to board structure or composition.
CEO misbehavior can reverberate across the organization. Approximately one-third of companies faced additional fallout from the CEO’s actions, including loss of a major client, federal investigation, shareholder or federal lawsuit, or shareholder action such as a proxy battle. Forty-five percent of companies in the sample experienced a significant unrelated governance issue following the event, such as an accounting restatement, unrelated lawsuit, shareholder action, or bankruptcy. As for the CEOs themselves, three were reported to resign from other boards because of their actions. Two CEOs who were terminated were subsequently rehired by the same company. We found that many continued in their position or were hired by other corporations or investment groups; otherwise there was no notable news of what happened to them professionally.
For boards of directors, the lessons are clear: For better or worse, the CEO is often the face of the corporation. When the CEO engages in misconduct, the board has an obligation to investigate the matter, take proactive steps to ensure that it is properly dealt with, and — most important — ensure that corporate reputation, culture, and long-term performance are not damaged.
David Larcker* is the James Irvin Miller Professor of Accounting and Senior Faculty at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University. He is a co-author of the books Corporate Governance Matters and A Real Look at Real World Corporate Governance.
Brian Tayan** is a researcher at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University. He is a co-author of the books Corporate Governance Matters and A Real Look at Real World Corporate Governance.
Cet article de Avery Blank * publié dans le magazine Forbes le 8 juin 2016, est très court et tout à fait pertinent. Il ne faut pas attendre d’être à la retraite pour s’intéresser à des postes sur des conseils d’administration.
Comme le dit l’auteure, un mandat d’administrateur constitue une stratégie pour faire avancer sa carrière, plutôt qu’un plan de retraite…
On évoque trois étapes pour se démarquer dans sa carrière :
(1) le fait de siéger à un CA démontre que vous possédez du leadership et que vous faites preuve d’un bon jugement ;
(2) Vous contribuez à asseoir votre crédibilité et vous assurez votre visibilité au niveau de votre organisation ;
(3) Vous développez un réseau de contacts qui peut être mis à profit dans votre carrière.
Voici les points qui sont présentés avec un peu plus de détails dans l’article.
Here are the three ways being a board member helps you to advance.
1. Positions you as a leader and assumes good judgment
When you are a member of a board, you are seen as a leader. You have been elected or appointed to oversee an organization. Someone else or a group of people has selected you to look after the best interest(s) of an organization. This is more than “hey, they like me.” They trust you. They are looking to you to make considered decisions and come to sensible conclusions. When others see you as a leader and having good judgment, they will respect and trust you too.
Having good judgment need not mean falling in line either. Take Facebook board member and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Thiel admitted that he, independently, has funded lawsuits against news outlet Gawker Media, which goes against Facebook’s values in its users being able to express themselves and freely publish on the platform. Did Thiel exercise good judgment? Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that Thiels’ actions have placed Facebook executives in a difficult position but that he will remain on the board. She suggested that independently-minded board members also make great board members. The question of whether Thiel exercised good judgment ultimately lies with Facebook shareholders who will have their annual stockholder meeting on June 20.
2. Adds credibility and visibility for you and your organization
Being a board member of an organization tells others that you are someone worthwhile knowing. People will reach out to you, wanting to get to know more about you, your career, and your role as a board member.
It also provides you with another outlet to become known. No longer are you just associated with the entity for whom you work, but you now are connected with another organization. Your name will become known in other circles. So, too, will your board membership help the company with which you currently work. Along with your name will be your affiliation. What is good for you is good for your company, as well. (If you work for an organization, review your organization’s Code of Conduct as many organizations will require approval by the conflicts committee before accepting a board appointment.)
You get more exposure to people and opportunities when you are a board member. Once you are a member of a board, it is not uncommon to start receiving invitations to sit on other boards. As a board member, you are a member of a club of individuals that have already been vetted (to a certain degree). It becomes easier and quicker to assume roles on other boards when you have one under your belt.
I hear many executives say that when they retire, they will sit on a board or two. Imagine the possibilities if they had assumed board memberships years or decades before retirement. Do not wait until you are at the end of your career to become a board member. Leverage your skills and expertise to find the right board opportunity now. The opportunities can be exponential.
*Avery Blank is a millennial lawyer, strategist, and women’s advocate who holds seats on boards and councils.
Les conseils d’administration sont de plus en plus confrontés à l’exigence d’évaluer l’efficacité de leur fonctionnement par le biais d’une évaluation annuelle du CA, des comités et des administrateurs.
En fait, le NYSE exige depuis dix ans que les conseils procèdent à leur évaluation et que les résultats du processus soient divulgués aux actionnaires. Également, les investisseurs institutionnels et les activistes demandent de plus en plus d’informations au sujet du processus d’évaluation.
Les résultats de l’évaluation peuvent être divulgués de plusieurs façons, notamment dans les circulaires de procuration et sur le site de l’entreprise.
L’article publié par John Olson, associé fondateur de la firme Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, professeur invité à Georgetown Law Center, et paru sur le forum du Harvard Law School, présente certaines approches fréquemment utilisées pour l’évaluation du CA, des comités et des administrateurs.
On recommande de modifier les méthodes et les paramètres de l’évaluation à chaque trois ans afin d’éviter la routine susceptible de s’installer si les administrateurs remplissent les mêmes questionnaires, gérés par le président du conseil. De plus, l’objectif de l’évaluation est sujet à changement (par exemple, depuis une décennie, on accorde une grande place à la cybersécurité).
C’est au comité de gouvernance que revient la supervision du processus d’évaluation du conseil d’administration. L’article décrit quatre méthodes fréquemment utilisées.
(1) Les questionnaires gérés par le comité de gouvernance ou une personne externe
(2) les discussions entre administrateurs sur des sujets déterminés à l’avance
(3) les entretiens individuels avec les administrateurs sur des thèmes précis par le président du conseil, le président du comité de gouvernance ou un expert externe.
(4) L’évaluation des contributions de chaque administrateur par la méthode d’auto-évaluation et par l’évaluation des pairs.
Chaque approche a ses particularités et la clé est de varier les façons de faire périodiquement. On constate également que beaucoup de sociétés cotées utilisent les services de spécialistes pour les aider dans leurs démarches.
La quasi-totalité des entreprises du S&P 500 divulgue le processus d’évaluation utilisé pour améliorer leur efficacité. L’article présente deux manières de diffuser les résultats du processus d’évaluation.
(1) Structuré, c’est-à-dire un format qui précise — qui évalue quoi ; la fréquence de l’évaluation ; qui supervise les résultats ; comment le CA a-t-il agi eu égard aux résultats de l’opération d’évaluation.
(2) Information axée sur les résultats — les grandes conclusions ; les facteurs positifs et les points à améliorer ; un plan d’action visant à corriger les lacunes observées.
Notons que la firme de services aux actionnaires ISS (Institutional Shareholder Services) utilise la qualité du processus d’évaluation pour évaluer la robustesse de la gouvernance des sociétés. L’article présente des recommandations très utiles pour toute personne intéressée par la mise en place d’un système d’évaluation du CA et par sa gestion.
Voici trois articles parus sur mon blogue qui abordent le sujet de l’évaluation :
More than ten years have passed since the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) began requiring annual evaluations for boards of directors and “key” committees (audit, compensation, nominating/governance), and many NASDAQ companies also conduct these evaluations annually as a matter of good governance.  With boards now firmly in the routine of doing annual evaluations, one challenge (as with any recurring activity) is to keep the process fresh and productive so that it continues to provide the board with valuable insights. In addition, companies are increasingly providing, and institutional shareholders are increasingly seeking, more information about the board’s evaluation process. Boards that have implemented a substantive, effective evaluation process will want information about their work in this area to be communicated to shareholders and potential investors. This can be done in a variety of ways, including in the annual proxy statement, in the governance or investor information section on the corporate website, and/or as part of shareholder engagement outreach.
To assist companies and their boards in maximizing the effectiveness of the evaluation process and related disclosures, this post provides an overview of several frequently used methods for conducting evaluations of the full board, board committees and individual directors. It is our experience that using a variety of methods, with some variation from year to year, results in more substantive and useful evaluations. This post also discusses trends and considerations relating to disclosures about board evaluations. We close with some practical tips for boards to consider as they look ahead to their next annual evaluation cycle.
Common Methods of Board Evaluation
As a threshold matter, it is important to note that there is no one “right” way to conduct board evaluations. There is room for flexibility, and the boards and committees we work with use a variety of methods. We believe it is good practice to “change up” the board evaluation process every few years by using a different format in order to keep the process fresh. Boards have increasingly found that year-after-year use of a written questionnaire, with the results compiled and summarized by a board leader or the corporate secretary for consideration by the board, becomes a routine exercise that produces few new insights as the years go by. This has been the most common practice, and it does respond to the NYSE requirement, but it may not bring as much useful information to the board as some other methods.
Doing something different from time to time can bring new perspectives and insights, enhancing the effectiveness of the process and the value it provides to the board. The evaluation process should be dynamic, changing from time to time as the board identifies practices that work well and those that it finds less effective, and as the board deals with changing expectations for how to meet its oversight duties. As an example, over the last decade there have been increasing expectations that boards will be proactive in oversight of compliance issues and risk (including cyber risk) identification and management issues.
Three of the most common methods for conducting a board or committee evaluation are: (1) written questionnaires; (2) discussions; and (3) interviews. Some of the approaches outlined below reflect a combination of these methods. A company’s nominating/governance committee typically oversees the evaluation process since it has primary responsibility for overseeing governance matters on behalf of the board.
The most common method for conducting board evaluations has been through written responses to questionnaires that elicit information about the board’s effectiveness. The questionnaires may be prepared with the assistance of outside counsel or an outside advisor with expertise in governance matters. A well-designed questionnaire often will address a combination of substantive topics and topics relating to the board’s operations. For example, the questionnaire could touch on major subject matter areas that fall under the board’s oversight responsibility, such as views on whether the board’s oversight of critical areas like risk, compliance and crisis preparedness are effective, including whether there is appropriate and timely information flow to the board on these issues. Questionnaires typically also inquire about whether board refreshment mechanisms and board succession planning are effective, and whether the board is comfortable with the senior management succession plan. With respect to board operations, a questionnaire could inquire about matters such as the number and frequency of meetings, quality and timeliness of meeting materials, and allocation of meeting time between presentation and discussion. Some boards also consider their efforts to increase board diversity as part of the annual evaluation process.
Many boards review their questionnaires annually and update them as appropriate to address new, relevant topics or to emphasize particular areas. For example, if the board recently changed its leadership structure or reallocated responsibility for a major subject matter area among its committees, or the company acquired or started a new line of business or experienced recent issues related to operations, legal compliance or a breach of security, the questionnaire should be updated to request feedback on how the board has handled these developments. Generally, each director completes the questionnaire, the results of the questionnaires are consolidated, and a written or verbal summary of the results is then shared with the board.
Written questionnaires offer the advantage of anonymity because responses generally are summarized or reported back to the full board without attribution. As a result, directors may be more candid in their responses than they would be using another evaluation format, such as a face-to-face discussion. A potential disadvantage of written questionnaires is that they may become rote, particularly after several years of using the same or substantially similar questionnaires. Further, the final product the board receives may be a summary that does not pick up the nuances or tone of the views of individual directors.
In our experience, increasingly, at least once every few years, boards that use questionnaires are retaining a third party, such as outside counsel or another experienced facilitator, to compile the questionnaire responses, prepare a summary and moderate a discussion based on the questionnaire responses. The desirability of using an outside party for this purpose depends on a number of factors. These include the culture of the board and, specifically, whether the boardroom environment is one in which directors are comfortable expressing their views candidly. In addition, using counsel (inside or outside) may help preserve any argument that the evaluation process and related materials are privileged communications if, during the process, counsel is providing legal advice to the board.
In lieu of asking directors to complete written questionnaires, a questionnaire could be distributed to stimulate and guide discussion at an interactive full board evaluation discussion.
2. Group Discussions
Setting aside board time for a structured, in-person conversation is another common method for conducting board evaluations. The discussion can be led by one of several individuals, including: (a) the chairman of the board; (b) an independent director, such as the lead director or the chair of the nominating/governance committee; or (c) an outside facilitator, such as a lawyer or consultant with expertise in governance matters. Using a discussion format can help to “change up” the evaluation process in situations where written questionnaires are no longer providing useful, new information. It may also work well if there are particular concerns about creating a written record.
Boards that use a discussion format often circulate a list of discussion items or topics for directors to consider in advance of the meeting at which the discussion will occur. This helps to focus the conversation and make the best use of the time available. It also provides an opportunity to develop a set of topics that is tailored to the company, its business and issues it has faced and is facing. Another approach to determining discussion topics is to elicit directors’ views on what should be covered as part of the annual evaluation. For example, the nominating/governance could ask that each director select a handful of possible topics for discussion at the board evaluation session and then place the most commonly cited topics on the agenda for the evaluation.
A discussion format can be a useful tool for facilitating a candid exchange of views among directors and promoting meaningful dialogue, which can be valuable in assessing effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement. Discussions allow directors to elaborate on their views in ways that may not be feasible with a written questionnaire and to respond in real time to views expressed by their colleagues on the board. On the other hand, they do not provide an opportunity for anonymity. In our experience, this approach works best in boards with a high degree of collegiality and a tradition of candor.
Another method of conducting board evaluations that is becoming more common is interviews with individual directors, done in-person or over the phone. A set of questions is often distributed in advance to help guide the discussion. Interviews can be done by: (a) an outside party such as a lawyer or consultant; (b) an independent director, such as the lead director or the chair of the nominating/governance committee; or (c) the corporate secretary or inside counsel, if directors are comfortable with that. The party conducting the interviews generally summarizes the information obtained in the interview process and may facilitate a discussion of the information obtained with the board.
In our experience, boards that have used interviews to conduct their annual evaluation process generally have found them very productive. Directors have observed that the interviews yielded rich feedback about the board’s performance and effectiveness. Relative to other types of evaluations, interviews are more labor-intensive because they can be time-consuming, particularly for larger boards. They also can be expensive, particularly if the board retains an outside party to conduct the interviews. For these reasons, the interview format generally is not one that is used every year. However, we do see a growing number of boards taking this path as a “refresher”—every three to five years—after periods of using a written questionnaire, or after a major event, such as a corporate crisis of some kind, when the board wants to do an in-depth “lessons learned” analysis as part of its self-evaluation. Interviews also offer an opportunity to develop a targeted list of questions that focuses on issues and themes that are specific to the board and company in question, which can contribute further to the value derived from the interview process.
For nominating/governance committees considering the use of an interview format, one key question is who will conduct the interviews. In our experience, the most common approach is to retain an outside party (such as a lawyer or consultant) to conduct and summarize interviews. An outside party can enhance the effectiveness of the process because directors may be more forthcoming in their responses than they would if another director or a member of management were involved.
Individual Director Evaluations
Another practice that some boards have incorporated into their evaluation process is formal evaluations of individual directors. In our experience, these are not yet widespread but are becoming more common. At companies where the nominating/governance committee has a robust process for assessing the contributions of individual directors each year in deciding whether to recommend them for renomination to the board, the committee and the board may conclude that a formal evaluation every year is unnecessary. Historically, some boards have been hesitant to conduct individual director evaluations because of concerns about the impact on board collegiality and dynamics. However, if done thoughtfully, a structured process for evaluating the performance of each director can result in valuable insights that can strengthen the performance of individual directors and the board as a whole.
As with board and committee evaluations, no single “best practice” has emerged for conducting individual director evaluations, and the methods described above can be adapted for this purpose. In addition, these evaluations may involve directors either evaluating their own performance (self-evaluations), or evaluating their fellow directors individually and as a group (peer evaluations). Directors may be more willing to evaluate their own performance than that of their colleagues, and the utility of self-evaluations can be enhanced by having an independent director, such as the chairman of the board or lead director, or the chair of the nominating/governance committee, provide feedback to each director after the director evaluates his or her own performance. On the other hand, peer evaluations can provide directors with valuable, constructive comments. Here, too, each director’s evaluation results typically would be presented only to that director by the chairman of the board or lead director, or the chair of the nominating/governance committee. Ultimately, whether and how to conduct individual director evaluations will depend on a variety of factors, including board culture.
Disclosures about Board Evaluations
Many companies discuss the board evaluation process in their corporate governance guidelines.  In addition, many companies now provide disclosure about the evaluation process in the proxy statement, as one element of increasingly robust proxy disclosures about their corporate governance practices. According to the 2015 Spencer Stuart Board Index, all but 2% of S&P 500 companies disclose in their proxy statements, at a minimum, that they conduct some form of annual board evaluation.
In addition, institutional shareholders increasingly are expressing an interest in knowing more about the evaluation process at companies where they invest. In particular, they want to understand whether the board’s process is a meaningful one, with actionable items emerging from the evaluation process, and not a “check the box” exercise. In the United Kingdom, companies must report annually on their processes for evaluating the performance of the board, its committees and individual directors under the UK Corporate Governance Code. As part of the code’s “comply or explain approach,” the largest companies are expected to use an external facilitator at least every three years (or explain why they have not done so) and to disclose the identity of the facilitator and whether he or she has any other connection to the company.
In September 2014, the Council of Institutional Investors issued a report entitled Best Disclosure: Board Evaluation (available here), as part of a series of reports aimed at providing investors and companies with approaches to and examples of disclosures that CII considers exemplary. The report recommended two possible approaches to enhanced disclosure about board evaluations, identified through an informal survey of CII members, and included examples of disclosures illustrating each approach. As a threshold matter, CII acknowledged in the report that shareholders generally do not expect details about evaluations of individual directors. Rather, shareholders “want to understand the process by which the board goes about regularly improving itself.” According to CII, detailed disclosure about the board evaluation process can give shareholders a “window” into the boardroom and the board’s capacity for change.
The first approach in the CII report focuses on the “nuts and bolts” of how the board conducts the evaluation process and analyzes the results. Under this approach, a company’s disclosures would address: (1) who evaluates whom; (2) how often the evaluations are done; (3) who reviews the results; and (4) how the board decides to address the results. Disclosures under this approach do not address feedback from specific evaluations, either individually or more generally, or conclusions that the board has drawn from recent self-evaluations. As a result, according to CII, this approach can take the form of “evergreen” proxy disclosure that remains similar from year to year, unless the evaluation process itself changes.
The second approach focuses more on the board’s most recent evaluation. Under this approach, in addition to addressing the evaluation process, a company’s disclosures would provide information about “big-picture, board-wide findings and any steps for tackling areas identified for improvement” during the board’s last evaluation. The disclosures would identify: (1) key takeaways from the board’s review of its own performance, including both areas where the board believes it functions effectively and where it could improve; and (2) a “plan of action” to address areas for improvement over the coming year. According to CII, this type of disclosure is more common in the United Kingdom and other non-U.S. jurisdictions.
Also reflecting a greater emphasis on disclosure about board evaluations, proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) added this subject to the factors it uses in evaluating companies’ governance practices when it released an updated version of “QuickScore,” its corporate governance benchmarking tool, in Fall 2014. QuickScore views a company as having a “robust” board evaluation policy where the board discloses that it conducts an annual performance evaluation, including evaluations of individual directors, and that it uses an external evaluator at least every three years (consistent with the approach taken in the UK Corporate Governance Code). For individual director evaluations, it appears that companies can receive QuickScore “credit” in this regard where the nominating/governance committee assesses director performance in connection with the renomination process.
What Companies Should Do Now
As noted above, there is no “one size fits all” approach to board evaluations, but the process should be viewed as an opportunity to enhance board, committee and director performance. In this regard, a company’s nominating/governance committee and board should periodically assess the evaluation process itself to determine whether it is resulting in meaningful takeaways, and whether changes are appropriate. This includes considering whether the board would benefit from trying new approaches to the evaluation process every few years.
Factors to consider in deciding what evaluation format to use include any specific objectives the board seeks to achieve through the evaluation process, aspects of the current evaluation process that have worked well, the board’s culture, and any concerns directors may have about confidentiality. And, we believe that every board should carefully consider “changing up” the evaluation process used from time to time so that the exercise does not become rote. What will be the most beneficial in any given year will depend on a variety of factors specific to the board and the company. For the board, this includes considerations of board refreshment and tenure, and developments the board may be facing, such as changes in board or committee leadership. Factors relevant to the company include where the company is in its lifecycle, whether the company is in a period of relative stability, challenge or transformation, whether there has been a significant change in the company’s business or a senior management change, whether there is activist interest in the company and whether the company has recently gone through or is going through a crisis of some kind. Specific items that nominating/governance committees could consider as part of maintaining an effective evaluation process include:
Revisit the content and focus of written questionnaires. Evaluation questionnaires should be updated each time they are used in order to reflect significant new developments, both in the external environment and internal to the board.
“Change it up.” If the board has been using the same written questionnaire, or the same evaluation format, for several years, consider trying something new for an upcoming annual evaluation. This can bring renewed vigor to the process, reengage the participants, and result in more meaningful feedback.
Consider whether to bring in an external facilitator. Boards that have not previously used an outside party to assist in their evaluations should consider whether this would enhance the candor and overall effectiveness of the process.
Engage in a meaningful discussion of the evaluation results. Unless the board does its evaluation using a discussion format, there should be time on the board’s agenda to discuss the evaluation results so that all directors have an opportunity to hear and discuss the feedback from the evaluation.
Incorporate follow-up into the process. Regardless of the evaluation method used, it is critical to follow up on issues and concerns that emerge from the evaluation process. The process should include identifying concrete takeaways and formulating action items to address any concerns or areas for improvement that emerge from the evaluation. Senior management can be a valuable partner in this endeavor, and should be briefed as appropriate on conclusions reached as a result of the evaluation and related action items. The board also should consider its progress in addressing these items.
Revisit disclosures. Working with management, the nominating/governance committee and the board should discuss whether the company’s proxy disclosures, investor and governance website information and other communications to shareholders and potential investors contain meaningful, current information about the board evaluation process.
 See NYSE Rule 303A.09, which requires listed companies to adopt and disclose a set of corporate governance guidelines that must address an annual performance evaluation of the board. The rule goes on to state that “[t]he board should conduct a self-evaluation at least annually to determine whether it and its committees are functioning effectively.” See also NYSE Rules 303A.07(b)(ii), 303A.05(b)(ii) and 303A.04(b)(ii) (requiring annual evaluations of the audit, compensation, and nominating/governance committees, respectively). (go back)
 In addition, as discussed in the previous note, NYSE companies are required to address an annual evaluation of the board in their corporate governance guidelines. (go back)
*John Olson is a founding partner of the Washington, D.C. office at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and a visiting professor at the Georgetown Law Center.
Chaque année, la firme ISS produit un rapport très attendu sur les pratiques relatives aux conseils d’administration.
L’étude publiée par Carol Bowie*, directrice de la recherche à Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), et parue sur le forum du HLS, présente de façon claire l’état de la situation, les tendances qui se dessinent ainsi que les nouvelles normes qui prévalent dans les entreprises du S&P 500, du MidCap 400 et du SmallCap 600.
Par exemple, 88 % des entreprises du S&P 500 ont adopté la pratique du vote majoritaire, délaissant ainsi la pratique de la pluralité des voix.
Également, plus de 80 % des entreprises du S&P 500 soumettent leurs administrateurs à des élections annuelles, délaissant ainsi l’habitude des « Staggered Boards » (élections des administrateurs à des périodes différentes).
En ce qui concerne la réalité de la diversité des conseils d’administration, on note des progrès continus, mais lents. Ainsi, 98 % des entreprises du S&P 500 ont au moins une femme sur le conseil, et 79 % ont au moins un membre d’une minorité sur le conseil. Au total, environ 20 % de femmes siègent à des conseils d’administration et 17 % des administrateurs proviennent de minorités diverses.
Enfin, l’étude montre que 13,3 % de tous les postes d’administrateurs ont été pourvus par de nouvelles recrues (moins de 2 ans sur le CA).
Je vous invite à jeter un œil aux tableaux qui ponctuent le rapport.
ISS’ latest update of the structure and composition of boards and individual director attributes at Standard & Poor’s U.S. “Super 1,500” companies (i.e., companies in the S&P 500, MidCap 400, and SmallCap 600 indices) found a number of new and continuing trends in board practices and director attributes at these key index companies.
Majority Votes for Directors and Annual Board Elections are the New Normal
Based on analysis of public filings (primarily proxy statements) related to shareholder meetings occurring from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, the study reports that annual board elections and majority vote standards for those elections are now the norm across the S&P 1500. While larger companies initially led the way in adopting these accountability enhancements, the pace of abandoning staggered board terms at smaller companies picked up speed in 2015. Also, Small- and MidCap companies adopted majority vote standards for board elections at a faster pace than their S&P 500 counterparts in 2015—increasing by 4 and 3 percentages points, respectively among the Small- and MidCap firms. For the third consecutive year, well over half of all study companies have majority voting standards, which is now the clear market standard at S&P 500 companies, with over 88 percent of companies in the index having adopted the practice. Only 61 total S&P 500 companies maintain a plurality vote standard, down from 67 last year and 87 in 2013.
There has also been a significant increase over the last five years in the number of companies holding annual elections, both at the S&P 1500 and at each constituent index. The proportion is significantly higher at S&P 500 companies, where it has risen more than 20 percentage points in the last five years. Still, over 60 percent of S&P 1500 companies (and over 80 percent of S&P 500 companies) now hold annual elections for all directors, While the prevalence has increased in the S&P 1500 every year since 2009, the largest jump occurred last year, when it rose from 60 to 64 percent, driven by an 8 percentage point increase at the S&P 500, where only 84 boards now hold staggered elections.
Many companies completed the gradual removals of their classified board structures that had begun in response to a large wave of shareholder proposals offered in a campaign organized by the now defunct Shareholder Rights Project at Harvard Law School. A majority of SmallCap companies held annual elections for the first time in 2014, a trend that has continued, as an additional 2 percent of the index’s companies held annual elections in 2015. Bucking the trend were the MidCap companies, which showed a slight decrease in the proportion holding annual elections in 2015, after steading increases in 2009 through 2014.
Many corporate governance experts believe that the interplay of different backgrounds and perspectives enhances the effectiveness of boards and facilitates greater long-term corporate success. Some advocates for board diversity believe that a “tone at the top” will penetrate the corporate hierarchy and lead to increased diversity across all ranks of employment.
Companies with larger market caps generally have higher levels of gender and racial/ethnic diversity than those with smaller valuations. As of ISS’ latest analysis, almost all S&P 500 companies have at least one female or minority director, while 90 percent of MidCap boards and 78 percent of SmallCap boards have at least one female or minority member. There has been a market-wide increase over the past five years in board diversity:
Ninety-eight percent of S&P 500 boards have at least one female member and 79 percent have at least one minority, up from 89 and 63 percent in 2010, respectively;
Eighty-four percent of MidCap boards have at least one female member and 53 percent have at least one minority, increased from 74 and 36 percent in 2010, respectively; and
Sixty-nine percent of SmallCap boards have at least one female member and 41 percent have at least one minority, increased from 54 and 22 percent in 2010, respectively.
More than 88 percent of S&P 1500 companies have at least one female or minority director, and a majority of the S&P 1500 have either one female and/or one minority, who, in some instances, are the same individual. Minority women hold 329 directorships, an increase from 279 in 2014. Although this represents an absolute increase, the proportion of S&P 1500 directorships held by minority women has remained at approximately 2.4 percent since 2010.
In 2015, 1,833 seats, or about 13.3 percent of all directorships, were filled by directors with less than two years’ tenure and who were elected for the first time in 2014 or 2015 (“new” directors). That compares with about 12 percent of all directorships filled by “new” directors in last year’s analysis, suggesting a slight increase in the turnover rate. The characteristics of these new directors were analyzed to develop a better understanding of what companies may be considering when choosing new director candidates.
New directors are generally younger than directors with tenures of over two years. Also, the average age difference is 5.3 years, an increase from 2014.
Fifty-three percent of new directors serve on only one board, which continues the trend identified in last year’s study, which found that nominating committees are bringing on directors who have no prior board experience. However, a majority of open S&P 500 positions, 56 percent, were filled by a director who sits on at least one other board, which drives the “average” number of outside boards for new directors up to nearly one and underscores the fact that market leading companies seek directors with a track record. New directors are more likely than those with more than two years tenure to be outside hires; 46 percent of all directors joining boards in 2014 and 2015 sit on only one board and are not executives of the companies whose boards they have joined.
Similarly, the percentage of new directors who are female or identified as an ethnic/racial minority continues to exceed the proportion of longer-tenured female- and minority-held S&P 1500 directorships. While the proportion of new directorships held by females has increased for several consecutive years, this momentum seems to be slower for minority directors. Minority directors comprised 16 percent of new directorships in 2015, compared to 10 percent of all new directors in 2014. Female directors filled 27 percent of new directorships in 2015, up from 22 percent in 2014, and 20 percent in 2013. This increase highlights both the overall growth in the number of directorships held by women and the acceleration in the growth of female directorships.
*This post is based on a recent publication authored by ISS U.S. Research analysts Andrew Borek, Liz Williams, and Rob Yates. Information on how to obtain the full report is available here.