Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 24 mai 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 24 mai 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »

 

  1. Board Performance Evaluations that Add Value
  2. Cryptocurrency Compensation: A Primer on Token-Based Awards
  3. Does it Pay to Pay Attention?
  4. Non-Delaware Decisions on Director Nominations
  5. The Conflicted Role of Proxy Advisors
  6. How Valuable are Independent Directors? Evidence from External Distractions
  7. Elon Musk’s Compensation
  8. Why Shareholder Wealth Maximization Despite Other Objectives
  9. Congress Increases Pressure on Proxy Advisory Firms
  10. The DOJ’s New “Piling On” Policy

Quel client les firmes d’audit servent-elles ?


Voici un article-choc publié par Chris Hughes dans la revue Bloomberg qui porte sur l’indépendance (ou le manque d’indépendance) des quatre grandes firmes d’audit dans le monde.

Il y a une sérieuse polémique eu égard à l’indépendance réelle des grandes firmes d’audit.

Cet article donne les grandes lignes de la problématique et il esquisse des avenues de solution.

Qu’en pensez-vous ?

 

 

Just Whom Does an Auditor Really Serve?

 

Shareholders need to be the client, not company executives.

L’une des quatre grandes firmes

 

British lawmakers are pushing for a full-blown antitrust probe into the country’s four big accountancy firms following the demise of U.K. construction group Carillion Plc.

The current domination of KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, EY and Deloitte isn’t working for shareholders. But creating more competition among the bean counters won’t be enough on its own. The fundamental problem is who the client is. The thrust of reform should be on making auditors see that their client is the investor and not the company executive. Randgold Resources is the only FTSE 100 company not to be audited by one of the Big Four !

Carillion’s accounts weren’t completely useless. Recent annual reports contained red flags of the company’s deteriorating financial health that were apparent to the smart money. Some long funds cut their holdings and hedge funds took large short positions, as my colleague Chris Bryant points out.

If the evidence was there to those who looked hard, it’s odd that the company was given a clean bill of health from accountancy firm KPMG months before it went bust. The impression is that auditors are on the side of the company rather than the shareholder. (KPMG says it believes it conducted its audit appropriately.)

Would more competition have made a difference? Companies may have only one accountant available if the few competing firms are already working for a rival. A lack of choice in any market usually leads to lower quality.

One response would be to force the Big Four to shed clients to mid-tier firms, creating a Big Five or Big Six. The risk is this greater competition just leads to a race to the bottom on fees with no improvement in quality. Other remedies are needed first.

The combination of audit and more lucrative consultancy work has long been chided – with good reason. Consultancy creates a client-pleasing culture. That’s at odds with the auditor’s role in challenging the assumptions behind company statements.

Opponents of a separation say combining the two services helps attract talent. This is a weak argument. Further lowering the current cap on consultancy fees, or completely separating audit and consultancy, is hard to argue with.

The accountancy firm should clearly serve the non-executive directors on the company’s audit committee which, in turn, is charged with looking out for shareholders. The risk is that the auditor’s main point of contact is the executive in the form of the chief financial officer.

Shareholders already have a vote on the appointment of the auditor. But annual reports could provide more useful disclosure on the frequency and depth of the last year’s contact between the firm and the audit committee, and between the latter and shareholders.

Now consider the nature of the job itself. Companies present the accounts, auditors check them. Out pops a financial statement that gives the false impression of extreme precision. Numbers that are the based on assumptions might be better presented as a range, accompanied by a critique of the judgments applied by the company.

Creating more big audit firms may create upward pressure on quality. But so long as they aren’t incentivized to have shareholders front of mind, it won’t be a long wait for the next Carillion.

__________________________________________________________

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

L’évaluation du conseil d’administration et des administrateurs | Une activité essentielle


Il y a quelques années, j’ai publié, en collaboration avec Geoffrey KIEL et James BECK (1), un guide pratique des questions clés que les conseils d’administration devraient prendre en considération lorsqu’ils planifient une évaluation du conseil d’administration.

Cet article est toujours d’actualité ; il met l’accent sur l’utilité d’avoir des évaluations bien menées ainsi que sur les sept étapes à suivre pour obtenir des évaluations efficaces. Vous pouvez consulter cet article sur mon blogue : « SEPT ÉTAPES À SUIVRE POUR DES ÉVALUATIONS EFFICACES D’UN CONSEIL D’ADMINISTRATION ET DES ADMINISTRATEURS ».

Récemment, les auteurs Geoffrey KIEL* et James BECK, ont publié un livre sur l’importance de l’évaluation du conseil d’administration dans une perspective de valeur ajoutée : « Reviewing Your Board—A Guide to Board and Director Evaluation ».

Après avoir brossé un tableau de la progression très marquée de l’activité d’évaluation, les auteurs reviennent sur l’approche conceptuelle idéale à adopter.

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de cette documentation afin de valider la portée de cette activité qui relève du comité de gouvernance.

Bonne lecture !

 

Board Performance Evaluations that Add Value

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « évaluation du fonctionnement du conseil d'administration »

 

Annual board evaluations are now commonplace for both for-profit and non-profit organizations, with specific board evaluation recommendations forming a key component in nearly every major corporate governance standard, review or report internationally.

Recent data on US boards from the global consulting firm Spencer Stuart shows that 98% of S&P 500 boards conduct a board evaluation of some type, although only about a third review the board as a whole, individual directors and committees as part of the process. [1] In the UK, the majority of boards on the FTSE 150 conduct board reviews, with 60.7% conducting their evaluations internally, while 38% of boards used an external facilitator. [2] Encouragingly, PwC reports that in 2017 68% of public company directors in the US say that the board has taken action based on the results of their last board review, which was an increase on the 49% from PwC’s survey in 2016. [3]

In a cross sector review of board effectiveness by the UK arm of Grant Thornton, more than 60% off those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that there were “adequate processes in place to evaluate the performance of the whole board.” [4] But are “adequate processes” good enough? For example, adequate processes might mean a perfunctory activity is conducted annually to meet listing requirements or pay lip service to best practice governance. And what about the 40% of boards in the UK survey that do not have adequate processes?

Our experience, having been involved in many board evaluations in large and small, for-profit and non-profit organisations, is that the effectiveness of board reviews ranges from counterproductive exercises, which exacerbate already fractious and poorly performing boards, to truly transformational change leading to superior governance and organisational outcomes. Further, our experience suggests that understanding the relative advantages and disadvantages of the different types of board reviews, and properly planning and implementing the board’s evaluation significantly increases the likelihood of positive outcomes.

 

A seven step framework for board evaluations

 

We wrote our recently released book, Reviewing Your Board—A Guide to Board and Director Evaluation, to address this need for more information about board and director evaluations to give boards and their directors the opportunity to think about board evaluations and how they can be carried out to add—rather than subtract—value to the organization.

Our approach to effective board and director evaluations uses a seven-step framework (see Figure 1) that asks the vital questions all boards should consider when planning an evaluation. [5] While these questions must be asked for all board evaluations, the combined answers can be quite different. Thus, although the seven questions may be common to each, the subsequent review processes can range markedly in their scope, complexity and cost. Further, while our framework is described sequentially, in practice, most boards will not follow such a linear process.

 

Figure 1

Framework for a board evaluation

 

Source: Kiel, et al., 2018, p. 4

 

1. What are our objectives?

 

The first (and, in our opinion, most important) aspect of any evaluation is establishing why the board is doing it. The primary motivation can be characterized as “conformance” or “value adding”:

– conformance focuses on meeting the expectations of external scrutiny through compliance with various laws and following appropriate governance standards—whether mandated or self-imposed; and

– value adding focuses on improving both organizational and board performance. For example, taking proactive steps to ensure the board is effective in bringing new talent into the boardroom to maintain a proper mix of skills.

In practice, most board reviews will be aimed at meeting both conformance and value-adding objectives.

Without a solid rationale shared by the directors, any evaluation is likely to meet resistance and/or fail. There are many aspects of its performance the board may wish to evaluate. Apart from a desire to contribute to firm performance, many boards feel that regular evaluation contributes significantly to group processes within the board. A regular board review can indicate potential problems or differences of opinion that can be addressed before they become a source of conflict.

Generally, the answer to the first question in the seven-step framework will fall into one of the following two categories:

– organizational leadership, e.g., “We want to clearly demonstrate our commitment to performance management”; or

– problem resolution, e.g., “We do not seem to have the appropriate skills, competencies or motivation on the board”.

Clearly identified objectives enable the board to set specific goals for the evaluation and make decisions about the scope of the review; e.g., the approach the board will take, how many people will be involved, how much time and money will be allocated.

 

2. Who will be evaluated?

 

Comprehensive governance evaluations can entail reviewing the performance of a wide range of individuals and groups. Boards need to consider three groups:

– the board as whole (including committees);

– individual directors (including the role of the chair); and

– key governance personnel (generally the CEO and corporate/company secretary).

Considerations such as cost or time constraints, however, may prevent reviewing all three groups.

Alternatively, a board may have a very specific objective for the review process that does not require the review of all individuals and groups identified. In both cases, an effective evaluation requires the board to select the most appropriate individuals or groups to review, based on its objectives.

 

3. What will be evaluated?

 

The third stage in establishing a framework for a board evaluation involves deciding the criteria for the evaluation process. This is necessary whether the board is seeking general or specific performance improvements, and will suit boards seeking to improve areas as diverse as board processes, director skills, competencies and motivation, or even boardroom relationships.

To cover the range of objectives the board may have, including meeting any compliance requirements, board evaluations generally use some form of leading practice framework, such as the National Association of Corporate Directors’ Key Agreed Principles [6]or the Business Roundtable Principles of Corporate Governance[7] Of course, a comprehensive list of areas for investigation will need to be balanced with the scope of the evaluation and the resources available for the process. At this stage, a realistic assessment of the resources available, a component of which is the time availability of directors and other key governance personnel, can be made.

 

4. Who will be asked?

 

The vast majority of board and director evaluations concentrate exclusively on the board as the sole sources of information for the evaluation process. However, this discounts other potentially rich sources of feedback. Participants in the evaluation can be drawn from within or from outside the organization. Internally, directors, the CEO, senior executives and, in some cases, other management personnel and employees may be able to provide useful feedback on elements of the governance system. Externally, depending on the ownership structure, shareholders may provide valuable data for the review. Similarly, in some situations, key stakeholders such as government departments or agencies, major clients and suppliers may have close links with the board and be in a position to provide useful information on its performance.

 

5. What techniques will be used?

 

Depending on the degree of formality, the objectives of the evaluation, and the resources available, boards may choose between a range of qualitative and quantitative techniques. Quantitative data are in the form of numbers. They can be used to answer questions of “how much” or “how many”. Questionnaire-based surveys are by far the most common form of quantitative technique used in board evaluations and can be an important information-gathering tool.

Questions of “what”, “how”, and “why” require qualitative research methods. The three main methods used for collecting qualitative data are:

  1. Interviews, either one-on-one or in small groups, provide an excellent way of assessing directors’ perceptions, meaning and constructions of reality by asking for information in a way that allows them to express themselves in their own terms;
  2. Board meeting observation is especially useful when the evaluation objectives relate to issues of boardroom dynamics or relationships between individuals; and
  3. Document analysis of board packs, governance policies and similar can also be a rich source of information to identify areas of improvement in board processes.

When the board evaluation’s objectives are to identify governance issues, qualitative research is particularly useful. Qualitative data does, however, have several drawbacks. The major one being that interpreting the results requires judgment and experience on the part of the person undertaking the review and analysis.

There is no best methodology. Research techniques need to be adapted to the evaluation objectives and board context. However, there are advantages to be gained from combining a questionnaire with interviews. The questionnaire (most often delivered online) allows directors to benchmark the board along a series of dimensions (e.g. very poor to very good; 1 to 5; etc.), which allows directors to see where they have differing viewpoints from other directors. This can then be followed-up by interviews to allow directors to provide further context to the topics covered in the questionnaire and to raise areas of concern not covered in the survey.

 

6. Who will do the evaluation?

 

Who conducts the evaluation process will depend on whether the review is to be conducted internally or externally and what methodology is chosen. Internal reviews are conducted within the organization, either by one or more directors or governance personnel such as the corporate secretary. External reviews are conducted by external parties, most often either specialist consulting firms in corporate governance, large generalist consulting firms or law firms.

Internal reviews are more likely to provide board members with confidence surrounding the confidentiality of the process and are likely to cost less. All of these are important considerations when making the decision.

There are, however, several limitations to an internally conducted review. The internal reviewer may lack the skills required (e.g., interview technique, survey design), they are likely to have a bias (often unconscious) that carries over into the assessment and it is a less transparent process where the review process is carried out by one of the board’s own. Perhaps most significantly, the review is likely to achieve little if the reviewer (e.g., the chair) is the source of the problems or it may not be appropriate given the objectives of the review.

An external facilitator can offer a number of advantages including that:

– a good external facilitator is more likely to have undertaken a significant number of reviews and will often provide important insights into techniques, comparison points and new ideas;

– an external party often aids transparency and objectivity;

– a good external party can play a mediating role for boards facing sensitive issues through being the messenger for difficult matters involving group dynamics and egos.

Ultimately, factors such as the complexity of the governance problems faced, the experience of the board and cost considerations will determine whether the board decides to conduct the evaluation internally or seek external advice. However, it is now becoming more and more common for boards to alternate between an internal review one year and an external review the next.

 

7. What will we do with the results?

 

The evaluation’s objectives should be the determining factor when deciding to whom the results will be released. Most often, the board’s central objective will be to agree a series of actions that it can take to improve governance. Since the effectiveness of the governance system relies on people within the organization, communicating the results to all directors and key governance personnel is critical for boards seeking performance improvement. Where the objective of the board evaluation is to assess the quality of board—management relationships, a summary of the evaluation may also be shared with the senior management team.

If the board wishes to build its reputation for transparency and/or to develop relationships with external stakeholders, a positive, focused board evaluation is an excellent way of demonstrating that it is serious about governance and is committed to improving its performance. Obviously, when considering what information to communicate externally, a balance needs to be struck between transparency on the one hand and the need for shareholders and other external stakeholders to retain faith in the board’s ability and effectiveness on the other hand. Such communication outline how the evaluation was conducted (e.g. internal or external review), the focus of the review (e.g. role fulfilment) and, perhaps, some of the major outcomes (e.g. identified need to further focus on strategy or requirements for new skills on the board).

In communicating board review outcomes, it should be remembered that the confidentiality of the process contributes significantly to full and frank insights being provided by participants and provides the board with defensible results. As such, director confidentiality must be protected.

 

Implementing the outcomes

 

Once the annual performance evaluation is over, the board’s attention will move on to other issues and any stimulus for change that may have come when the results were first delivered can dissolve. Worse still, directors along with any executives who participated in the process will feel the evaluation has been a waste of their valuable time if recommendations for improvement were accepted, but not acted on. Therefore, it is critical that any agreed actions that come out of an evaluation are implemented and monitored. Many boards include a review of action steps as an agenda item to be tracked at each meeting. Milestones can be established for the achievement of the action plans and progress reviewed until all agreed changes have been implemented.

 

Other approaches to board evaluation

 

There are a number of different approaches to evaluating board performance that may better suit a board’s objectives and differ from the “traditional” board, individual director (self and peer), chair or committee evaluations. For example, board skills assessment and board maturity assessment all serve a different purpose and can bring about significant improvements to the board’s performance if appropriately implemented.

If the board’s primary objective in undertaking a review of its performance is to focus on the current and required skills of the board, a dedicated skills analysis rather than a board evaluation would be the best way to identify the skills that currently exist on the board and consequently, highlight any skills gaps.

More recently, a new type of board review is being used, board maturity assessment. Maturity assessments involve benchmarking the board against what is regarded as good practice. Maturity models have become popular in several management disciplines. They involve establishing different levels of practice from “basic” to “advanced” over the key functions of an activity, based on contemporary views of best practice. In corporate governance, the key functions include the role of the board in relation to the CEO, risk practices, compliance, the conduct of board meetings, effective use of board committees, and so on. The governance activity of the organization in all these governance dimensions is then assessed by an external evaluator experienced in corporate governance against the maturity model to provide a current maturity rating. Directors’ views can be part of the process, with directors indicating what level of maturity is desirable for the organization given its circumstances. Looking at the gaps between the current level of governance practice and the appropriate level as agreed by directors shows where better practice may be implemented. This approach also has the benefit of indirectly educating directors as to what is good governance practice.

 

Conclusion

 

Performance evaluation is an increasingly important feature of boardrooms across the globe. These reviews have benefits for individual directors, boards and the organizations for which they work. Boards also need to recognize that the evaluation process is an effective team-building, ethics-shaping activity. Our observation is that boards often neglect the process of engagement when undertaking evaluations; unfortunately, boards that fail to engage their members are missing a major opportunity for developing a shared set of board norms and inculcating a positive board and organizational culture. In short, the process is as important as the content.

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Endnotes

1Spencer Stuart, 2017 Spencer Stuart US Board Indexwww.spencerstuart.com/research-and-insight/ssbi-2017, accessed 7 March 2018.(go back)

2Spencer Stuart, 2017 Spencer Stuart UK Board Indexwww.spencerstuart.com/research-and-insight/uk-board-index-2017, accessed 7 March 2018.(go back)

3 PwC, 2017 Annual Corporate Directors Surveyhttps://www.pwc.com/us/en/governance-insights-center/annual-corporate-directors-survey/assets/pwc-2017-annual-corporate–directors–survey.pdf, accessed 7 March 2018.(go back)

4Grant Thornton UK, 2017, The Board: creating and protecting valuehttps://www.grantthornton.co.uk/globalassets/1.-member-firms/united-kingdom/pdf/publication/board-effectiveness-report-2017.pdf, accessed 8 March 2018, p 10(go back)

5G Kiel, G Nicholson, J Tunny, and J Beck, 2018, Reviewing Your Board: A Guide to Board and Director Evaluation, Australian Institute of Company Directors, Sydney.(go back)

6National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), 2011, Key Agreed Principleshttps://www.nacdonline.org/files/PDF/KEY%20AGREED%20PRINCIPLES%202011.pdf, accessed 1 May 2018.(go back)

7Business Roundtable, 2016, Business Roundtable Principles of Corporate Governancehttps://businessroundtable.org/sites/default/files/Principles-of-Corporate-Governance-2016.pdf, accessed 1 May 2018.(go back)

___________________________________________________

*Professor Geoffrey Kiel is a Specialist Advisor and James Beck is Managing Director at Effective Governance Pty Ltd. This post is based on an Effective Governance publication by Prof. Kiel and Mr. Beck.

(1) Geoffrey KIEL, James BECK et Jacques GRISÉ (1) Geoffrey Kiel, Ph.D., premier vice-chancelier délégué et doyen de l’École d’administration, University of Notre Dame, Australie, et président de la société Effective Governance Pty Ltd, James Beck, directeur général, Effective Governance Pty Ltd, Jacques Grisé, Ph.D., F.Adm.A., collaborateur spécial du Collège des administrateurs de sociétés (CAS), Faculté des sciences de l’administration, Université Laval, Québec.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 17 mai 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 17 mail 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conséquences à la non-divulgation d’une cyberattaque majeure


Quelles sont les conséquences de ne pas divulguer une intrusion importante du système de sécurité informatique ?

Les auteurs, Matthew C. Solomon* et Pamela L. Marcogliese, dans un billet publié sur le forum du HLS, ont étudié de près la situation des manquements à la sécurité informatique de Yahoo et ils nous présentent les conséquences de la non-divulgation d’attaques cybernétiques et de bris à la sécurité des informations des clients.

Ils exposent le cas très clairement, puis ils s’attardent aux modalités des arrangements financiers avec la Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

Comme ce sont des événements susceptibles de se produire de plus en plus, il importe que les entreprises soient bien au fait de ce qui les attend en cas de violation des obligations de divulgation.

Les auteurs font les cinq (5) constats suivants eu égard à la situation vécue par Yahoo :

 

— First, public companies should take seriously the SEC’s repeated warnings that one of its top priorities is ensuring that public companies meet their obligations to adequately disclose material cybersecurity incidents and risks. This requires regular assessment of cyber incidents and risks in light of the company’s disclosures, with the assistance of outside counsel and auditors as appropriate, and ensuring that there are adequate disclosure controls in place for such incidents and risks.

— Second, the SEC’s recently released interpretive guidance on cybersecurity disclosure is an important guidepost for all companies with such disclosure obligations. The guidance specifically cited the fact that the SEC views disclosure that a company is subject to future cybersecurity attacks as inadequate if the company had already suffered such incidents. Notably, the Yahoo settlement specifically faulted the company for this precise inadequacy in its disclosures. Similarly, the recent guidance encouraged companies to adopt comprehensive policies and procedures related to cybersecurity and to assess their compliance regularly, including the sufficiency of their disclosure controls and procedures as they relate to cybersecurity disclosure. The Yahoo settlement also found that the company had inadequate such controls.

— Third, at the same time the SEC announced the settlement, it took care to emphasize that “[w]e do not second-guess good faith exercises of judgment about cyber-incident disclosure.” [7] The SEC went on to note that Yahoo failed to meet this standard with respect to the 2014 Breach, but by articulating a “good faith” standard the SEC likely meant to send a message to the broader market that it is not seeking to penalize companies that make reasonable efforts to meet their cyber disclosure obligations.

— Fourth, it is also notable that the SEC charges did not include allegations that Yahoo violated securities laws with respect to the 2013 Breach. Yahoo had promptly disclosed the 2013 Breach after learning about it in late 2016, but updated its disclosure almost a year later with significant new information about the scope of the breach. The SEC’s recent guidance indicated that it was mindful that some material facts may not be available at the time of the initial disclosure, as was apparently the case with respect to the 2013 Breach. [8] At the same time, the SEC cautioned that “an ongoing internal or external investigation – which often can be lengthy – would not on its own provide a basis for avoiding disclosures of a material cybersecurity incident.” [9]

— Finally, it is worth noting that the Commission did not insist on settlements with any individuals. Companies, of course, can only commit securities violations through the actions of their employees. While it is not unusual for the Commission to settle entity-only cases on a “collective negligence” theory, the SEC Chair and the Enforcement Division’s leadership have emphasized the need to hold individuals accountable in order to maximize the deterrent impact of SEC actions. [10]

 

Bonne lecture !

 

Failure to Disclose a Cybersecurity Breach

 

 

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On April 24, 2018, Altaba, formerly known as Yahoo, entered into a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), pursuant to which Altaba agreed to pay $35 million to resolve allegations that Yahoo violated federal securities laws in connection with the disclosure of the 2014 data breach of its user database. The case represents the first time a public company has been charged by the SEC for failing to adequately disclose a cyber breach, an area that is expected to face continued heightened scrutiny as enforcement authorities and the public are increasingly focused on the actions taken by companies in response to such incidents. Altaba’s settlement with the SEC, coming on the heels of its agreement to pay $80 million to civil class action plaintiffs alleging similar disclosure violations, underscores the increasing potential legal exposure for companies based on failing to properly disclose cybersecurity risks and incidents.

Background

As alleged, Yahoo learned in late 2014 that it had recently suffered a data breach affecting over 500 million user accounts (the “2014 Breach”). Yahoo did not disclose the 2014 Breach until September 2016. During the time period Yahoo was aware of the undisclosed breach, it entered into negotiations to be acquired by Verizon and finalized a stock purchase agreement in July 2016, two months prior to the disclosure of the 2014 Breach. Following the disclosure in September 2016, Yahoo’s stock price dropped 3% and it later renegotiated the stock purchase agreement to reduce the price paid for Yahoo’s operating business by $350 million.

In or about late 2016, following its disclosure of the 2014 Breach, Yahoo learned about a separate breach that had taken place in August 2013 and promptly announced that such breach had affected 1 billion users (the “2013 Breach”). In October 2017, Yahoo updated its disclosure concerning the 2013 Breach, announcing that it now believed that all 3 billion of its accounts had been affected.

The Settlement

Altaba’s SEC settlement centered on the 2014 Breach only. The SEC found that despite learning of the 2014 Breach in late 2014—which resulted in the theft of as many as 500 million of its users’ Yahoo usernames, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords, and security questions and answers, referred to internally as Yahoo’s “crown jewels”— Yahoo failed to timely disclose the material cybersecurity incident in any of its public securities filings until September 2016. Although Yahoo senior management and relevant legal staff were made aware of the 2014 Breach, according to the SEC, they “did not properly assess the scope, business impact, or legal implications of the breach, including how and where the breach should have been disclosed in Yahoo’s public filings or whether the fact of the breach rendered, or would render, any statements made by Yahoo in its public filings misleading.” [1] The SEC also faulted Yahoo’s senior management and legal staff because they “did not share information regarding the breach with Yahoo’s auditors or outside counsel in order to assess the company’s disclosure obligations in its public filings.” [2]

Among other things, the SEC found that Yahoo’s risk factor disclosures in its annual and quarterly reports from 2014 through 2016 were materially misleading in that they claimed the company only faced the risk of potential future data breaches, without disclosing that “a massive data breach” had in fact already occurred. [3]

The SEC also alleged that Yahoo management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations (“MD&A”) in those reports was also misleading to the extent it omitted known trends or uncertainties with regard to liquidity or net revenue presented by the 2014 Breach. [4]Finally, the SEC further found that Yahoo did not maintain adequate disclosure controls and procedures designed to ensure that reports from Yahoo’s information security team raising actual incidents of the theft of user data, or the significant risk of theft of user data, were properly and timely assessed to determine how and where data breaches should be disclosed in Yahoo’s public filings. [5]

Based on these allegations, the SEC found that Yahoo violated Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act and Section 13(a) of the Securities Exchange Act. [6] To settle the charges, Altaba, without admitting or denying liability, agreed to cease and desist from any further violations of the federal securities laws and pay a civil penalty of $35 million.

Takeaways

There are several important takeaways from the settlement:

— First, public companies should take seriously the SEC’s repeated warnings that one of its top priorities is ensuring that public companies meet their obligations to adequately disclose material cybersecurity incidents and risks. This requires regular assessment of cyber incidents and risks in light of the company’s disclosures, with the assistance of outside counsel and auditors as appropriate, and ensuring that there are adequate disclosure controls in place for such incidents and risks.

— Second, the SEC’s recently released interpretive guidance on cybersecurity disclosure is an important guidepost for all companies with such disclosure obligations. The guidance specifically cited the fact that the SEC views disclosure that a company is subject to future cybersecurity attacks as inadequate if the company had already suffered such incidents. Notably, the Yahoo settlement specifically faulted the company for this precise inadequacy in its disclosures. Similarly, the recent guidance encouraged companies to adopt comprehensive policies and procedures related to cybersecurity and to assess their compliance regularly, including the sufficiency of their disclosure controls and procedures as they relate to cybersecurity disclosure. The Yahoo settlement also found that the company had inadequate such controls.

— Third, at the same time the SEC announced the settlement, it took care to emphasize that “[w]e do not second-guess good faith exercises of judgment about cyber-incident disclosure.” [7] The SEC went on to note that Yahoo failed to meet this standard with respect to the 2014 Breach, but by articulating a “good faith” standard the SEC likely meant to send a message to the broader market that it is not seeking to penalize companies that make reasonable efforts to meet their cyber disclosure obligations.

— Fourth, it is also notable that the SEC charges did not include allegations that Yahoo violated securities laws with respect to the 2013 Breach. Yahoo had promptly disclosed the 2013 Breach after learning about it in late 2016, but updated its disclosure almost a year later with significant new information about the scope of the breach. The SEC’s recent guidance indicated that it was mindful that some material facts may not be available at the time of the initial disclosure, as was apparently the case with respect to the 2013 Breach. [8] At the same time, the SEC cautioned that “an ongoing internal or external investigation – which often can be lengthy – would not on its own provide a basis for avoiding disclosures of a material cybersecurity incident.” [9]

— Finally, it is worth noting that the Commission did not insist on settlements with any individuals. Companies, of course, can only commit securities violations through the actions of their employees. While it is not unusual for the Commission to settle entity-only cases on a “collective negligence” theory, the SEC Chair and the Enforcement Division’s leadership have emphasized the need to hold individuals accountable in order to maximize the deterrent impact of SEC actions. [10]

_________________________________________________________________________

Endnotes

1Altaba Inc., f/d/b/a Yahoo! Inc., Securities Act Release No. 10485, Exchange Act Release No. 83096, Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release No. 3937, Administrative Proceeding File No. 3937 (Apr. 24, 2018) at ¶ 14.(go back)

2Idat ¶ 15.(go back)

3Idat ¶¶ 2, 16.(go back)

4Id.(go back)

5Idat ¶ 15.(go back)

6Idat ¶¶ 22-23.(go back)

7Press Release, SEC, Altaba, Formerly Known As Yahoo!, Charged With Failing to Disclose Massive Cybersecurity Breach; Agrees To Pay $35 Million (Apr. 24, 2018), https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-71.(go back)

8As we have previously discussed, the federal securities laws do not impose a general affirmative duty on public companies to continuously disclose material information and, as acknowledged in Footnote 37 of the interpretive guidance, circuits are split on whether a duty to update exists. However, in circuits where a duty to update has been found to exist, a distinction has often been drawn between statements of a policy nature that are within the company’s control and statements describing then current facts that would be expected to change over time. The former have been held subject to a duty to update while the latter have not. See In re Advanta Corp. Securities Litigation, 180 F.3d 525, 536 (3d Cir. 1997) (“[T]he voluntary disclosure of an ordinary earnings forecast does not trigger any duty to update.”); In re Burlington Coat Factory Securities Litigation, 114 F.3d 1410, 1433 (3d Cir. 1997); In re Duane Reade Inc. Securities Litigation, No. 02 Civ. 6478 (NRB), 2003 WL 22801416, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 25, 2003), aff’d sub nom. Nardoff v. Duane Reade, Inc., 107 F. App’x 250 (2d Cir. 2004) (“‘company has no duty to update forward–looking statements merely because changing circumstances have proven them wrong.’”).(go back)

9See SEC, Commission Statement and Guidance on Public Company Cybersecurity Disclosures, 83 Fed. Reg 8166, 8169 (Feb. 26, 2018), https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/02/26/2018-03858/commission-statement-and-guidance-on-public- company-cybersecurity-disclosures.(go back)

10See, e.g., Steven R. Peikin, Co-Director, Div. Enf’t., SEC, Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future of the SEC’s Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Keynote Address at N.Y.U. Program on Corporate Law and Enforcement Conference: No Turning Back: 40 Years of the FCAP and 20 Years of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention Impacts, Achievements, and Future Challenges (Nov. 9, 2017), https://www.sec.gov/news/speech/speech-peikin2017-11-09;
SEC Div. Enf’t., Annual Report A Look Back at Fiscal Year 2017, at 2 (Nov. 15, 2017), https://www.sec.gov/files/enforcement-annual-report2017.pdf.(go back)

_______________________________________________________________________

*Matthew C. Solomon and Pamela L. Marcogliese are partners and Rahul Mukhi is counsel at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb publication by Mr. Solomon, Ms. Marcogliese, Ms. Mukhi, and Kal Blassberger.

L’évolution du statut d’administrateur indépendant en 2017 | EY


Comment a évolué la situation du statut d’indépendance des administrateurs en 2017 ?

La publication d’EY est très intéressante à cet égard ; elle tente de répondre à cette question et elle brosse un tableau de la composition des conseils d’administration en 2017.

L’étude effectuée par l’équipe de Steve W. Klemash* auprès des entreprises du Fortune 100 montre clairement l’importance accrue accordée au critère d’administrateur indépendant au fil des ans.

Ainsi, au cours des deux dernières années, 80 % des administrateurs nommés par les actionnaires avaient la qualité d’administrateurs indépendants.

La plupart des nouveaux administrateurs avaient une expertise en finance et comptabilité et 44 % de ceux-ci ont été nommés sur le comité d’audit.

Cette année, 54 % des nouveaux arrivants étaient des personnes qui n’étaient pas CEO, comparativement à 51 % l’année précédente.

On compte 40 % de femmes parmi les nouveaux administrateurs en 2017.

Également, les nouveaux administrateurs sont plus jeunes : 15 % ont moins de 50 ans comparativement à 9 % l’année précédente. De plus, 85 % des nouveaux administrateurs avaient entre 50 ans et 67 ans.

Les entreprises recherchent une plus grande diversité de profils d’origine, d’expertises, d’habiletés et d’expériences.

J’ai tenté de résumer les principales conclusions de cette étude. Je vous renvoie à l’étude originale afin d’en connaître les détails.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

 

Independent Directors: New Class of 2017

 

 

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Companies are continuing to bring fresh and diverse perspectives into the boardroom and to enhance alignment of board composition with their forward-looking strategies.

In our second annual report, we share the results of our analysis of independent directors who were elected by shareholders to the board of a Fortune 100 company for the first time in 2017—what we refer to as the “new class of 2017.”

We looked at corporate disclosures to see what qualifications and characteristics were specifically highlighted, showcasing what this new class of directors brings to the boardroom. Our research was based on a review of proxy statements filed by companies on the 2017 Fortune 100 list. We also reviewed the same 83 companies’ class of 2016 directors to provide consistency in year-on-year comparisons.

 

Our perspective

 

What we’re hearing in the market is that boards are seeking slates of candidates who bring a diverse perspective and a range of functional expertise, including on complex, evolving areas such as digital transformation, e-commerce, public policy, regulation and talent management. As a result, boards are increasingly considering highly qualified, nontraditional candidates, such as non-CEOs, as well as individuals from a wider range of backgrounds. These developments are expanding the short lists of potential director candidates.

At the same time, companies are expanding voluntary disclosures around board composition. Our review of Fortune 100 disclosures around board composition found that:

While diverse director candidates are in high demand and related shifts in board composition are underway, these developments may be slow to manifest. For example, consider that the average Fortune 100 board has 10 seats. In this context, the addition of a single new director is unlikely to dramatically shift averages in terms of gender diversity, age, tenure or other considerations.

That said, whether a board’s pace of change is sufficient depends on a company’s specific circumstances and evolving board oversight needs. Boards should challenge their approach to refreshment, asking whether they are meeting the company’s diversity, strategy and risk oversight needs. Waiting for an open seat to nominate a diverse candidate may mean waiting for the value that diversity could bring.

In 2018, we anticipate that companies will continue to offer more voluntary disclosure on board composition, showing how their directors represent the best mix of individuals for the company—across multiple dimensions, including a diversity of backgrounds, expertise, skill sets and experiences.

 

Key findings

1. Most Fortune 100 companies welcomed a new independent director in 2017

 

This past year, over half of the Fortune 100 companies we reviewed added at least one independent director. This figure is a little lower than the prior year; but overall, during the two-year period from 2016 to 2017, over 80% of the companies added at least one independent director. Taking into account director exits—whether due to retirement, corporate restructuring, pursuit of new opportunities or other reasons—we found that nearly all of the companies experienced some type of change in board composition during this period.

2. The class of 2017 brings greater finance and accounting, public policy and regulatory, and operational skills to the table.

 

Corporate finance and accounting were the most common director qualifications cited by companies in 2017, up from fifth in 2016. A couple areas saw notable increases: government and public policy, operations and manufacturing, and transactional finance. This year, some areas tied in ranking, and in a twist, corporate references to expertise in strategy fell from third in 2016 to below the top 10 categories of expertise. Companies also made fewer references to board service or governance expertise compared to the prior year.

3. Most of the 2017 entering class was assigned to audit committees.

 

The strength of corporate finance and accounting expertise of the entering class is seen, too, with regards to key committee designations. Of the three “key committees” of audit, compensation, and nominating and governance, the 2017 entering class was primarily assigned to serve on audit committees. A closer look at the disclosures shows that 63% of the new directors that were assigned to the audit committee were formally designated as audit committee financial experts. In comparison, the corresponding figure in the prior year was 59%.

 

4. The Fortune 100 class of 2017 includes more non-CEOs.

 

While experience as a CEO is often cited as a traditional first cut for search firms, 54% of the entering class served in other roles, with non-CEO backgrounds including other executive roles or non-corporate backgrounds (academia, scientific organizations, nonprofits, government, military, etc.). This represents a slight increase from 2016 with most of the shift stemming from individuals holding or having held other senior executive positions. Approximately 30% appear to be joining a Fortune 100 public company board, having never previously served on a public company board—similar to 2016.

5. The class of 2017 is 40% female

 

As in the prior year, 40% of the entering class were women, but overall percentages were largely unchanged, with women directors averaging 28% board representation compared to 27% in 2016. Also, there was minimal age difference, with the women directors averaging 57 compared to 58 for male counterparts. Among the directors bringing the top categories of expertise, women directors accounted for over one-third of the disclosed director qualifications. In some cases, they represented over half of the disclosed category of expertise.

6. The class of 2017 tends to be younger

 

There appears to be an ongoing shift toward younger directors. For the class of 2017 entering directors, the average age of these individuals was 57, compared to 63 for incumbents and 68 for exiting directors. Of the entering class, 15% were under 50, an increase from 9% in the prior year. And, for the second consecutive year, we observe that over half of the entering class was under the age of 60. Exiting directors largely continue to be age 68 or older.

Questions for the board to consider

 

– How is the company aligning the skills of its directors—and that of the full board—to the company’s long-term strategy through board refreshment and succession planning efforts? How is the company providing voluntary disclosures around its approach in these areas?

– Does the company’s pool of director candidates challenge traditional search norms such as title, age, industry and geography?

– How is the company addressing growing investor and stakeholder attention to board diversity, and is the company providing disclosure around the diversity of the board—defined as including considerations such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality—in addition to skills and expertise?

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*Steve W. Klemash is Americas Leader, Kellie C. Huennekens is Associate Director, and Jamie Smith is Associate Director, at the EY Center for Board Matters. This post is based on their EY publication.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 10 mai 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 10 mai 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top dix en gouvernance »

 

 

  1. Corporate Purpose: ESG, CSR, PRI and Sustainable Long-Term Investment
  2. Do Women CEOs Earn More and Have More Diverse Boards?
  3. The Business Case for Clawbacks
  4. Integrated Alpha: The Future of ESG Investing
  5. CEO Attributes, Compensation, and Firm Value: Evidence from a Structural Estimation
  6. The Future of Merger Litigation in Federal Courts?
  7. The Impact of DOL Guidance on ESG-Focused Plans
  8. The Uncertain Role of IPOs in Future Securities Class Actions
  9. An Investor Consensus on U.S. Corporate Governance & Stewardship Practices
  10. Netflix Approach to Governance: Genuine Transparency with the Board

     

Le cycle de vie des sociétés régies par des classes d’actions diverses


Les études montrent que ces types d’arrangements ne sont pas immanquablement dommageables pour les actionnaires, comme nous laissent croire plusieurs groupes d’intérêt tels que le Conseil des investisseurs institutionnels et la firme de conseil Institutional Shareholder Services (« ISS »). Plusieurs militent en faveur d’une durée limitée pour de telles émissions d’actions.

Les récentes émissions d’actions à classes multiples des entreprises de haute technologie ne nous permettent pas, à ce stade-ci, de statuer sur les avantages à long terme pour les actionnaires.

Les auteurs, Martijn Cremers et coll., concluent qu’il est trop tôt pour se prononcer définitivement sur la question, et pour réglementer cette structure de capital. Voir à cet égard l’article suivant : Are Dual-Class Companies Harmful to Stockholders? A Preliminary Review of the Evidence.

Bonne lecture !

 

The Life-Cycle of Dual Class Firms

 

 

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In our paper, The Life-Cycle of Dual Class Firms, we consider the market valuation of dual class firms over their life cycle. Dual class financing is on the rise in recent years, particularly among high-tech firms, following Google’s seminal 2004 dual-class IPO structure. This financing choice leaves control of the firms in the hands of entrepreneurs, giving outside investors with inferior-vote shares no direct mechanism to influence the board or management. Rather, public investors buying inferior vote shares at the IPO are betting that granting the entrepreneurs such control allows them to better implement their unique vision.

However, as dual class firms mature and their vision is largely accomplished, entrepreneurs’ leadership may no longer be needed, and entrepreneurs may start self-serving behavior. Public investors’ resentment may then develop, accusing dual class firms’ controlling shareholders for wanting their money without any accountability. Such public pressure arguably recently led MSCI to issue a proposal to reduce the weight of inferior-vote shares in MSCI indices by multiplying the regular weight by the shares fractional voting power. Notably, the same MSCI also issued a report a few months ago stating that “[o]ur research shows that unequal voting stocks in aggregate outperformed the market over the period from November 2007 to August 2017, and that excluding them from market indexes would have reduced the indexes’ total returns by approximately 30 basis points per year over our sample period.” Obviously, confusion reigns over the merits of dual class financing.

Bebchuk and Kastiel (2017) (The Untenable Case for Perpetual Dual-Class Stock, Virginia Law Review) argue that any initial benefits of dual class structures decay with firm age, while the potential agency costs associated with dual class structures increase with time. Thus, Professors Bebchuk and Kastiel advocate sunset clauses to dual class financing. The sunset clauses would require the “non-interested” public shareholders of the firm to vote on whether or not to extend the dual class structure, some pre-determined number of years after the IPO. If the extension proposal is declined, firms would unify the low- and high-vote shares, i.e., convert all shares into a single class of shares with “one share one vote”.

In our paper, we empirically investigate the desirability of sunset provisions by examining the life-cycle of dual class firms. Using an extensive sample of all single-and dual-class firm IPOs in the U.S. during 1980-2015, and relying on comparing dual class firms to similar single class firms, we document several novel phenomena in the life cycle of dual class firms.

First, the difference in firm valuation between dual and single class firms strongly varies over the corporate life cycle. At the IPO, dual class firms tend to have higher valuations, as at the IPO year-end the market valuation of dual class firms is, on average, 11% higher than that of matched single class firms. This initial valuation premium of dual class firms dissipates in the years after the IPO, and on average it becomes insignificantly negative about six to nine years after the IPO. We also find that the difference between the voting and equity stakes of the controlling shareholders of dual class firms (the “wedge”) tends to increase as the firm ages. According to one of our estimates, the mean wedge increases from 16% one year after the IPO to 22% five years after the IPO, and to 26% nine years after the IPO. The widening of the wedge is typically associated with more severe valuation reducing agency problems—see Masulis et al. (2009) (Agency Costs and Dual-Class Companies, Journal of Finance). Bebchuk and Kastiel (2018) (The Perils of Small-Minority Controllers, forthcoming Georgetown Law Review) analyze the perils of the widening wedges and advocate informing the public and capping it.

Second, we document interesting differences between dual class firms with a valuation premium (relative to their matched single class firms) at the IPO and dual class firms with a valuation discount at the IPO. Dual class firms with a valuation premium at the end of their IPO year gradually tend to lose this premium, until their valuations become very similar to those of their single class counterparts about six to nine years after the IPO. In contrast, we find no evidence for a life cycle in the relative valuation of initially discounted dual class firms, as their valuation discount persists from the time of their IPO to when they are mature dual class firms as well. The behavior of the subsample of dual class firms with a valuation premium at the IPO suggests that for some firms the dual class structure does not harm valuations, at least in the first decade after the IPO. On the other hand, the behavior of the subsample of dual class firms with an initial valuation discount, which we find is highly persistent, suggests that a mandatory sunset provision may be useful for these firms.

Third, a natural solution to possible dual class inefficiency is a voluntary firm-initiated dual class share unification, in which all share classes are transformed into “one share one vote”. We find that only about 20% of dual class firms unify their shares within 9 years after the IPO. Furthermore, voluntary unifications become rare after six years following the IPO. Most of the mature dual class firms elect to retain a dual class structure, perhaps because unification is against the interests of their controlling shareholders. This implies that some inefficient dual class structures may persist.

Our findings suggest that some sort of a sunset provision might be useful, especially for firms that trade at a valuation discount. Further, regarding the set-in time of any sunset provision, our study suggests to wait at least six years after the IPO. Regulators should also be worried about some potential negative consequences of any sunset regulation. First, some founders may be more reluctant to issue publicly traded shares if their reign over the firm is likely to be more limited in time. Public may lose the opportunity to invest in some breakthrough firms. Second, controlling shareholders may intensify their private benefits extraction in the period before their extra power expires. Third, it is possible that shareholders may elect to abolish dual class structures even when they are (still) beneficial.

Finally, our paper also documents several other interesting life cycle phenomena of dual class firms such as their higher survival rates, similar stock returns and lower likelihoods of being taken over, compared to matched single class firms. We conclude that unequal vote structures are viable financing tools.

The complete paper is available for download here.

________________________________________

*Martijn Cremers* is Bernard J. Hank Professor of Finance at University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, and an ECGI research member; Beni Lauterbach is a Professor of Finance and the Raymond Ackerman Family Chair in Corporate Governance at Bar Ilan University Graduate School of Business Administration, and an ECGI research member; Anete Pajuste is an Associate Professor of Finance and Head of Accounting and Finance Department at the Stockholm School of Economics, and an ECGI research member. This post is based on their recent paper.

Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Untenable Case for Perpetual Dual-Class Stock (discussed on the Forum here) and The Perils of Small-Minority Controllers (discussed on the Forum here), both by Lucian Bebchuk and Kobi Kastiel.

Les six principes qui gouvernent la conduite des investisseurs — ISG


Aujourd’hui, je vous présente le point de vue de l’association Investor Stewardship Group (the “ISG”) Governance Principles, eu égard aux principes de gouvernance que celle-ci entend promouvoir.

Je reproduis ici les principaux éléments de l’article publié par Anne Meyer* et paru sur le forum du Harvard Law School, notamment les six principes qui gouvernent leur conduite.

1 — Les CA sont redevables envers les actionnaires ;

2 — Les actionnaires doivent avoir des droits de vote qui sont proportionnels à leurs intérêts économiques ;

3 — Les CA doivent être à l’écoute des actionnaires et être proactifs dans la compréhension de leurs perspectives ;

4 — Les CA doivent avoir une solide structure de leadership indépendante ;

5 — Les CA doivent adopter des structures de gouvernance qui mènent à des pratiques efficaces ;

6 — Les CA doivent adopter des structures de rémunération des dirigeants qui sont alignées sur la stratégie à long terme de l’entreprise.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

The Investor Stewardship Group’s Governance Principles

 

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In this post, we provide an overview of the Investor Stewardship Group (the “ISG”) Governance Principles and steps for public companies to consider when evaluating how the principles may be incorporated into their own disclosure and engagement priorities. The ISG’s website, including a link to the ISG Governance Principles, is available here. In January 2017, the Investor Stewardship Group (the “ISG”), a collective of large U.S.-based and international institutional investors and asset managers, announced the launch of its Framework for U.S. Stewardship and Governance (the “Framework”). The measure is an unprecedented attempt to establish a set of elementary corporate governance principles for U.S. listed companies (the “ISG Governance Principles”) as well as parallel stewardship principles for U.S. institutional investors. The Framework’s effective date was January 1, 2018, in order to provide U.S. listed companies with time to adjust to the corporate governance principles prior to the 2018 proxy season.

As the 2018 proxy season gets into full swing, there is evidence that ISG members will be utilizing the Framework as a tool for evaluating the governance regimes at their portfolio companies, informing their engagement priorities, and potentially factoring compliance with the ISG Governance Principles into selected voting policies and decisions. In December, the ISG issued a press release “encouraging companies to articulate how their governance structures and practices align with the ISG’s Corporate Governance Principles and where and why they differ in approach”, leaving it to companies to determine how and where to disclose such alignment. And at least one large investor, State Street Global Advisors, has specifically highlighted that it will screen portfolio companies for compliance with the principles.

As a result, companies and their boards should continue to benchmark and understand how their specific governance practices relate to ISG Governance Principles and remain cognizant of this new regime as they prepare for engagement with investors and draft public disclosures.

 

Background

 

The ISG’s global reach and financial influence is significant; currently consisting of 50 investors representing over $22 trillion invested in the U.S. equity markets. The ISG’s signatories includes some of the largest and most influential institutional investors, including BlackRock, CalSTRS, State Street Global Advisors, TIAA Investments, T. Rowe Price, ValueAct Capital and Vanguard, among others. The Framework’s stewardship principles emphasize that these institutional investors have a vested interest and responsibility for the long-term economic success of their portfolio companies.

The ISG’s roll-out of the Framework characterized it as a “sustained initiative” and emphasized an evolutionary view of the ability of U.S. companies and investors to work together under the Framework.

Corporate governance practices at U.S. listed companies have historically been informed by multiple regulatory and rules-based regimes. Rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission, stock exchange listing requirements, state corporate codes, case law and federal legislation adopted in the wake of past financial market crises, have been the primary dictating standards. More recently, shareholders and other stakeholders have played a larger role in influencing corporate governance norms at U.S. listed companies through engagement and various forms of shareholder activism. In contrast, the ISG Governance Principles are based substantially on U.K., Continental European and other non-U.S. frameworks that establish principles-based corporate governance standards and tend to rely on “comply-or-explain” accountability. [1] Advocates for this type of principles-based approach stress the flexibility that it gives for companies to adopt a tailored response to important tenets such as boardroom transparency, as opposed to responding more narrowly to prescriptive rules. As institutional investors continue to focus more attention on environmental and social matters, including related governance concerns, the Framework’s principles-based approach will be a tool, for both institutions and companies, to promote mutually agreeable objectives, particularly given the lack of rulemaking or legislation mandating more specific disclosure on trending topics such as board diversity and environmental concerns.

 

The ISG Governance Principles

 

The six ISG Governance Principles are broad principles that will not look new to those who have been following key issues in corporate governance over the past several years. Indeed, they were designed to reflect the common corporate governance principles that are already embedded in member institutions’ proxy voting and engagement guidelines. The principles emphasize the importance of boardroom effectiveness and oversight, alignment of executive compensation with long-term financial results, and board accountability demonstrated in part through the adoption of governance best practices, including a one-share one-vote capital structure and independent board leadership.

Principle 1: Boards are accountable to shareholders

This principle encompasses the annual election of directors, majority voting, proxy access and more robust disclosure surrounding board practices and corporate governance. Companies are also asked to explain how any anti-takeover measures are in the best long-term interest of the company.

Interestingly, BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink recently published a letter to the CEOs at the world’s largest public companies in which he argued explicitly that boards are accountable to other stakeholders, such as employees and customers, in addition to shareholders.

Principle 2: Shareholders should be entitled to voting rights in proportion to their economic interest

This principle sets a base line of one-share one-vote and encourages companies with existing multi-class share structures to review and consider phasing out control shares.

In 2017, this issue became national news when Snap Inc. filed for an IPO of non-voting shares. Many large investors were vehemently opposed and at the urging of the Council for Institutional Investors and other investor advocates, the stock index provider FTSE Russell refused to include these shares in its indices.

Principle 3: Boards should be responsive to shareholders and be proactive in order to understand their perspectives

Under this principle, companies are expected to implement shareholder proposals that receive “significant” support or explain why they have not done so. Independent directors are encouraged to participate in engagement on matters that are meaningful to investors, and directors may be held accountable with “against” votes in instances where investors do not feel that their concerns have been adequately addressed.

Principle 4: Boards should have a strong, independent leadership structure

There are two common independent leadership structures at U.S. companies—an independent chairperson and an independent lead director (where the role of Chairman and CEO are combined)—and the principles acknowledge that signatory investors have differing opinions on whether they provide adequate independent oversight.

The overarching position under the principles is that the role of the independent board leader should be “clearly defined and sufficiently robust to ensure effective and constructive leadership.”

Principle 5: Boards should adopt structures and practices that enhance their effectiveness

This principle encompasses an array of board structure and effectiveness issues, including: strong board composition and board diversity; board and committee responsibilities; director attentiveness, preparedness and time commitments; and board refreshment.

Board diversity, in particular gender diversity, has emerged as a high priority for most of the largest institutional investors. There has also been a focus on screening for long-tenured directors and directors that are over-boarded or have poor attendance records as a proxy for identifying directors that may not be adequately engaged or independent.

Principle 6: Boards should develop management incentive structures that are aligned with the long-term strategy of the company

This principle emphasizes that the board, in particular the compensation committee, is responsible for ensuring that drivers and performance goals that underpin the company’s long-term strategy are adequately reflected in a company’s management incentive structure.

Steps to Consider

As noted, the ISG Governance Principles are intended to provide a framework of broad, high-level principles. The individual investors that comprise the ISG have their own voting guidelines and engagement priorities that are tailored to their own investment philosophy and strategy. Even on current hot button issues, such as board diversity, investors have differing views and companies should consider the practices they adopt depending upon their specific facts and circumstances. There are, however, general steps that we recommend companies take to address the growing influence of the Framework.

These include:

Understand how the company’s corporate governance structure and practices relate to the six ISG Governance Principles.

Review the company’s public disclosure regarding corporate governance structure and practices; consider enhancements to be responsive to the ISG’s request that companies disclose how their governance aligns or differs from the ISG Governance Principles.

As with other corporate governance benchmarking exercises, companies should be particularly cognizant of how and why their practices may differ from the ISG Governance Principles and whether these differences are adequately explained in public disclosures. As investors screen their portfolio companies’ governance practices, they will often consider valid explanations, but in the absence of effective disclosure the company may be unnecessarily penalized.

Management and the board should be informed and prepared to respond to questions about the company’s alignment with the ISG Governance Principles during shareholder engagements. Companies can also consider proactively addressing the issue in written materials or prepared remarks during investor presentations.

In preparing for shareholder engagements with ISG signatories, understand how and if they are explicitly incorporating the ISG Governance Principles into engagement and voting priorities and continue to screen their individual voting and engagement policies.

Companies should determine whether, and how, they wish to address and incorporate the ISG Governance Principles based upon their own specific governance profile, disclosure regime and approach to shareholder engagement.


Endnotes

See in particular the UK Investor Stewardship Code, on which the US ISG Principles are largely based. The UK Code “sets out a number of areas of good practice to which … institutional investors should aspire.” Available here.


*Anne Meyer is Senior Managing Director, Don Cassidy is Executive Vice President, and Rajeev Kumar is Senior Managing Director at Georgeson LLC. This post is based their recent Georgeson publication. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Agency Problems of Institutional Investors by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Scott Hirst.

L’application concrète d’un huis clos – en rappel


Nous avons déjà abordé l’importance d’inscrire un item « huis clos » à l’ordre du jour des réunions du conseil d’administration. Celui-ci doit normalement être à la fin de la réunion et comporter une limite de temps afin d’éviter que la réunion ne s’éternise… et que les membres de la direction (qui souvent attendent la fin de la rencontre) soient mieux informés.

Ensuite, le président du conseil d’administration (PCA) devrait rencontrer le président et chef de la direction (PCD) en privé, et dans les meilleurs délais, afin de rendre compte des résultats et de la portée du huis clos. Cette responsabilité du PCA est déterminante, car les dirigeants ont de grandes attentes et un souci eu égard aux discussions du huis clos.

Plusieurs dirigeants et membres de conseil m’ont fait part de leurs préoccupations concernant la tenue des huis clos. Il y a des malaises dissimulés en ce qui a trait à cette activité ; il faut donc s’assurer de bien gérer la situation, car les huis clos peuvent souvent avoir des conséquences inattendues, voire contre-productives !

Ainsi, le huis clos :

(1) ne doit pas être une activité imprévue et occasionnelle inscrite à l’ordre du jour

(2) doit comporter une limite de temps

(3) doit être piloté par le président du conseil

(4) doit comporter un suivi systématique, et

(5) doit se dérouler dans un lieu qui permet de préserver la confidentialité absolue des discussions.

J’insiste sur cette dernière condition parce que l’on a trop souvent tendance à la négliger ou à l’oublier, carrément. Dans de nombreux cas, la rencontre du conseil a lieu dans un local inapproprié, et les dirigeants peuvent entendre les conversations, surtout lorsqu’elles sont très animées…

Au début de la séance, les membres sont souvent insoucieux ; avec le temps, certains peuvent s’exprimer très (trop) directement, impulsivement et de manière inconvenante. Si, par mégarde, les membres de la direction entendent les propos énoncés, l’exercice peut prendre l’allure d’une véritable calamité et avoir des conséquences non anticipées sur le plan des relations interpersonnelles entre les membres de la direction et avec les membres du conseil.

 

registre-conseils-d-administration

 

L’ajout d’un huis clos à l’ordre du jour témoigne d’une volonté de saine gouvernance, mais, on le comprend, il y a un certain nombre de règles à respecter si on ne veut pas provoquer la discorde. Les OBNL, qui ont généralement peu de moyens, sont particulièrement vulnérables aux manquements à la confidentialité ! Je crois que dans les OBNL, les dommages collatéraux peuvent avoir des incidences graves sur les relations entre employés, et même sur la pérennité de l’organisation.

J’ai à l’esprit plusieurs cas de mauvaise gestion des facteurs susmentionnés et je crois qu’il vaut mieux ne pas tenir le bien-fondé du huis clos pour acquis.

Ayant déjà traité des bienfaits des huis clos lors d’un billet antérieur, je profite de l’occasion pour vous souligner, à nouveau, un article intéressant de Matthew Scott sur le site de Corporate Secretary qui aborde un sujet qui préoccupe beaucoup de hauts dirigeants : le huis clos lors des sessions du conseil d’administration ou de certains comités.

L’auteur explique très bien la nature et la nécessité de cette activité à inscrire à l’ordre du jour du conseil. Voici les commentaires que j’exprimais à cette occasion.

«Compte tenu de la “réticence” de plusieurs hauts dirigeants à la tenue de cette activité, il est généralement reconnu que cet item devrait toujours être présent à l’ordre du jour afin d’éliminer certaines susceptibilités.

Le huis clos est un temps privilégié que les administrateurs indépendants se donnent pour se questionner sur l’efficacité du conseil et la possibilité d’améliorer la dynamique interne; mais c’est surtout une occasion pour les membres de discuter librement, sans la présence des gestionnaires, de sujets délicats tels que la planification de la relève, la performance des dirigeants, la rémunération globale de la direction, les poursuites judiciaires, les situations de conflits d’intérêts, les arrangements confidentiels, etc. On ne rédige généralement pas de procès-verbal à la suite de cette activité, sauf lorsque les membres croient qu’une résolution doit absolument apparaître au P.V.

La mise en place d’une période de huis clos est une pratique relativement récente, depuis que les conseils d’administration ont réaffirmé leur souveraineté sur la gouvernance des entreprises. Cette activité est maintenant considérée comme une pratique exemplaire de gouvernance et presque toutes les sociétés l’ont adoptée.

Notons que le rôle du président du conseil, en tant que premier responsable de l’établissement de l’agenda, est primordial à cet égard. C’est lui qui doit informer le PCD de la position des membres indépendants à la suite du huis clos, un exercice qui demande du tact!

Je vous invite à lire l’article ci-dessous. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus».

Are you using in-camera meetings ?

Les femmes CEO des grandes entreprises ont-elles une rémunération plus élevée que leurs homologues masculins ? Leurs CA comptent-ils plus de femmes ?


Les femmes PDG (CEO) des grandes entreprises ont-elles une rémunération plus élevée ? Leurs conseils d’administration sont-ils plus diversifiés, et comptent-ils plus de femmes ?

Ce billet publié par Dan Marcec, directeur d’Equilar, paru sur le forum de la Harvard Law School, tente d’apporter une réponse à ces questions.

On peut retenir que les femmes CEO, en général, comptent légèrement plus de femmes sur leurs conseils.

Le nombre de femmes sur les CA varie selon la taille des entreprises. Plus l’entreprise est grande, plus le CA est susceptible de compter un nombre plus important de femmes :

Equilar 100 Gender Diversity Index,  24 %

Fortune 500,  22,5 %

Fortune 501-1000,  19,2 %

Entreprises plus petites,  14,1 %

Également, la rémunération des femmes CEO des 100 plus grandes entreprises (8 femmes) est de 21,4 M $ comparativement à la moyenne des 92 hommes CEO qui est de 16,4 M $, une différence significative, mais sur un petit échantillon de femmes CEO !

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de l’article ci-dessous afin de mieux saisir toutes les nuances de cette étude.

Bonne lecture !

 

Do Women CEOs Earn More and Have More Diverse Boards?

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Les femmes CEO des grandes entreprises ont-elles une rémunération plus élevée que leurs homologues masculins ? Leurs CA comptent-ils plus de femmes ? »

 

As gender equity and diversity in corporate leadership continue to be critical discussions, research is regularly published showing links between these factors and company performance. Based on an analysis of Equilar 100 companies—the largest U.S.-listed firms to file proxy statements to the SEC before March 31—women CEOs had a higher representation of women on their boards on average than companies led by male counterparts. They also were awarded higher compensation on average in 2017.

Overall, Equilar 100 companies with women CEOs had an average of 24.0% representation of women on their boards, vs. 23.5% for the companies with male CEOs. Furthermore, the women in the CEO position at Equilar 100 companies were well paid in 2017 with an average pay package of $21.4 million. By comparison, the men who were on the list received an average pay package of $16.4 million. The following two questions examined this data just below the surface, finding that the complete picture is more complicated than it appears.

 

Do Women CEOs Bring More Females Into the Boardroom?

 

The Equilar 100 study analyzed recently reported data for fiscal year 2017, including eight women CEOs, a drop from nine the previous year. While Meg Whitman has since left her position at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, she was still in the CEO position during the periods studied, so HPE is included in the analysis.

The answer to the question above—based on an analysis of Equilar 100 data—is yes, companies with women CEOs do have slightly more women in the boardroom. The list of Equilar 100 companies that had women CEOs in 2017 is below, inclusive of their current board composition as of March 31.

 

Company % Female Board Members Average Board Age Average Board Tenure
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co 38.5% 62.0 2.4
General Dynamics Corp 27.3% 64.0 5.9
Progressive Corp 27.3% 62.0 9.8
Oracle Corp 25.0% 70.5 14.4
Pepsico Inc 23.1% 63.0 5.5
IBM 20.0% 64.0 6.3
Lockheed Martin Corp 16.7% 66.0 6.6
Duke Energy Corp 14.3% 66.0 4.9
Women CEO Average 24.0% 64.7 7.0
Men CEO Average 
23.5% 63.0 7.2

 

There are two important factors to consider that give pause in definitively being able to say “women CEOs at Equilar 100 companies lead in gender diversity on boards.” While the numbers are clear—and they are—large-cap companies are much more likely to have women on their boards overall.

According to the recent Equilar Gender Diversity Index, Fortune 500 companies included in the Russell 3000 had an average of 22.5% women on their boards, as compared to 19.2% for Fortune 501-1000 companies and a much lower 14.1% for R3K firms outside the Fortune 1000. The Equilar 100 overall outpaced each of these groups.

It’s also worth noting that most CEOs are also on their own boards. Therefore, if CEOs were removed from the overall numbers, it’s likely the data would show Equilar 100 boards being more inclusive of independent women directors when a male CEO is in place.

 

 

The facts are the facts—boards at Equilar 100 companies led by women have a higher percentage of female directors than their counterparts. However, the small sample size—pointing to the lack of women in leadership overall—and these other mitigating factors make a definitive statement difficult to prove.

 

Do Women CEOs Make More Than Men?

 

While the women on the Equilar 100 list make more on average than the men, the caveat, of course, is that these numbers reflect a small sample size of women. To get to the eight highest-paid women on the list, you have to go all the way to number 87, whereas you don’t have to leave the top 10 to find the eight highest-paid men. The list of women on the Equilar 100 list (as well as their compensation rank) is below.

 

Company CEO 2017 Total Compensation ($MM) Equilar 100 RANK
Oracle Corp Safra A. Catz $40.7 4
Pepsico Indra K. Nooyi $25.9 7
General Dynamics Corp Phebe N. Novakovic $21.2 14
Duke Energy Corp Lynn J. Good $21.1 15
Lockheed Martin Corp Marillyn A. Hewson $20.2 16
IBM Virginia M. Rometty $18.0 30
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Margaret C. Whitman $14.8 60
Progressive Corp Susan P. Griffith $9.2 87
Women Ceo Average (N=8) $21.4
Men CEO Average 
(n=92) $16.4

 

Furthermore, similar to the findings on board composition, the larger the company, the higher the pay. Given the context of the Equilar 100 study more generally—that the largest companies by revenue tend to pay their CEOs more—this small sample size is not sufficient to make a claim that women CEOs earn more than men.

For example, using fiscal year 2016 data, it’s clear that the Equilar 100 stands out over all other public companies. (Since the Equilar 100 is an “early look” at proxy season, comprehensive data is not yet available for these other company groups in 2017.) In 2016, Equilar 100 CEOs were awarded $15.0 million at the median, in comparison to $11.0 million for Equilar 500 companies, and just $6.1 million for all public companies with more than $1 billion in revenue.

 

 

In other words, as with board composition, the numbers do indicate that women CEOs earn more than men at face value, but there is more than meets the eye. Ultimately, proof of greater equity in executive compensation and board diversity when women are CEOs is inconclusive from this analysis, highlighting the importance of questioning numbers at face value. Indeed, an academic study was released recently that found there is no meaningful difference in pay between men and women at the CEO level. Each company’s compensation and board refreshment strategy is unique to their circumstances, and monolithic assumptions are not always fair. The gravity of these decisions pored over by each board of directors and their executive teams spotlights the rise of shareholder scrutiny and direct engagement on these matters.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 3 mai 2018


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 3 mai 2018.

Comme à l’habitude, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »

 

 

 

  1. The Middle-Market IPO Tax
  2. Which Antitakover Provisions Matter?
  3. Indications of Corporate Control
  4. Removing Directors in Private Companies by Written Consent?
  5. Cybersecurity Risk Management Oversight
  6. The Life-Cycle of Dual Class Firms
  7. Missing Pieces Report: The 2016 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards
  8. Busy Directors and Firm Performance: Evidence from Mergers
  9. SEC’s Proposed Standard of Conduct for Investment Advisors
  10. Open Letter Regarding Consultation on the Treatment of Unequal Voting Structures in the MSCI Equity Indexes

 

 

La bonne gouvernance est associée au rendement selon une étude | Le Temps.ch


Aujourd’hui, je partage avec vous un article publié dans le magazine suisse Le Temps.ch qui présente les résultats d’une recherche sur la bonne gouvernance des caisses de retraite en lien avec les recommandations des fonds de placement tels que BlackRock.

L’auteur, Emmanuel Garessus, montre que même si le lien entre la performance des sociétés et la bonne gouvernance semble bien établi, les caisses de retraite faisant l’objet de la recherche ont des indices de gouvernance assez dissemblables. L’étude montre que les caisses ayant des indices de gouvernance faibles ont des rendements plus modestes en comparaison avec les indices de référence retenus.

Également, il ressort de cette étude que c’était surtout la prédominance de la gestion des risques qui était associée à la performance des caisses de retraite.

Comme le dit Christian Ehmann, spécialisé dans la sélection de fonds de placement auprès de Safra Sarasin, « la gouvernance n’est pas une cause de surperformance, mais il existe un lien direct entre les deux ».

Encore une fois, il appert que BlackRock défend les petits épargnants-investisseurs en proposant des normes de gouvernance uniformisées s’appliquant au monde des entreprises cotées en bourses.

J’ai reproduit l’article en français ci-dessous afin que vous puissiez bien saisir l’objet de l’étude et ses conclusions.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

BlackRock contre Facebook, un combat de géants

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « le temps »

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « gouvernance »

 

 

Le principe de gouvernance selon lequel une action donne droit à une voix en assemblée générale est bafoué par de très nombreuses sociétés, surtout technologiques, au premier rang desquelles on trouve Facebook, Snap, Dropbox et Google. BlackRock, le plus grand groupe de fonds de placement du monde, demande aux autorités d’intervenir et de présenter des standards minimaux, indique le Financial Times.

Le groupe dont Philipp Hildebrand est vice-président préfère un appel à l’Etat plutôt que de laisser les fournisseurs d’indices (MSCI, Dow Jones, etc.) modifier la composition des indices en y intégrant divers critères d’exclusion. Barbara Novick, vice-présidente de BlackRock, a envoyé une lettre à Baer Pettit, président de MSCI, afin de l’informer de son désir de mettre de l’ordre dans les structures de capital des sociétés cotées.

 

Mark Zuckerberg détient 60% des droits de vote

 

De nombreuses sociétés ont deux catégories d’actions donnant droit à un nombre distinct de droits de vote. Les titres Facebook de la classe B ont par exemple dix fois plus de droits de vote que ceux de la classe A. Mark Zuckerberg, grâce à ses actions de classe B (dont il détient 75% du total), est assuré d’avoir 60% des droits de vote du groupe. A la suite du dernier scandale lié à Cambridge Analytica, le fondateur du réseau social ne court donc aucun risque d’être mis à la porte, explique Business Insider. L’intervention de BlackRock n’empêche pas l’un de ses fonds (Global Allocation Fund) d’avoir probablement accumulé des titres Facebook après sa correction de mars, selon Reuters, pour l’intégrer dans ses dix principales positions.

Cette structure du capital répartie en plusieurs catégories d’actions permet à un groupe d’actionnaires, généralement les fondateurs, de contrôler la société avec un minimum d’actions. Les titres ayant moins ou pas de droit de vote augmentent de valeur si la société se développe bien, mais leurs détenteurs ont moins de poids en assemblée générale. Les sociétés qui disposent d’une double catégorie de titres la justifient par le besoin de se soustraire aux réactions à court terme du marché boursier et de rester ainsi concentrés sur les objectifs à long terme. Ce sont souvent des sociétés technologiques.

Facebook respecte très imparfaitement les principes de bonne conduite en matière de gouvernance. Mark Zuckerberg, 33 ans, est en effet à la fois président du conseil d’administration et président de la direction générale. Ce n’est pas optimal puisque, en tant que président, il se contrôle lui-même. Sa rémunération est également inhabituelle. Sur les 8,9 millions de dollars de rémunération, 83% sont liés à ses frais de sécurité et le reste presque entièrement à l’utilisation d’un avion privé (son salaire est de 1 dollar et son bonus nul).

 

Quand BlackRock défend le petit épargnant

 

Le site de prévoyance IPE indique que le fonds de pension suédois AP7, l’un des plus grands actionnaires du réseau social, est parvenu l’an dernier à empêcher l’émission d’une troisième catégorie de titres Facebook. Cette dernière classe d’actions n’aurait offert aucun droit de vote. Une telle décision, si elle avait été menée à bien, aurait coûté 10 milliards de dollars à AP7. Finalement Facebook a renoncé.

BlackRock prend la défense du petit investisseur. Il est leader de la gestion indicielle et des ETF et ses produits restent investis à long terme dans tous les titres composant un indice. Il préfère influer sur la gouvernance par ses prises de position que de vendre le titre. Le plus grand groupe de fonds de placement du monde demande aux autorités de réglementation d’établir des standards de gouvernance en collaboration avec les sociétés de bourse plutôt que de s’en remettre aux fournisseurs d’indices comme MSCI.

La création de plusieurs classes d’actions peut être justifiée par des start-up en forte croissance dont les fondateurs ne veulent pas diluer leur pouvoir. BlackRock reconnaît ce besoin spécifique aux start-up en forte croissance, mais le gérant estime que «ce n’est acceptable que durant une phase transitoire. Ce n’est pas une situation durable.»

Le géant des fonds de placement aimerait que les producteurs d’indices soutiennent sa démarche et créent des «indices alternatifs» afin d’accroître la transparence et de réduire l’exposition aux sociétés avec plusieurs catégories de titres. L’initiative de BlackRock est également appuyée par George Dallas, responsable auprès du puissant International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN).

La gouvernance des «bonnes caisses de pension»

 

La recherche économique a largement démontré l’impact positif d’une bonne gouvernance sur la performance d’une entreprise. Mais presque tout reste à faire en matière de fonds de placement et de caisses de pension.

«La gouvernance n’est pas une cause de surperformance, mais il existe un lien direct entre les deux. Les caisses de pension qui appartiennent au meilleur quart en termes de bonne gouvernance présentent une surperformance de 1% par année par rapport au moins bon quart», explique Christian Ehmann, spécialisé dans la sélection de fonds de placement auprès de Safra Sarasin, lors d’une présentation organisée par la CFA Society Switzerland, à Zurich.

Ce dernier est avec le professeur Manuel Ammann coauteur d’une étude sur la gouvernance et la performance au sein des caisses de pension suisses (Is Governance Related to Investment Performance and Asset Allocation?, Université de Saint-Gall, 2016). «Le travail sur cette étude m’a amené à porter une attention particulière à la gouvernance des fonds de placement dans mon travail quotidien», déclare Christian Ehmann. Son regard porte notamment sur la structure de l’équipe de gestion, son organisation et son système de gestion des risques. «Je m’intéresse par exemple à la politique de l’équipe de gérants en cas de catastrophe», indique-t-il.

Claire surperformance

 

L’étude réalisée sur 139 caisses de pension suisses, représentant 43% des actifs gérés, consiste à noter objectivement la qualité de la gouvernance et à définir le lien avec la performance de gestion. L’analyse détaille les questions de gouvernance en fonction de six catégories, de la gestion du risque à la transparence des informations en passant par le système d’incitations, l’objectif et la stratégie d’investissement ainsi que les processus de placement. Sur un maximum de 60 points, la moyenne a été de 21 (plus bas de 10 et plus haut de 50). La dispersion est donc très forte entre les caisses de pension. Certaines institutions de prévoyance ne disposent par exemple d’aucun système de gestion du risque.

Les auteurs ont mesuré la performance sur trois ans (2010 à 2012), le rendement relatif par rapport à l’indice de référence et l’écart de rendement par rapport au rendement sans risque (ratio de Sharpe). Toutes ces mesures confirment le lien positif entre la gouvernance et la performance (gain de 2,7 points de base par point de gouvernance). Les moteurs de surperformance proviennent clairement de la gestion du risque et du critère portant sur les objectifs et la stratégie d’investissement. Les auteurs constatent aussi que même les meilleurs, en termes de gouvernance, sous-performent leur indice de référence.

La deuxième étape de la recherche portait sur l’existence ou non d’une relation entre le degré de gouvernance et l’allocation des actifs. Ce lien n’a pas pu être établi.

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