La nouvelle loi californienne | Instauration de quotas pour accélérer la diversité sur les CA

Aujourd’hui, je souhaite vous familiariser avec la réalité de la nouvelle loi californienne eu égard à la mise en place de quotas pour accélérer la diversité sur les conseils d’administration.

Cet article paru sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, par David A. Katz et Laura A. McIntosh, associés à la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, explique le contexte menant à la nouvelle législation californienne.

La Californie se distingue par l’originalité et par le caractère affirmatif de sa loi sur la composition des conseils d’administration. Bien entendu, cette loi a ses détracteurs, notamment les chambres de commerce qui redoutent les impacts négatifs de la loi pour les plus petites entreprises qui ont des CA composés essentiellement d’hommes !

Mais, il faut noter que l’état de la Californie est le seul état américain à avoir légiféré sur la diversité des membres de conseils d’administration en proposant des mesures qui s’apparentent aux quotas imposés par plusieurs pays européens.

Voici un extrait de l’article qui résume assez bien le contenu de cette loi.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.


The bill that passed the California State Senate at the end of May 2018 would, if enacted, require any public company with shares listed on a major U.S. stock exchange that has its principal executive offices in California to have at least one woman on its board by December 31, 2019. By year-end 2021, such companies with five directors would be required to have two women on the board, and companies with six or more directors would be required to have three women on the board.




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California has made headlines this summer with legislative action toward instituting gender quotas for boards of directors of public companies headquartered in the state. The legislation has passed the state senate; to be enacted, it must be passed by the California state assembly and signed by the governor. In 2013, California became the first state to pass a precatory resolution promoting gender diversity on public company boards, and five other states have since followed suit. The current legislative effort has come under criticism for a variety of reasons, and, while it is not certain to become law, it could be a harbinger of a broader push for public company board gender quotas in the United States. It is worth considering whether quotas in this area would be beneficial or harmful to the larger goals of gender parity and board diversity.


The California Bill


The bill that passed the California State Senate at the end of May 2018 would, if enacted, require any public company with shares listed on a major U.S. stock exchange that has its principal executive offices in California to have at least one woman on its board by December 31, 2019. By year-end 2021, such companies with five directors would be required to have two women on the board, and companies with six or more directors would be required to have three women on the board.

Section 1 of the California bill (SB 826) presents an argument in favor of establishing gender quotas: More women directors would be beneficial to California’s economy in various ways, yet progress toward gender parity is too slow. The bill cites studies indicating that companies perform better with women on their boards and observes that other countries have used quotas to achieve 30 percent to 40 percent representation. The bill notes that, of California public companies in the Russell 3000 as of June 2017, 26 percent had no women on their boards, while women composed 15.5 percent of directors on boards that have at least one woman. The bill cites further studies showing that, at current rates, it could take approximately four decades to achieve gender parity on boards. And finally, Section 1 of the bill concludes by citing studies suggesting that having at least three women directors increases board effectiveness.

The Opposing View


The California bill has been controversial. The California Chamber of Commerce filed an opposition letter on behalf of numerous organizations arguing that the bill would violate state and federal constitutions and conflict with existing California civil rights law, on the basis that it requires a person to be promoted—and another person disqualified—simply on the basis of gender. California legislators dispute that the bill requires men to be displaced by women, noting that boards can simply increase their size. This may be easier said than done, however: Because the required quota increases with board size, a company with a four-man board that did not wish to force out a current director would need to add three women to accommodate the requirements of the law by 2021. Suddenly expanding from four to seven would entail a very significant change to board dynamics. For a previously well-functioning board, the negative effects of a change that dramatic could outweigh the benefits of gender diversity.

Further, the bill’s opponents argue that prioritizing only one element of diversity would be suboptimal, especially at time when many California companies are engaged in addressing and increasing diversity by focusing on all classifications of diversity. Advocates for greater representation of ethnic minority groups on boards have expressed concerns that prioritizing gender will be detrimental to progress toward greater ethnic diversity. For purposes of increasing overall diversity, quotas are not a solution that can be applied broadly; if quotas such as those in the California bill were established not only for gender but for ethnic and other categories of diversity, the project of board composition would soon become a near-impossible logic and recruitment puzzle, as nominating committees struggled to meet mandated quotas, expertise needs, and director independence requirements, all within the board size parameters set forth in the company’s organizing documents. Board functioning and effectiveness would be severely compromised by the legislative micromanaging of board composition.

Thanks to the establishment of quotas in various European countries over the past 15 years, there is evidence as to the effect of gender quotas for boards. A 2018 Economist study found that, despite high expectations, the effects of quotas were, in some ways, disappointing. According to the Economist, greater numbers of women on boards did not necessarily produce better performance or decision-making, nor was there a trickle-down effect of boosting women’s progress to senior management jobs.

On the other hand, fears about unqualified women being put on boards, or a few qualified women being overboarded, also did not materialize. While there is a great deal of evidence showing that having women directors does produce more effective boards—and there are even indications in Europe that diverse boards are less likely to be targeted by shareholder activists—the Economist study shows that diversity achieved through government-imposed quotas may not be as beneficial as diversity achieved through private-ordering efforts.

The Big Picture


Progress toward gender diversity in the board room is accelerating. In the first fiscal quarter of 2018, nearly one-third of new directorships in the Russell 3000 went to women, and for the first time, fewer than 20 percent of companies in that index had all-male boards. Institutional investors, corporate governance activists, and many large companies have been at the forefront of this progress. State Street and BlackRock have been leaders on this issue in the United States. Similarly, in the UK—a country that has made significant efforts to improve gender diversity on boards while also resisting the imposition of quotas—the large investment funds Legal & General Investment Management and Standard Life Aberdeen Plc have said that they will vote against boards that are composed of less than 25 percent or 20 percent women, respectively. British institutional investor Hermes has said that it expects boards to include at minimum 30 percent women, and it led a failed opposition to the reelection of the chairman of mining group Rio Tinto Plc due to lack of diversity on the board. Given the effectiveness of recent efforts by the private sector, and in light of the intense resistance to quotas in the business community, government intervention to establish quotas may be unnecessary as well as undesirable.

Recent research shows that simply adding women to boards does not necessarily improve board performance. As common sense would suggest, it turns out that to be a positive factor, the gender composition of the board must be considered along with the skills and knowledge of the board as a whole in the context of the organization and its stakeholders. A 2017 academic study indicated that the “right” level of gender diversity may be proportionate to the number of female stakeholders—employees, clients, and suppliers, for example—and may vary across countries and cultures. In certain circumstances, the appropriate gender diversity ratio might well be over 50 percent women. The authors of the study caution against selecting directors based on quotas if, in so doing, gender diversity is prioritized over the expertise needs of the board.

Overall board diversity, including gender and ethnic minorities, has never been higher. According to a comprehensive 2018 study by James Drury Partners, overall board diversity is now at 34 percent for America’s 651 largest corporations, as measured by revenue and market capitalization. The level of board diversity is increasing, as 49 percent of the 449 newly elected directors at these companies represent diverse groups. Of particular note, the study revealed that the diversity distribution of the 6,225 directors currently serving on the boards of these companies corresponds very closely to the diversity of the population in the executive ranks of 222 companies studied by McKinsey & Co. and While there clearly is more room for progress toward greater diversity at both the executive and board levels, this data point shows that boardrooms are indeed mirroring the increasingly diverse leadership of U.S. business.

The benefit of mandatory quotas, as the business community has seen through European examples, is that they compel companies and shareholders to focus on board composition and to establish more formal recruitment processes in order to find the necessary directors. Such developments are certainly beneficial. That said, boards can and should focus on composition and recruitment in the absence of quotas, and indeed they are doing so to a greater extent than ever before. Proponents of gender diversity can be heartened by recent developments in the United States, as organic and market-driven efforts have produced results that increase the business community’s enthusiasm for diverse boards. A real danger of legislation like the California bill is that context-free quotas may have the effect of destabilizing boards and undermining the business case for increased gender diversity. Were that to occur, then not only boards themselves, but stakeholders, the business community, and the larger societal goals of gender parity and board diversity would suffer as well.


*David A. Katz is partner and Laura A. McIntosh is consulting attorney at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Katz and Ms. McIntosh that originally appeared in the New York Law Journal.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 26 juillet 2018

Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 266 juillet 2018.

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

Bonne lecture !


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Les fonds activistes accusés d’hypocrisie !

Il y a une pléthore d’arguments qui circulent dans la littérature sur la gouvernance et qui concernent les pour et contre des fonds activistes eu égard aux avantages pour les actionnaires.
Voici un article publié par Kai Haakon E. Liekefett*, président de Shareholder Activism Defense Team, paru dans récemment dans ethicalboardroom.
L’auteur tente de montrer l’hypocrisie des fonds activistes de type « edge fund » eu égard aux points suivants :

1. Undermining the shareholder franchise

2. Weakening board independence and diversity

– Overboarding

– Director tenure

– Mandatory retirement age

3. Inconsistency on takeover defences



The hypocrisy of hedge fund activists




In virtually every activism campaign, hedge fund activists don the mantle of the shareholders’ champion and accuse the target company’s board and management of subpar corporate governance.

This claim to having ‘best practices of corporate governance’ at heart is hollow – even hypocritical – as evidenced by at least three examples: hedge fund activists actually undermine the shareholder franchise, they weaken the independence and diversity of the board, and they waffle on their anti-takeover protection stance.


1. Undermining the shareholder franchise


Shareholders have a significant interest in maintaining their franchise: the right to elect directors, approve significant transactions such as a merger or the sale of all or a substantial part of the assets, or amend the charter of a corporation. Hedge fund activists promote themselves as ferocious proponents of this franchise and of ‘shareholder democracy’. In their campaigns, they demand shareholder votes on any matter that allegedly touches on shareholder rights, including areas where corporate law and the bylaws bestow authority on the board.

Yet, in most activism situations, activists seek to influence board decisions and obtain board seats through private settlement negotiations. The price of peace for the corporation is often accepting the addition of one or more activist representatives to the board to avoid the cost and disruption of a proxy contest. Notably, hedge fund activists will accuse directors of  ‘entrenchment’ if a board does not settle and instead opts to let the shareholders decide at the ballot box. This practice of entering into private settlements to appoint directors without a shareholder vote is, of course, directly contrary to the shareholder franchise. For this reason, major institutional investors have called publicly on companies to engage with a broader base of shareholders prior to settling with an activist.

In the same vein, activists habitually accuse directors of ‘disenfranchising shareholders’ when they refresh the board in the face of an activist campaign, arguing that a board must not appoint new directors without shareholder approval. Remarkably, all these concerns for the shareholder franchise quickly disappear once a company engages in settlement discussions with an activist. In private negotiations, activists commonly insist on an immediate appointment to the board. A board’s request to delay the appointment and allow shareholders to vote on an activist’s director designees at the annual meeting is usually met with fierce resistance.


Note also that in these private settlement negotiations, activists almost always seek recovery of their campaign expenses and companies typically agree to some level of payment. These demands for expense reimbursement are almost never submitted to shareholders for approval. While the proxy rules expressly require dissidents to disclose ‘whether the question of such reimbursement will be submitted to a vote of security holders’, an activist hedge fund’s interest in the shareholder franchise evaporates once the fund’s own wallet is concerned. All too often, it appears that the activists’ concern for the shareholder franchise is merely for public consumption.


2. Weakening board independence and diversity


The main target of most activist campaigns is the composition of a company’s board of directors. The business model of hedge fund activism is to identify undervalued public companies whose intrinsic value is substantially higher than the share price on the stock exchange. And if the stock market undervalues a company, then it is only fair to look to those in charge of the company: the board of directors. Consequently, activists often argue that a board needs a refresh, typically calling for ‘shareholder representatives’ and ‘industry experts’ to be appointed as directors.

Of course, activists are not interested in just any type of ‘shareholder representative’ in the boardroom. The preferred director candidate is a principal or employee of the activist hedge fund itself. The reason is that activists intend to use the influence in the boardroom to push aggressively for their own agenda. And, in most cases, that agenda is to push the company to take some strategic action that will return financial value to the hedge fund in the near-term – such as a quick sale at a premium – irrespective of the company’s long-term potential.

Often, an activist will also identify the need for more ‘industry experts’ to join the board and propose experts affiliated with the activist to be added. Activists may give lip service to the need for independent director candidates but when they have to choose between placing an independent candidate or themselves on the board, their preferred candidate is an activist principal or employee. Frequently, even if they passionately argued for ‘much-needed industry expertise’ beforehand, activists are quick to drop their independent board nominee in favour of a 30-something activist employee who lacks any significant relevant experience. This is particularly true for smaller activist hedge funds but is also evident at larger companies. Last year, ISS and the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRC) published a study of the impact of activism on board refreshment at S&P 1500 companies targeted by activists.  The study found that activist nominees and directors appointed to boards by activists via settlements were nearly three times more likely to be ‘financial services professionals’ compared to directors appointed unilaterally by boards.

Moreover, while proxy advisory firms and key institutional investors increasingly demand more gender and ethnic diversity in boardrooms, most activist slates exclusively feature white, male director candidates. According to last year’s ISS/IRRC study, women comprised only 8.4 per cent of dissident nominees on proxy contest ballots and directors appointed via settlements with activists, and only 4.2 per cent of those candidates and directors were ethnically or racially diverse.

There are numerous other examples of corporate governance ‘best practices’ that activists tend to ignore in connection with their campaigns:

(a) Overboarding ISS, Glass Lewis and most institutional investors agree that a director should not sit on too many boards (in particular if the director is also an executive in his ‘daytime’ job). For activists, this seems to be a non-issue when it comes to themselves or their fund-nominated candidates. In addition, the practice of funds nominating the same people for various campaigns raises independence concerns. As noted in the aforementioned ISS/IRRC study: “Many of these ‘busy’ directors appear to be ‘go-to’ nominees for individual activists. The serial nomination of favourite candidates raises questions about the ‘independence’ of these individuals from their activist sponsors”.

(b) Director tenure Directors who sit on the same board for 10 years and more typically end up in the crosshairs of activist hedge funds, which argue that such directors are entrenched and cannot provide objective oversight. However, it is not uncommon for activist directors to remain on the board for many years if they cannot push the company into a sale.

(c) Mandatory retirement age Young activists frequently decry the high average age of boards and may target older directors as part of a campaign. By contrast, one rarely hears a call for age limits on the board from the more seasoned activists of the 1980s, who are pushing 70 years and beyond. In some campaigns, activists nominated director candidates who were 75 years old, 80 years old or even older.


3. Inconsistency on takeover defences


Activists love to attack companies for their takeover defences and perceived lack of ‘shareholder rights’. They crucify boards who dare to adopt a poison pill in response to a hostile bid or activist stake accumulation. They condemn bylaw amendments for ‘changing the rules of the game after the game has started’. And they deride classified boards as an outrageous entrenchment device whose sole purpose is to shield incumbent directors from the ballot box.

UNLOCKING VALUE Activist hedge funds want to deliver outsize returns within two years

Against this backdrop, it is fascinating and educational to observe what sometimes happens once activists join a board. Activists claim to hate poison pills unless, of course, they were able to acquire a large stake of 15 to 25 per cent before the pill was adopted. In these cases, an activist is sometimes perfectly fine with capping other shareholders at 10 per cent or less because it ensures that the activist remains the largest shareholder with the most influence.

It is also not usual for an activist-controlled board to maintain the very same bylaws the activist previously voraciously attacked in the campaign. Sometimes, activists will limit shareholder rights even further. The rights to act by written consent and call special meetings tend to be among the victims. If shareholders can act by written consent or call special meetings to remove the board, insurgents do not have to wait for an annual shareholder meeting to wage a proxy fight. However, once activists are in charge of a boardroom, these shareholder rights primarily constitute a threat to their own control.

The last example is the classified board (aka ‘staggered board’). In a company with a classified board, only a fraction (usually, one third) of the board members are up for re-election every year. Activists are fierce opponents of classified boards. Classification makes it harder for them to win a proxy fight. For example, it is more difficult to win an election contest for three board seats on a nine-member board if only three board seats are up for election and not all nine directorships. Activists also like the intimidation factor of threatening a proxy fight for control of a board. It makes it easier to settle for two or three seats if the activist starts by demanding seven or more seats. Everything changes, of course, once an activist is on the board. Then, many activists are perfectly comfortable with with it being a classified board. In settlement negotiations, activists often fight hard to be in the director classes that are not up for re-election in the near term. Occasionally, they even suggest a ‘reshuffling’ of the director classes to achieve this. Activists also often refuse to leave a classified board after a standstill expires, arguing that they need to be allowed to serve out their three-year term – even if they previously campaigned for annual director elections.


In other words, when it comes to takeover defences, activists’ perspectives depend on whether they have control of the boardroom or not. When activists are successful in ‘conquering the castle’, there is sometimes little reluctance on their part to pull up the drawbridge.

The true reason why activists love corporate governance


These examples make clear that most activists really do not care about corporate governance all that much. So why are activists so focussed on corporate governance in their campaigns? For the same reason why politicians kiss babies during political campaigns: it plays well with the voters. Most institutional investors and the proxy advisory firms ISS and Glass Lewis care deeply about governance issues. That is because they believe, with some justification, that good corporate governance will create shareholder value in the long-term. The long term, of course, is rarely the game of activist hedge funds. Most of these funds have capital with relatively short lock-ups, which means that their own investors will be breathing down their neck if they do not deliver outsize returns within a year or two.

Many activists will admit after a few drinks that their professed passion for governance is only a means to an end. Activists preach so-called ‘best practices of corporate governance’ in every proxy fight because it is an effective way to smear an incumbent board and rile up the voters who do care about governance issues.



Hedge fund activists have been able to cloak themselves in the mantle of a shareholder champion while privately pushing to increase their own influence. Institutional investors and proxy advisory firms should not look to activist hedge funds as promoters of good corporate practices. Activists are no Robin Hoods. They care about good corporate governance just as much as they care about taking from the rich and giving to the poor.



Kai Haakon Liekefett* is a partner of Sidley Austin LLP in New York and the chair of the firm’s Shareholder Activism Defense Team. He has over 18 years of experience in corporate law in New York, London, Germany, Hong Kong and Tokyo. He dedicates 100% of his time to defending companies against shareholder activism campaigns and proxy contests. Kai holds a Ph.D. from Freiburg University; an Executive MBA from Muenster Business School; and an LL.M., James Kent Scholar, from Columbia Law School. He is admitted to practice in New York and Germany. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Sidley Austin LLP or its clients.

Principes simples et universels de saine gouvernance | Rappel d’un billet antérieur

Quels sont les principes fondamentaux de la bonne gouvernance ? Voilà un sujet bien d’actualité, une question fréquemment posée, qui appelle, trop souvent, des réponses complexes et peu utiles pour ceux qui siègent à des conseils d’administration.

L’article de Jo Iwasaki, paru sur le site du NewStateman, a l’avantage de résumer très succinctement les cinq (5) grands principes qui doivent animer et inspirer les administrateurs de sociétés.

Les principes évoqués dans l’article sont simples et directs ; ils peuvent même paraître simplistes, mais, à mon avis, ils devraient servir de puissants guides de référence à tous les administrateurs de sociétés.

Les cinq principes retenus dans l’article sont les suivants :


(1) Un solide engagement du conseil (leadership) ;

(2) Une grande capacité d’action liée au mix de compétences, expertises et savoir-être ;

(3) Une reddition de compte efficace envers les parties prenantes ;

(4) Un objectif de création de valeur et une distribution équitable entre les principaux artisans de la réussite ;

(5) De solides valeurs d’intégrité et de transparence susceptibles de faire l’objet d’un examen minutieux de la part des parties prenantes.


« What board members need to remind themselves is that they are collectively responsible for the long-term success of their company. This may sound obvious but it is not always recognised ».


What are the fundamental principles of corporate governance ?


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Our suggestion is to get back to the fundamental principles of good governance which board members should bear in mind in carrying out their responsibilities. If there are just a few, simple and short principles, board members can easily refer to them when making decisions without losing focus. Such a process should be open and dynamic.

In ICAEW’s  recent paper (The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) What are the overarching principles of corporate governance?, we proposed five such principles of corporate governance.


An effective board should head each company. The Board should steer the company to meet its business purpose in both the short and long term.


The Board should have an appropriate mix of skills, experience and independence to enable its members to discharge their duties and responsibilities effectively.


The Board should communicate to the company’s shareholders and other stakeholders, at regular intervals, a fair, balanced and understandable assessment of how the company is achieving its business purpose and meeting its other responsibilities.


The Board should guide the business to create value and allocate it fairly and sustainably to reinvestment and distributions to stakeholders, including shareholders, directors, employees and customers.


The Board should lead the company to conduct its business in a fair and transparent manner that can withstand scrutiny by stakeholders.

We kept them short, with purpose, but we also kept them aspirational. None of them should be a surprise – they might be just like you have on your board. Well, why not share and exchange our ideas – the more we debate, the better we remember the principles which guide our own behaviour.


De son côté, l’Ordre des administrateurs agréés du Québec (OAAQ) a retenu six (6) valeurs fondamentales qui devraient guider les membres dans l’accomplissement de leurs tâches de professionnels.

Il est utile de les rappeler dans ce billet :




La transparence laisse paraître la réalité tout entière, sans qu’elle soit altérée ou biaisée. Il n’existe d’autre principe plus vertueux que la transparence de l’acte administratif par l’administrateur qui exerce un pouvoir au nom de son détenteur ; celui qui est investi d’un pouvoir doit rendre compte de ses actes à son auteur.

Essentiellement, l’administrateur doit rendre compte de sa gestion au mandant ou autre personne ou groupe désigné, par exemple, à un conseil d’administration, à un comité de surveillance ou à un vérificateur. L’administrateur doit également agir de façon transparente envers les tiers ou les préposés pouvant être affectés par ses actes dans la mesure où le mandant le permet et qu’il n’en subit aucun préjudice.




La continuité est ce qui permet à l’administration de poursuivre ses activités sans interruption. Elle implique l’obligation du mandataire de passer les pouvoirs aux personnes et aux intervenants désignés pour qu’ils puissent remplir leurs obligations adéquatement.

La continuité englobe aussi une perspective temporelle. L’administrateur doit choisir des avenues et des solutions qui favorisent la survie ou la croissance à long terme de la société qu’il gère. En lien avec la saine gestion, l’atteinte des objectifs à court terme ne doit pas menacer la viabilité d’une organisation à plus long terme.




L’efficience allie efficacité, c’est-à-dire, l’atteinte de résultats et l’optimisation des ressources dans la pose d’actes administratifs. L’administrateur efficient vise le rendement optimal de la société à sa charge et maximise l’utilisation des ressources à sa disposition, dans le respect de l’environnement et de la qualité de vie.

Conscient de l’accès limité aux ressources, l’administrateur met tout en œuvre pour les utiliser avec diligence, parcimonie et doigté dans le but d’atteindre les résultats anticipés. L’absence d’une utilisation judicieuse des ressources constitue une négligence, une faute qui porte préjudice aux commettants.




L’équilibre découle de la juste proportion entre force et idées opposées, d’où résulte l’harmonie contributrice de la saine gestion des sociétés. L’équilibre se traduit chez l’administrateur par l’utilisation dynamique de moyens, de contraintes et de limites imposées par l’environnement en constante évolution.

Pour atteindre l’équilibre, l’administrateur dirigeant doit mettre en place des mécanismes permettant de répartir et balancer l’exercice du pouvoir. Cette pratique ne vise pas la dilution du pouvoir, mais bien une répartition adéquate entre des fonctions nécessitant des compétences et des habiletés différentes.




L’équité réfère à ce qui est foncièrement juste. Plusieurs applications en lien avec l’équité sont enchâssées dans la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés de la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne et dans la Charte québécoise des droits et libertés de la personne. L’administrateur doit faire en sorte de gérer en respect des lois afin de prévenir l’exercice abusif ou arbitraire du pouvoir.




L’abnégation fait référence à une personne qui renonce à tout avantage ou intérêt personnel autres que ceux qui lui sont accordés par contrat ou établis dans le cadre de ses fonctions d’administrateur.

Pourquoi les employés ont-ils tendance à bafouer les règles d’éthique ?

Dans le contexte du nouveau code de gouvernance du Royaume-Uni, les administrateurs doivent exercer une vigilance accrue de la culture des organisations.

Cet article de GUENDALINA DONDE*publié dans Board Agenda, nous rappelle certains enseignements concernant la nature des comportements éthiques dans les organisations.

Perhaps the first important lesson from behavioural ethics is to forget the idea that human beings are perfectly rational. In reality, people do not always make consistent decisions, based on strict logic or narrow self-interest. Human behaviour is complex and emotions and intuition have a significant role to play in individual decision-making.

Voici donc plusieurs facteurs qui peuvent avoir une incidence significative sur les comportements éthiques et sur la culture organisationnelle.

J’ai pensé que tous les administrateurs devraient se familiariser avec ces notions.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.


Business ethics: Why do good people do bad things?




The UK’s revised governance code will require boards to keep a watchful eye on their corporate cultures. To this end, understanding behavioural ethics can help instil the right values in employees.

There is no escaping the current increasing pressure for boards to have this question on their agenda, as the draft new UK Corporate Governance Code contains a provision requiring directors to monitor and assess their corporate culture to satisfy themselves that behaviour throughout the business is in line with the company’s values.

Perhaps the first important lesson from behavioural ethics is to forget the idea that human beings are perfectly rational.

What can be done to ensure that employee behaviour is in line with ethical values? Ethics programmes, which include the development of a code of ethics, training and communication campaigns can go some way, but even the best-intentioned ethics programmes will fail if they don’t take into account behavioural ethics—the biases that can blind us to unethical behaviour, whether ours or that of others.


People are likely to put aside their personal moral standards at work if they think this is what is expected of their role


“I was only following orders” is a classic indicator of this kind of ethical blindness. Expectations of a role can translate into pressure to compromise one’s ethical standards.

Many organisations make explicit in their code of ethics that all employees, and managers in particular, have the responsibility to be a role model for ethics in the organisation. It is important that this message is also reinforced through the communications strategy and through training for managers.


Ethics needs to become part of the reward, recognition and promotion system


Availability bias means that people tend to overestimate the likelihood of something happening because a similar event has either happened recently or because they feel emotional about a previous similar event. If employees remember that someone was promoted or rewarded for commercial results, which were achieved by unethical means, they will think that this is the norm—even if it was just a one-off event.

On the other hand, recognising and rewarding those who live up to the organisation’s ethical values, or communicating positive stories internally, can be a quick and effective way to send employees the message that ethics is important in the organisation.


Time pressure can negatively impact organisational culture and the ability to consider ethical implications of decisions


A group of seminary students were asked to prepare a talk on the Good Samaritan at two adjacent buildings. In between talks, the researchers told participants that they should hurry, varying the amount of urgency between students. An actor was situated in an alleyway between the two buildings, posing as a sick man.

The results showed that time pressure had a significant impact on the students’ willingness to stop and help the sick man: in low-hurry situations, 63% helped; medium hurry, 45%; and high hurry only 10%. This was even when, ironically, they were on their way to prepare a talk on the Good Samaritan.


Internal communications and the language used within an organisation can have a significant impact on ethical culture


The framing effect is a cognitive bias where individuals respond differently to the same problem depending on how it is presented. Communications manipulate perception and how a situation is interpreted or framed, making it easier for employees to rationalise their behaviour. The use of aggressive language—such as “at war with competitors”—promotes rigid framing which can, in turn, drive ethical blindness.

On the other hand, using positive language can be a driver of change—changing a whistleblowing line to a “Speak Up” line can have a significant effect on call volume.


In some circumstances, “nudging” ethics can be more effective than enforcing compliance


Nudge Theory (developed by the 2017 Nobel laureate Richard Thaler) suggests that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions can be more effective in encouraging desired behaviour than direct instructions, legislation and enforcement.

This concept has seen many applications, especially in marketing, and it can also be used to promote an ethical culture. An approach that focuses on ethics—by communicating ethical values, explaining how and why an organisation does its business, encouraging individual judgement based on ethical values—is at least as important as having clear rules of conduct which employees must follow, and the related sanctions.


Individual responsibility for values and associated behaviours needs to be encouraged


Following the atrocities of World War II, one of the most researched behaviour patterns has been the willingness of people to put aside their own moral standards and give up responsibility for their actions if they are following the instructions of a person in a position of authority.

To prevent this kind of blind obedience, it is important that companies encourage employees to apply critical thinking and learn how to take initiative, rather than just follow orders.corporate culture, Board Agenda Culture Survey

Perhaps the most well known of these studies was by Stanley Milgram, whose electric-shock experiment showed that people are likely to follow orders given by authority figures (e.g. managers, teachers, police officers) even if it means inflicting harm on another human being.

To prevent this kind of blind obedience, it is important that companies encourage employees to apply critical thinking and learn how to take initiative, rather than just follow orders. Promoting an open culture where employees feel empowered to challenge decisions, even when they have been instructed by a superior, is paramount.


People determine the appropriate behaviour by looking at what others are doing


The phrase “everybody’s doing it” is a red flag which signifies that there may be an ethical problem. Social pressure from a majority group can cause a person to conform to a certain behaviour, and there is plenty of research to back this up, most recently from behavioural economists like Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely.

To avoid this ethical risk, training staff on ethical matters is important to create a shared systems of beliefs and to keep these issues prominent in people’s minds when they face a difficult decision.

Leadership engagement and the right “tone at the top” are also crucial. We naturally follow our leaders, and employees will be more likely to behave unethically if they perceive that their senior leaders and managers fail to “walk the talk”.


Doing the right thing needs to become our instinctive reaction


Daniel Kahneman, professor of psychology at Princeton University, proposes that most human decision-making is done intuitively and subconsciously (“System 1”) before the cognitive part of the brain engages (“System 2”).

In many circumstances, even when people feel they are making a rational decision, their cognitive System 2 is simply rationalising a decision that their intuitive System 1 has already made. Sometimes this results in a seemingly irrational decision that might increase ethical risk.

Embedding ethical values into everything the organisation does can help them become an automatic part of an employee’s System 1. Corporate culture—“the way things are done around here”—is a powerful influence upon our corporate subconscious.

Sometimes a company’s culture can actually be working against its ethical values. Looking at which behaviours are rewarded, considering how messages are framed, and setting an example at the top are all examples of how ethics can achieve saliency in an organisation.

So perhaps the question should be: Why do good people do good things? And how can we support and empower them to consider the ethical implications of their decisions?


Guendalina Dondè* is a senior researcher at the Institute of Business Ethics.

Le futur code de gouvernance du Royaume-Uni

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance du futur code de gouvernance du Royaume-Uni (R.-U.).

À cet effet, voici un billet de Martin Lipton*, paru sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, qui présente un aperçu des points saillants.

Bonne lecture !


The Financial Reporting Council today [July 16, 2018] issued a revised corporate governance code and announced that a revised investor stewardship code will be issued before year-end. The code and related materials are available at

The revised code contains two provisions that will be of great interest. They will undoubtedly be relied upon in efforts to update the various U.S. corporate governance codes. They will also be used to further the efforts to expand the sustainability and stakeholder concerns of U.S. boards.

First, the introduction to the code makes note that shareholder primacy needs to be moderated and that the concept of the “purpose” of the corporation, as long put forth in the U.K. by Colin Mayer and recently popularized in the U.S. by Larry Fink in his 2018 letter to CEO’s, is the guiding principle for the revised code:

Companies do not exist in isolation. Successful and sustainable businesses underpin our economy and society by providing employment and creating prosperity. To succeed in the long-term, directors and the companies they lead need to build and maintain successful relationships with a wide range of stakeholders. These relationships will be successful and enduring if they are based on respect, trust and mutual benefit. Accordingly, a company’s culture should promote integrity and openness, value diversity and be responsive to the views of shareholders and wider stakeholders.

Second, the code provides that the board is responsible for policies and practices which reinforce a healthy culture and that the board should engage:

with the workforce through one, or a combination, of a director appointed from the workforce, a formal workforce advisory panel and a designated non-executive director, or other arrangements which meet the circumstances of the company and the workforce.

It will be interesting to see how this provision will be implemented and whether it gains any traction in the U.S.



The UK Corporate Governance Code


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Martin Lipton* is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 19 juillet 2018

Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 19 juillet 2018.

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

Bonne lecture !


Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »



  1. Further Thoughts on Elon Musk’s Compensation

  2. An Empirical Comparison of Insider Trading Enforcement in Canada and the US

  3. Are Institutional Investors with Multiple Blockholdings Effective Monitors?

  4. Supreme Court Ruling on SEC-Appointed Judges

  5. 2018 Investor Corporate Governance Report

  6. Do Foreign Investors Improve Market Efficiency?

  7. The UK Corporate Governance Code

  8. The Effect of Institutional Ownership Types On Innovation and Competition

  9. M&A Litigation Developments: Where Do We Go From Here?

  10. The Preclusive Effect of Demand Futility

Les sept attentes que les comités d’audit ont envers les chefs des finances

Une bonne relation entre le Président du comité d’Audit et le Vice-président Finance (CFO) est absolument essentielle pour une gestion financière éclairée, fidèle et intègre.

Les auteurs sont liés au Centre for Board Effectiveness de Deloitte. Dans cette publication, parue dans le Wall Street Journal, ils énoncent les sept attentes que les comités d’audit ont envers les chefs des finances.

Cet article sera certainement très utile aux membres de conseils, notamment aux membres des comtés d’audit ainsi qu’à la direction financière de l’entreprise.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.


The CFO and the Audit Committee: Building an Effective Relationship



Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Common Expectations Audit Committee Have of CFOs »



The evolution of the CFO’s role is effecting a shift in the audit committee’s expectations for the working relationship between the two. By considering their response to seven commonly held expectations audit committees have of CFOs, CFOs can begin to lay the groundwork for a more effective working relationship with their organization’s audit committee.

Typically, CFOs play four key roles within their organizations, but the amount of time CFOs allocate to each role is changing rapidly. “For CFOs high integrity of work, accuracy, and timely financial reporting are table stakes, but increasingly they are being expected to be Strategists and Catalysts in their organization,” says Ajit Kambil, global research director for Deloitte’s CFO Program. “In fact, our research indicates that CFOs are spending about 60% to 70% of their time in those roles, and that shift is both reflecting and driving higher expectations from the CEO as well as the board.”

As in any relationship, a degree of trust between CFOs and audit committee chairs serves as a foundation to an effective communication on critical issues. “In high-functioning relationships between CFOs and audit committee chairs, trust and dialogue are critical. Challenges can occur if a CFO comes to an audit committee meeting unprepared or presents a surprising conclusion to the audit committee without having sought the audit committee chair’s opinion, leaving the audit committee chair without the ability to influence that conclusion,” says Henry Phillips, vice chairman and national managing partner, Center for Board Effectiveness, Deloitte & Touche LLP.


Common Expectations Audit Committee Have of CFOs


Following are seven key expectations audit committees have of CFOs for both new and established CFOs to bear in mind.


(1) No Surprises: 

Audit committees do not welcome any surprises. Or, if surprises occur, the audit committee will want to be apprised of the issue very quickly. Surprises may be inevitable, but the audit committee expects CFOs to take precautions against known issues and to manage the avoidable ones and to inform them very early on when something unexpected occurs. In order to do this well, it is important for the CFO and the audit committee chair — perhaps some of the other board members — to set a regular cadence of meetings, so that they have a relationship and a context within which to work together when challenging issues arise. Don’t leave these meetings to chance. “If the audit committee chair or committee members are hearing about something of significance for the first time in a meeting, that’s problematic. Rather, the CFO should be apprising the audit committee chair as much in advance of a committee meeting as possible and talk through the issues so the audit committee chair is not surprised in the meeting,” says Phillips.


(2) Strong partnering with the CEO and other leaders: 

Audit committees want to see the CFO as an effective partner with the CEO, as well as with their peer executives. “The audit committee is carefully observing the CFO and how he or she interacts across the C-suite. At the same time, the audit committee also wants the CFO to be objective and to provide to the board independent perspectives on financial and business issues and not be a ‘yes’ person,” says Deb DeHaas, vice chair and national managing partner, Center for Board Effectiveness at Deloitte. A key for the CFO is to proactively manage CEO and peer relations — especially if there are challenging issues that may be brought up to the board. In that case, the CFO should be prepared to take a clear position on what the board needs to hear from management.

(3) Confidence in finance organization talent: 


Audit committees want visibility into the finance organization to ensure that it has the appropriate skills and experience. They also are looking to ensure that the finance organization will be stable over time, that there will be solid succession plans in place and that talent is being developed to create the strongest possible finance organization. CFOs might consider approaching these goals in several ways. One way is to provide key finance team members an opportunity to brief the audit committee on a special topic, for example, a significant accounting policy, a special analysis or another topic that’s on the board agenda. “While I encourage CFOs to give their team members an opportunity to present to the committee, it’s critical to make sure they’re well prepared and ready to address questions,” Phillips notes.

An outside-in view from audit committee members can bring significant value to the CFO — and to the organization.


(4) Command of key accounting, finance and business issues: 


Audit committees want CFOs to have a strong command of the key accounting issues that might be facing the organization, and given that many CFOs are not CPAs, such command is even more critical for the CFO to demonstrate. Toward that end, steps the CFO can take might include scheduling deep dives with management, the independent auditor, the chief accounting officer and others to receive briefings in order to better understand the organization’s critical issues from an accounting perspective, as well as to get trained up on those issues. In addition, CFOs should demonstrate a deep understanding of the business issues that the organization is confronting. There again, CFOs can leverage both internal and external resources to help them master these issues. Industry briefings are also important, particularly for CFOs who are new to an industry.


(5) Insightful forecasting and earnings guidance: 


Forecasts and earnings guidance will likely not always be precise. However, audit committees expect CFOs to not only deliver reliable forecasts, but also to articulate the underlying drivers of the company’s future performance, as well as how those drivers might impact outcomes. When CFOs lack a thorough understanding of critical assumptions and drivers, they can begin to lose support of key audit committee members. For that reason, it is important that CFOs have an experienced FP&A group to support them. In addition,audit committees and boards want to deeply understand the guidance that is being put forward, the ranges, and confidence levels. As audit committee members read earnings releases and other information in the public domain, they tend to focus on whether the information merely meets the letter of the law in terms of disclosures, or does it tell investors what they need to know to make informed decisions. This is where an outside-in view from audit committee members can bring significant value to the CFO — and to the organization. Moreover, audit committees are increasingly interested in the broader macroeconomic issues that can impact the organization, such as interest rates, oil prices, and geographic instability.


(6) Effective risk management: 


CFOs are increasingly held accountable for risk management, even when there is a chief risk officer. Further, audit committees want CFOs to provide leadership not only on traditional financial accounting and compliance risk matters, but also on some of the enterprise operational macro-risk issues — and to show how that might impact the financial statement. It is important for CFOs to set the tone at the top for compliance and ethics, oversee the control environment and ensure that from a compensation perspective, the appropriate incentives and structures are in place to mitigate risk. A key to the CFO’s effectiveness at this level is to find time to have strategic risk conversations at the highest level of management, as well as with the board.


(7) Clear and concise stakeholder communications: 


Audit committees want CFOs to be very effective on how they communicate with key stakeholders, which extend beyond the board and the audit committees. They want CFOs to be able to articulate the story behind the numbers and provide insights and future trends around the business, and to effectively communicate to the Street. CFOs can expect board members to listen to earnings calls and to observe how they interact with the CEOs, demonstrate mastery of the company’s financial and business issues, and communicate those to the Street. Moreover, a CFO who is very capable from an accounting and finance perspective should exercise the communication skills that are necessary to be effective with different stakeholders.


“Communication is the cornerstone for a strong CFO-audit committee chair relationship,” notes DeHaas. “Although the CFO might be doing other things very well, if there is not effective communication and a trusting relationship with the audit committee, the CFO will likely not be as effective.”

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 12 juillet 2018

Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 12 juillet 2018.

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

Bonne lecture !


Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »

Les CA sont composés de plusieurs comités qui, ensemble, accomplissent l’essentiel des devoirs de fiduciaire

Il est maintenant bien établi que les conseils d’administration comptent au moins trois comités composés de membres du conseil qui se rapportent au CA : le comité d’audit, le comité des ressources humaines et le comité de gouvernance.

Les comités sont, en général, formés d’environ trois membres du conseil ; ils sont présidés par un administrateur et ils se réunissent aussi souvent que le CA lui-même.

Il est évident qu’une grande partie du travail des administrateurs du conseil se fait par l’intermédiaire des comités mis en place par le CA.

L’article ci-dessous, publié par Steve W. Klemash*, Kellie C. et Jamie Smith, provient d’une publication du Centre de la gouvernance EY. Les auteurs présentent les résultats d’une enquête sur les autres comités mis en place par les CA des entreprises du S&P 500, en sus des trois comités statutaires.

Les résultats sont  présentés succinctement dans le document qui suit. Ainsi, il ressort que :

(1) la plupart des autres comités sont les comités exécutifs et les comités des finances

(2) la nature du secteur industriel a une grande importance sur le type de comité additionnel mis en place

(3) les comités sur la gestion des risques et la technologie sont aussi présents dans environ 10 % des cas

(4) la plupart des nouveaux comités sont en lien avec la veille de la cybersécurité, la transformation numérique et les technologies de l’information.

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance des détails dans le résumé ci-dessous.

Bonne lecture !


A Fresh Look at Board Committees


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In this age of innovation and transformation, today’s board members face increasingly complex challenges in overseeing corporate culture, strategy and risk oversight.

The digital revolution has facilitated radical changes in business models and made cybersecurity a strategic business imperative. Intangible assets have become a primary driver of long-term value, making the talent agenda mission-critical. Companies are adapting to changes in the labor market, digitization and automation, and a growing spotlight on corporate values and purpose. And all of this is occurring against a backdrop of rising geopolitical tensions and trade policy challenges.

We have tracked board structures since 2013, examining how S&P 500 companies are using board committee structure to address oversight needs. This post is based on a review of the 418 proxy statements filed as of 15 May 2018. The same set of companies in 2018 and 2013 were examined to provide consistency in the review.




Amid sustained and unprecedented change, board committee structures stayed largely the same over the past six years. Across all industries, boards primarily rely on the three “key” committees generally required by the stock exchanges—audit, compensation, and nominating and governance. [1] Bank holding companies (BHCs) of a certain size, whether public or privately held, are required to also have separate risk committees—a “fourth key committee” so to speak. [2] Above and beyond these committees, institutions typically have one additional standing board committee (“additional committee”) (usually an executive or finance committee). During 2013-18, the portion of companies with at least one additional committee grew marginally from 74% to 76%, and the average number of additional committees remained largely consistent.

The most common committees remained the same. More than one-third of S&P 500 companies had an executive or finance committee. Use of executive committees declined slightly from 38% to 36%, while finance committees held steady at around 36%. Other committees were much less common.

Industry matters. Financial, telecommunications and utilities companies average two or more additional committees. Health care, consumer staples, industrials, consumer discretionary and materials average one to two. Energy, real estate and technology companies average less than one.

Few additional committees focus on emerging risk and innovation. Compliance, risk and technology committees grew marginally. In 2018, the overall percentage of S&P 500 companies with these committees remained low at 16%, 11% and 7%, respectively. Other types of committees largely held steady or declined.

A variety of additional committees oversee technology matters. Ten percent of companies assigned oversight of cybersecurity, digital transformation and information technology to an additional committee. These were typically technology, risk or compliance committees.


Our perspective


Today’s boards are navigating a sustained, highly disruptive and competitive environment. Board agendas have become increasingly packed with complex and evolving oversight topics, and key committee responsibilities have stretched beyond their core purview. Challenging the committee structure as part of the board assessment process may help the board determine the most effective oversight approach based on the company’s unique circumstances.

The ideal board committee structure is appropriate for the company’s specific needs and the board’s unique culture, is forward-looking, and supports the board’s ability to think strategically and comprehensively about key elements of the company business.


A closer look at the big banks


Large BHCs are unusual in that they are required to have a board- level risk committee. For these firms, other common additional committees included:

Questions for the board to consider


Is the board’s committee structure appropriate to forward-looking board priorities and company specific needs?

Is the board size and composition adaptable to changing committee responsibilities as needed based on the company’s evolving oversight needs?

Is the board familiar with how peer companies are addressing board oversight responsibilities?

Do assessments of board effectiveness reveal possible pressure points that might be resolved with changes in committee structure?

As committees assess their own effectiveness and performance, is their capacity, workload and areas of expertise part of that assessment?

As new directors join the board and bring new areas of expertise, does the board consider whether the current committee structure fully leverages those new director skills?



1Subject to certain exemptions, companies listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ must have independent audit, compensation and nominating/corporate governance committees. As an alternative to a nominating/corporate governance committee, director nominees may be selected by a majority of the independent directors for NASDAQ-listed companies.(go back)

2The Federal Reserve’s Enhanced Prudential Standards require separate risk committees for large publicly held US bank holding companies with total consolidated assets of \$10 billion or more.(go back)


*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 5 juillet 2018

Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 5 juillet 2018.

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

Bonne lecture !


Résultats de recherche d'images pour « top 10 »



  1. ESG and Sustainability: The Board’s Role
  2. Fiduciary Duties of Buy-Side Directors: Recent Lessons Learned
  3. Passive Mutual Funds and ETFs: Performance and Comparison
  4. The Directors’ E&S Guidebook
  5. Creditor Control Rights and Board Independence
  6. When Political Spending and Core Values Conflict
  7. Enterprise Liability and the Organization of Production Across Countries
  8. Impact of SEC Guidance on Shareholder Proposals in the 2018 Proxy Season
  9. Passive Investors
  10. Spotify Case Study: Structuring and Executing a Direct Listing

Comment un CA peut-il utiliser la technologie pour conserver son avantage concurrentiel ?

Maggie McGhee* a publié un très bon article sur l’importance croissante d’une solide connaissance des administrateurs eu égard aux perspectives offertes par les nouvelles technologies.

C’est la seule façon de s’assurer de développer ou de maintenir un avantage concurrentiel. L’article est paru sur le site de Board Agenda du 5 juillet 2018.

L’utilisation de nouvelles technologies peut varier d’une entreprise à une autre, mais aucune organisation ne peut se priver de questionner son modèle d’affaires afin de tenir compte des changements de paradigme.

L’auteure fait donc un rappel crucial aux administrateurs. De nouvelles compétences sont requises sur le Board !

Je vous invite également à lire un article, en français, sur les 10 nouvelles technologies qui ont marqué l’année 2017.

Enfin, je vous rappelle que cet article peut être traduit en français instantanément (vous n’avez qu’à cliquer sur le premier symbole dans la partie supérieure droite du navigateur Chrome de Google). La traduction est très acceptable pour une bonne compréhension de l’article pour ceux qui ont moins de facilité avec l’anglais.

Bonne lecture !


How boards can use technology to retain a competitive edge


Knowledge and skills in the boardroom must evolve with the risks and opportunities presented by technology—as well as its associated data—if companies are to remain competitive.


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For many organisations, embracing technology can be the difference between remaining relevant in their market, and being disrupted by new entrants. It represents a significant, and often the leading, business risk that boards need to address.

At the same time, by being proactive in their approach towards technology, boards may profit from what others see merely as threats. But what skills does the board need in order to provide such effective oversight, while being strategic?

In the need to remain relevant to customers and stakeholders, organisations are recognising that it is essential to adapt and embrace the opportunities that are created. Technology itself is an enabler, but it is never the solution, nor the sole driver.


Impact of technology


In our report, The Race for Relevance, we consider six technologies that are directly impacting the finance function alone. There are significantly more technologies that impact organisations as a whole.

As customer “stickiness” becomes a key tool in growth, organisations are starting to recognise the value of data created by the technologies that they own. It is an asset that is increasingly important, yet is also vulnerable to attack. Regulatory regimes are changing in order to address this. The upcoming implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, which focuses on personal data held in the EU, is one such example.

For many organisations, technology and the data generated by it present a significant business opportunity and risk—one which deserves appropriate board-level attention. So what role should the board play in assessing the use of technology and data?


Insight and guidance


The board needs to have the capability to provide insight and guidance in a number of areas. First, in the role of technology to deliver the business strategy, and whether advantage is being taken of emerging technologies.

Then there is the appraisal of technology investments, whether they are to support growth and commercial advantage, or to protect assets.

Boards must also evaluate the data strategy of the organisation by assessing whether the financial and non-financial data used to report against strategic objectives is appropriate.

Next, the board should consider the appropriateness of the organisation’s strategies to protect existing assets and information from unauthorised access or malicious attack.

They should also appraise whether the assessments of the critically held data are appropriate, and understand how data flows in an organisation comply with legal and regulatory requirements.

Assessing the risks arising from the use of technology, and how these are monitored through the organisation’s enterprise risk-management framework and internal control structures, is also a priority.

Lastly, boards should consider whether appropriate recovery plans are in place to manage the consequences of business disruption—including the management of technology and data assets.


The right skills


In discharging their responsibilities, boards should ask whether they have the skills within their membership to assess and advise appropriately.

This responsibility can be done in one of two ways. The first is by ensuring that at least one board member has direct experience of technology in the context of the industry in which the organisation operates. Having experience of addressing the risks of projects and protecting assets is invaluable, especially in those sectors where there is a high dependency on technology.

Or as an alternative, it can be done by ensuring the board has access to those with the requisite experience to advise on the risks. These may be internal experts or third parties.

Technology is an issue that cannot be ignored by boards. While not every board member needs to be fully technology-literate, it is important that all members can appreciate where it is used to create and sustain commercial advantage.

Equally, it is important that the board takes the lead in communicating across the organisation the risk and opportunity associated with technology. Without a shared understanding of the organisation’s approach to the use of technology, it will be practically impossible to roll out a consistent approach effectively.

Technology will continue to develop and provide new opportunities. Risks will continue to evolve. Commercial strategies will change as a result.

Boards need to embrace all of this if they are to remain relevant.

Maggie McGhee* is director of professional insights at ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

Les administrateurs de la nouvelle génération

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, le résultat d’une enquête réalisée par SpencerStuart portant sur le renouvellement des conseils d’administration et les attentes des administrateurs de ladite nouvelle génération.

Le texte a été publié en anglais. Vous pouvez le lire dans cette langue en cliquant sur le titre ci-dessous. Je vous invite à le faire puisque le texte original contient des tableaux et des statistiques que l’on ne retrouve pas dans ma version.

Afin de faciliter la compréhension, j’ai révisé la traduction électronique produite. Je crois que cette traduction est très acceptable.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.



How Next‑Generation Board Directors Are Having an Impact



Guide du Secrétariat à la jeunesse

 Consultez le guide du SAJ


Les conseils font l’objet des pressions croissantes pour démontrer leur pertinence à un moment où de multiples forces perturbatrices menacent les modèles d’affaires établis et créent de nouvelles possibilités d’innovation et de croissance. De plus en plus, les investisseurs s’attendent à ce que les conseils aient des processus significatifs en place pour renouveler leur adhésion et maximiser leur efficacité.

En conséquence, un nombre croissant « d’administrateurs de prochaine génération » sont nommés aux conseils d’administration à travers le monde. Beaucoup apportent des connaissances dans des domaines tels que la cybersécurité, l’IA (intelligence artificielle), l’apprentissage automatique et les technologies de l’industrie 4.0 ; d’autres ont une expérience directe de la transformation numérique, de la conception organisationnelle, de la connaissance du client ou de la communication sociale. Inévitablement, les experts de ces disciplines ont tendance à provenir d’une génération différente de celle de la majorité des membres du conseil d’administration.

Les jeunes administrateurs ont un impact sur le contenu et la dynamique du débat en salle de réunion. Ils incitent d’autres administrateurs à s’engager sur des sujets qui ne leur sont pas familiers et à apporter une approche et une perspective différentes au rôle. Tout comme les entreprises élargissent leur réflexion sur la valeur de la diversité et reconnaissent les avantages de la main-d’œuvre intergénérationnelle, les conseils bénéficient de recrutements d’administrateurs qui apportent non seulement une expertise foncièrement nécessaire, mais aussi une vision contemporaine de la façon dont les décisions affectent les parties prenantes — des employés et des fournisseurs aux clients et à la communauté. Ces administrateurs font face à un ensemble différent de défis en milieu de travail dans leurs rôles exécutifs ; en tant qu’administrateurs, ils peuvent rarement exprimer leurs préoccupations et leurs points de vue, autour de la table du conseil d’administration.

Les conseils qui choisissent sagement leurs jeunes administrateurs peuvent bénéficier grandement de leur présence. Cependant, il ne suffit pas d’amener de nouveaux administrateurs compétents dans la salle du conseil ; il est vital que les conseils les préparent au succès en combinant une intégration complète, une intégration réfléchie et une attitude ouverte, réceptive et respectueuse envers leurs contributions.

Nous avons interrogé un groupe de présidents de conseil d’administration et d’administrateurs de la prochaine génération sur plusieurs continents à propos de leur expérience de cette dernière phase de l’évolution des conseils d’administration.


Qu’y a-t-il pour la prochaine génération?


Avant de rejoindre le conseil d’administration d’une entreprise publique, il est important d’être clair sur la motivation. Pourquoi maintenant ; et pourquoi cette entreprise ? Être un administrateur non exécutif est un engagement important, et vous devez vous assurer que vous et le conseil d’administration considérez que c’est un investissement qui en vaut la peine. Nous constatons que la plupart des administrateurs next-gén sont motivés par trois choses : (1) le développement personnel. (2) la possibilité d’enrichir leur rôle exécutif avec de nouvelles idées et de nouvelles expériences acquises en tant qu’administrateur et (3) le désir de faire une contribution.

Un cadre qui commençait à se familiariser avec son propre conseil estimait qu’il était temps de se joindre à un conseil externe : « Je voulais élargir mon point de vue, acquérir des expériences différentes et voir une entreprise sous un autre angle. Je sentais que cela finirait par faire de moi un leader meilleur et plus efficace ». Une autre gestionnaire d’entreprise a souligné l’occasion unique d’apprendre d’autres personnes plus expérimentées qu’elle-même : « Je pourrais voir que je serais parmi les gens inspirants et que je serais exposé à un secteur différent, mais aussi, à une culture différente et à de nouvelles façons de faire des affaires. “Un troisième a décrit la décision de rejoindre un conseil comme” l’une des choses les plus utiles que j’ai fait dans ma vie ».

Les nouveaux administrateurs citent un certain nombre d’expériences et de compétences qu’ils espèrent acquérir en siégeant à un conseil, allant d’un style de leadership différent et travaillant avec une culture organisationnelle différente à l’apprentissage d’un nouveau secteur ou marché géographique.

Bien sûr, rejoindre un conseil d’administration doit être un exercice mutuellement bénéfique. « C’est utile pour moi parce que j’apprends sur la gouvernance, et sur le fonctionnement interne du conseil ». Je peux appliquer ce que j’apprends dans mon autre travail. Le conseil, quant à lui, obtient quelqu’un avec un ensemble différent de spécialités et une perspective légèrement plus fraîche ; ils ont quelqu’un qui veut être plus ouvert et plus direct, un peu plus non-conformiste par rapport aux autres membres du conseil.

Les présidents de conseil d’administration sont de plus en plus ouverts au recrutement de talents de prochaine génération, citant plusieurs raisons allant du besoin de compétences et de compétences spécifiques à des voix plus diverses à la table. Un président recherchait spécifiquement quelqu’un pour déplacer le centre du débat : « Un nouvel administrateur plus jeune peut voir un dilemme d’un point de vue différent, nous faisant réfléchir à deux fois. Je cherche une personne intègre qui est prête à parler ouvertement et à défier la gestion. Ce que je ne peux pas nécessairement attendre de ces personnes, bien sûr, c’est l’expérience d’avoir vu beaucoup de situations similaires sur 30-40 ans dans les affaires. C’est un compromis, et c’est l’une des raisons pour lesquelles la diversité des âges au sein du conseil est si importante. L’expertise des spécialistes doit être équilibrée avec l’expérience, et avec l’expérience vient un bon jugement ».


Préparation au rôle


Si vous êtes un dirigeant actif qui rejoint le conseil d’administration d’une entreprise publique, beaucoup de temps est en jeu (ainsi que votre réputation), vous devez donc être sûr que vous prenez la bonne décision. Un processus de vérification préalable approfondi offre non seulement cette sécurité, mais contribue également à accélérer votre préparation au rôle. « Au cours de mes entrevues, j’ai lu énormément de choses sur l’entreprise », a déclaré un administrateur récemment nommé. « J’ai regardé les appels des analystes, j’ai lu les documents de la SEC et j’ai posé beaucoup de questions, en particulier sur la dynamique du conseil. Ils m’ont fait rencontrer tous les membres du conseil d’administration et j’ai pu voir comment ils se parlaient entre eux ».

Il est important d’avoir une compréhension claire de ce que le conseil recherche et de la façon dont vos antécédents et votre expérience ajouteront de la valeur dans le contexte de l’entreprise. Par exemple, bien que les membres du conseil les plus séniors puissent avoir un aperçu raisonnable de la perturbation de l’entreprise, ils n’auront pas d’expérience pratique d’une initiative de transformation numérique. Vous êtes peut-être parfaitement placé pour fournir ces connaissances de première main, mais il se peut que le président du conseil d’administration veuille bien faire face à certaines difficultés, ait appris à relever le défi technologique d’un point de vue commercial et sache quel type de questions poser. Seule une due diligence approfondie révélera si vos attentes sont alignées avec celles du conseil et vous permettront de procéder en toute confiance.


Embarquement (Onboarding)


L’une des choses les plus courantes que nous entendons des administrateurs de prochaine génération est qu’ils auraient aimé un processus d’intégration plus approfondi avant leur première réunion — c’est quelque chose que les conseils d’administration doivent clairement aborder. Il revient souvent aux nouveaux administrateurs de prendre l’initiative et de concevoir un programme qui les aidera à s’intégrer dans l’entreprise. « Une grande partie de l’immersion dont j’ai eu besoin est venue des étapes que j’ai suivies moi-même », a déclaré un administrateur qui estimait que rencontrer quelques dirigeants et présidents de comité du conseil ainsi qu’une lecture du matériel fourni par le secrétaire de la société constituait une préparation insuffisante.

Un bon programme d’initiation comprendra des présentations de la direction sur le modèle d’affaires, la rentabilité et la performance ; visites de site ; et des réunions avec des conseillers externes tels que des comptables, des banquiers et des courtiers. Assister avec le responsable des relations avec les investisseurs pour revoir les perspectives des investisseurs et des analystes peut aussi être utile.

Les administrateurs de la prochaine génération ont demandé à rencontrer les chefs d’entreprise pour un examen plus détaillé d’une filiale ou d’une activité particulière où leur propre expérience est particulièrement pertinente. Dans une entreprise de vente au détail, par exemple, il serait logique de rencontrer le responsable du merchandising d’un magasin phare pour se familiariser avec le positionnement des produits et l’expérience client.

Le temps passé avec le PDG pour en apprendre davantage sur l’entreprise est essentiel. La plupart des chefs d’entreprise seront ravis de faire en sorte que le nouvel administrateur puisse voir directement les principaux projets et rencontrer les personnes qui les dirigent, ainsi que passer du temps avec d’autres membres de l’équipe de la haute direction. « Ils étaient complètement ouverts à la possibilité de rencontrer d’autres personnes, mais cela ne faisait pas partie du programme d’initiation formel. J’ai trouvé ces conversations les plus éclairantes parce que je me suis simplement rapproché de l’entreprise et du travail. »

Un président d’une société de produits de consommation a ajouté une touche intéressante à l’intégration d’un nouvel administrateur nommé pour son expérience de leadership en matière de commerce électronique. Il a invité la nouvelle recrue à faire une présentation à toute l’équipe de direction au sujet de son propre cheminement. « Le genre de perturbation et la vitesse à laquelle fonctionne sa société en ligne étaient stupéfiants, et cet exercice s’est avéré une source d’apprentissage pour le conseil d’administration et l’équipe de direction », a déclaré le président. « Cela a également renforcé sa crédibilité auprès du reste du conseil ».


Faire la transition à un rôle d’administrateur non exécutif


La plupart des administrateurs de la prochaine génération comprennent qu’ils devront aborder les responsabilités de leur conseil d’une manière différente d’un rôle exécutif, mais la plupart sous-estiment les difficultés à faire cette transition dans la pratique.

Il est important d’être en mesure de faire la distinction entre les questions sur lesquelles seul le conseil peut se prononcer (par exemple, la relève du chef de la direction) et les sujets que le conseil doit laisser à la direction (questions opérationnelles). La stratégie est un domaine où, dans la plupart des marchés, le conseil d’administration et la direction ont tendance à collaborer étroitement, mais il y a beaucoup d’autres moyens où les administrateurs de la prochaine génération peuvent apporter leur expertise particulière.

Cependant, il faut du temps pour apprendre comment ajouter de la valeur aux discussions du conseil sans pour autant saper l’autorité de la direction. L’écoute et l’apprentissage sont un aspect crucial pour gagner le respect et la crédibilité auprès du reste du conseil. « Il faut être très conscient du moment où il faut intervenir, quand il est nécessaire d’insister sur un sujet difficile, et quand il faut prendre du recul », explique un administrateur. « La compétence consiste à poser la bonne question de la bonne façon — à ne pas affaiblir ou à décourager la direction, mais à les encourager à voir les choses un peu différemment ».

En tant qu’administrateur non exécutif, vous devez vous engager à un niveau supérieur et de manière plus détachée que dans votre rôle exécutif. Avec des réunions mensuelles ou bimestrielles, il peut être difficile de déterminer si vous ajoutez de la valeur, ou même à quoi ressemble la valeur, surtout lorsque votre travail régulier implique de prendre la responsabilité d’une exécution de haute qualité. En tant qu’administrateur non exécutif, vous pouvez voir des choses qui doivent être prises en compte et vouloir vous impliquer plus activement, mais vous devez faire confiance en la capacité de l’équipe de direction à le faire. « J’avais l’impression que le conseil d’administration pourrait être un peu plus engagé. Nous avons des zones très précises dans lesquelles nous sommes censés contribuer à orienter les décisions et les actions, et il y en a d’autres où nous sommes plus consultatifs ; c’est une question de trouver le bon équilibre ».

Cependant, le travail des administrateurs de prochaine génération ne commence pas et ne se termine pas avec les réunions du conseil d’administration. Beaucoup interagiront avec la direction en dehors des réunions. Un directeur britannique nommé pour son expertise numérique prend le temps de se mettre à jour avec l’équipe numérique de l’entreprise lorsqu’elle est à New York « pour savoir à quoi ils travaillent, comprendre ce qui les motive et quelles sont leurs préoccupations ». Un nouvel administrateur indépendant a été invité par le PDG (CEO) à passer une journée avec l’équipe de management du développement de l’entreprise, après quoi il a passé en revue l’expérience client. « J’ai reçu des commentaires très clairs, mais je me suis contenté de l’envoyer au chef de la direction, pas à l’équipe que j’ai rencontrée ou à un autre membre du conseil ». Offrir de l’aide à l’équipe de direction de façon informelle.

Votre rôle n’est pas nécessairement de comprendre les problèmes, mais de proposer des idées et de poser des questions à l’équipe de direction.


Obtenir de la rétroaction


Les administrateurs de prochaine génération qui sont habitués à recevoir des commentaires dans leur capacité de direction peuvent avoir du mal à s’adapter à un rôle où il est moins facilement disponible. « La rétroaction est la chose la plus difficile à laquelle je me suis attaqué », explique un administrateur. « Avec votre propre entreprise, c’est un succès ou pas. Si vous êtes un employé, on vous dit si vous faites du bon travail. Ce n’est pas le cas sur un conseil ».

Les nouveaux administrateurs doivent identifier une personne avec laquelle ils se sentent à l’aise et qui peut leur offrir un aperçu de certaines des règles non écrites du conseil. Certains préfèrent une relation de mentorat plus formelle avec un membre du conseil d’administration, mais cette idée ne plaît pas à tout le monde. Des vérifications régulières auprès du président du conseil (et du chef de la direction) les aideront à évaluer leur rendement et à apprendre comment ils peuvent offrir une contribution plus utile.

Au-delà de la rétroaction individuelle informelle, le conseil peut avoir un processus pour fournir une rétroaction à chaque administrateur dans le cadre de l’auto-évaluation annuelle du conseil. Sur les conseils où cette pratique est en place, les administrateurs de la prochaine génération ont tendance à être très à l’aise avec elle et à accueillir les commentaires. S’il n’y a pas de processus de rétroaction individuelle des administrateurs en place, l’administrateur de la prochaine génération peut servir de catalyseur pour établir cette saine pratique en s’enquérant directement à ce sujet.


Le rôle du président du conseil


Les présidents de conseil ont une influence significative sur le succès des administrateurs de prochaine génération dans le rôle. Il peut être difficile d’arriver à un conseil qui compte beaucoup d’administrateurs plus âgés et plus expérimentés, en particulier s’il existe une dynamique « collégiale » établie de longue date. Le président a la double tâche de guider le nouvel administrateur, tout en s’assurant que les autres membres du conseil restent ouverts aux nouvelles idées et perspectives que celui-ci apporte au conseil. Cela peut impliquer de travailler dur pour encourager les relations à se développer à un niveau personnel, ce qui permettra ensuite d’émettre des points de vue divergents, et même dissidents sur le plan professionnel.

Un président peut faire un certain nombre de choses pour soutenir l’administrateur de la prochaine génération, par exemple : s’intéresser de près au processus d’intégration ; fournir un encadrement sur la meilleure façon de représenter les intérêts des investisseurs ; offrir des commentaires constructifs après les réunions ; et encourager le nouvel administrateur à se tenir à l’écart plutôt que de jouer la carte de la sécurité et à simplement s’aligner sur la culture existante du conseil d’administration. Comme l’a dit un président : « Certains conseils se méfient d’un nouvel administrateur qui pense différemment et qui menace, bien que respectueusement, de faire bouger les choses. Mais parfois, vous avez besoin que le nouvel administrateur perturbe le conseil avec des idées nouvelles, acceptant que cela puisse entraîner un changement culturel. C’est mon travail de laisser cela se produire ». Cela dit, si un nouvel administrateur est en désaccord avec certains éléments contenus dans la documentation du conseil d’administration ou s’il ne comprend pas, il serait sage d’en discuter avec le président du conseil en premier lieu.

Pour le nouvel administrateur, l’adaptation à la structure et à la formalité des réunions du conseil d’administration signifie adopter une approche mesurée et s’inspirer de la décision du président, en particulier à contre-courant. « Bien que je n’aie assisté qu’à trois réunions, je teste les barrières qui font que je peux être ouvert et direct, tout en en apprenant davantage sur l’entreprise », rapporte un administrateur. Un autre a défendu une position non partagée par la majorité du conseil d’administration, convaincu que le président est heureux de donner une tribune à ses opinions. Vous devez être respectueux et faire valoir votre point de vue et vos arguments, mais si ceux-ci ne prévalent pas, c’est bien aussi. Bien sûr, si cela devient une question de principe, vous êtes toujours libre de démissionner, n’est-ce pas ?


Vers un nouveau genre de conseil


Au fur et à mesure que les entreprises relèvent de nouveaux défis et qu’une jeune génération de cadres issus de milieux très différents accède à des postes d’administrateurs indépendants, les conseils d’administration devront trouver le bon équilibre entre expérience et pertinence. Ils devront également devenir plus dynamiques en matière de composition, de diversité, de discussion et d’occupation. Les administrateurs de longue date qui s’intéressent à la gouvernance et à la gestion des risques côtoieront des représentants de la prochaine génération nommés pour leur excellente connaissance du domaine ou leur expérience en temps réel des environnements transformationnels, mais le mandat de ces administrateurs sera probablement plus court que la moyenne actuelle.

Les conseils doivent être réalistes quant à la durée du mandat d’un candidat de la prochaine génération. Ils doivent également réfléchir soigneusement à la question de savoir si cet administrateur se sentirait moins isolé et plus efficace s’il était accompagné par un autre administrateur d’un âge et d’un passé similaires. « En tant que femme, j’ai été une minorité tout au long de ma carrière, donc c’est étrange d’être une minorité à cause de mon expertise numérique », a déclaré une administratrice. Tout comme la présence d’autres femmes au sein du conseil d’administration réduit le fardeau d’une femme administratrice, il y a lieu de nommer deux ou plusieurs administrateurs de la nouvelle génération.

Les conseils d’administration résolus à rester au fait des problèmes critiques affectant leurs entreprises devraient considérer les avantages potentiels de nommer au moins un administrateur de la prochaine génération, non seulement pour leur expertise, mais aussi pour leur capacité à apporter une pensée alternative et des perspectives multipartites dans la salle du conseil. Soutenus par un président du conseil attentif et par des administrateurs ouverts d’esprit, les administrateurs de la prochaine génération peuvent avoir un impact positif et durable sur l’efficacité du conseil en cette période de changement sans précédent.

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