Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 27 février 2020


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 27 février 2020.

Cette semaine, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

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Huit constats qui reflètent la mouvance de la gouvernance des sociétés


Aujourd’hui, je vous présente un article de John C. Wilcox *, président de la firme Morrow Sodali, paru sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, qui met en lumière les grandes tendances dans la gouvernance des sociétés.

L’article a d’abord été traduit en français en utilisant Google Chrome, puis, je l’ai édité et adapté.

À la fin de 2019, un certain nombre de déclarations extraordinaires ont signalé que la gouvernance d’entreprise avait atteint un point d’inflexion. Au Royaume-Uni, la British Academy a publié Principles for Purposeful Business. Aux États-Unis, la Business Roundtable a publié sa déclaration sur la raison d’être d’une société. Et en Suisse, le Forum économique mondial a publié le Manifeste de Davos 2020.

Ces déclarations sont la résultante des grandes tendances observées en gouvernance au cours des dix dernières années. Voici huit constats qui sont le reflet de cette mouvance.

    1. Reconnaissance que les politiques environnementales, sociales et de gouvernance d’entreprise (ESG) représentent des risques et des opportunités qui ont un impact majeur sur la performance financière ;
    2. Réévaluation de la doctrine de la primauté des actionnaires et de la vision étroite des sociétés comme des machines à profit ;
    3. Adoption de la « pérennité » comme objectif stratégique pour les entreprises, antidote au court terme et voie pour renforcer la confiance du public dans les entreprises et les marchés de capitaux ;
    4. Reconnaissance que les entreprises doivent servir les intérêts de leurs « parties prenantes » ainsi que de leurs actionnaires ;
    5. Réaffirmation du principe selon lequel les entreprises doivent être responsables des conséquences humaines, sociales et de politiques publiques de leurs activités, en mettant l’accent sur la priorité à accorder aux changements climatiques ;
    6. Assertion que la culture organisationnelle est le reflet de son intégrité, de son bien-être interne, de sa pérennité et de sa réputation.
    7. Acceptation de la responsabilité élargie du conseil d’administration pour les questions concernant l’ESG, la durabilité, la finalité et la culture, ainsi que la collaboration avec le PDG pour intégrer ces facteurs dans la stratégie commerciale ;
    8. Émergence du « reporting intégré » [www.integrated reporting.org] avec son programme de réflexion intégrée et de gestion intégrée comme base du « reporting » d’entreprise

J’ai reproduit ci-dessous les points saillants de l’article de Wilcox.

Bonne lecture !

Corporate Purpose and Culture

 

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BlackRock’s Annual Letter

 

On January 14, 2020, right on cue, BlackRock Chairman and Chief Executive Larry Fink published his annual letter to corporate CEOs. This year’s letter, entitled “A Fundamental Reshaping of Finance,” is clearly intended as a wake-up call for both corporations and institutional investors. It explains what sustainability and corporate purpose mean to BlackRock and predicts that a tectonic governance shift will lead to “a fundamental reshaping of finance.” BlackRock does not mince words. The letter calls upon corporations to (1) provide “a clearer picture of how [they] are managing sustainability-related questions” and (2) explain how they serve their “full set of stakeholders.” To make sure these demands are taken seriously, the letter outlines the measures available to BlackRock if portfolio companies fall short of achieving sustainability goals: votes against management, accelerated public disclosure of voting decisions and greater involvement in collective engagement campaigns.

In setting forth its expectations for sustainability reporting by portfolio companies, BlackRock cuts through the tangle of competing standard-setters and recommends that companies utilize SASB materiality standards and TCFB climate metrics. In our view, individual companies should regard these recommendations as a starting point—not a blueprint—for their own sustainability reporting. No single analytical framework can work for the universe of companies of different sizes, in different industries, in different stages of development, in different markets. If a company determines that it needs to rely on different standards and metrics, the business and strategic reasons that justify its choices will be an effective basis for a customized sustainability report and statement of purpose.

As ESG casts such a wide net, not all variables can be studied at once to concretely conclude that all forms of ESG management demonstrably improve company performance. Ongoing research is still needed to identify the most relevant ESG factors that influence performance of individual companies in diverse industries. However, the economic relevance of ESG factors has been confirmed and is now building momentum among investors and companies alike.

Corporate Purpose

 

The immediate practical challenge facing companies and boards is how to assemble a statement of corporate purpose. What should it say? What form should it take?

In discussions with clients we are finding that a standardized approach is not the best way to answer these questions. Defining corporate purpose is not a compliance exercise. It does not lend itself to benchmarking. One size cannot fit all. No two companies have the same stakeholders, ESG policies, risk profile, value drivers, competitive position, culture, developmental history, strategic goals. These topics are endogenous and unique to individual companies. Collecting information and assembling all the elements that play a role in corporate purpose requires a deep dive into the inner workings of the company. It has to be a collaborative effort that reaches across different levels, departments and operations within the company. The goal of these efforts is to produce a customized, holistic business profile.

Other approaches that suggest a more standardized approach to corporate purpose and sustainability are also worth consideration:

  • Hermes EOS and Bob Eccles published a “Statement of Purpose Guidance Document” in August 2019. It envisions “a simple one-page declaration, issued by the company’s board of directors, that clearly articulates the company’s purpose and how to harmonize commercial success with social accountability and responsibility.”
  • CECP (Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose) has for 20 years been monitoring and scoring “best practices of companies leading in Corporate ” Many of CECP’s best practices take the form of short mission statements that do not necessarily include specific content relating to ESG issues or stakeholders. However, CECP is fully aware that times are changing. Its most recent publication, Investing in Society, acknowledges that the “stakeholder sea change in 2019 has redefined corporate purpose.”

A case can be made for combining the statement of purpose and sustainability report into a single document. Both are built on the same foundational information. Both are intended for a broad-based audience of stakeholders rather than just shareholders. Both seek to “tell the company’s story” in a holistic narrative that goes beyond traditional disclosure to reveal the business fundamentals, character and culture of the enterprise as well as its strategy and financial goals. Does it make sense in some cases for the statement of corporate purpose to be subsumed within a more comprehensive sustainability report?

Corporate Culture

 

Corporate culture, like corporate purpose, does not lend itself to a standard definition. Of the many intangible factors that are now recognized as relevant to a company’s risk profile and performance, culture is one of the most important and one of the most difficult to explain. There are, however, three proverbial certainties that have developed around corporate culture: (1) We know it when we see it -and worse, we know it most clearly when its failure leads to a crisis. (2) It is a responsibility of the board of directors, defined by their “tone at the top.” (3) It is the foundation for a company’s most precious asset, its reputation.

A recent posting on the International Corporate Governance Network web site provides a prototypical statement about corporate culture:

A healthy corporate culture attracts capital and is a key factor in investors’ decision making. The issue of corporate culture should be at the top of every board’s agenda and it is important that boards take a proactive rather than reactive approach to creating and sustaining a healthy corporate culture, necessary for long-term success.

The policies that shape corporate culture will vary for individual companies, but in every case the board of directors plays the defining role. The critical task for a “proactive” board is to establish through its policies a clear “tone at the top” and then to ensure that there is an effective program to implement, monitor and measure the impact of those policies at all levels within the company. In many cases, existing business metrics will be sufficient to monitor cultural health. Some obvious examples: employee satisfaction and retention, customer experience, safety statistics, whistle-blower complaints, legal problems, regulatory penalties, media commentary, etc. For purposes of assessing culture, these diagnostics need to be systematically reviewed and reported up to the board of directors with the same rigor as internal financial reporting.

In this emerging era of sustainability and purposeful governance, investors and other stakeholders will continue to increase their demand for greater transparency about what goes on in the boardroom and how directors fulfill their oversight responsibilities. A proactive board must also be a transparent board. The challenge for directors: How can they provide the expected level of transparency while still preserving confidentiality, collegiality, independence and a strategic working relationship with the CEO?

As boards ponder this question, they may want to consider whether the annual board evaluation can be made more useful and relevant. During its annual evaluation process, could the board not only review its governance structure and internal processes, but also examine how effectively it is fulfilling its duties with respect to sustainability, purpose, culture and stakeholder representation? Could the board establish its own KPIs on these topics and review progress annually? How much of an expanded evaluation process and its findings could the board disclose publicly?

Conclusion—A Sea Change?

 

In addition to the challenges discussed here, the evolving governance environment brings some good news for companies. First, the emphasis on ESG, sustainability, corporate purpose, culture and stakeholder interests should help to reduce reliance on external box-ticking and one-size-fits-all ESG evaluation standards. Second, the constraints on shareholder communication in a rules-based disclosure framework will be loosened as companies seek to tell their story holistically in sustainability reports and statements of purpose. Third, as the BlackRock letters make clear, institutional investors will be subject to the same pressures and scrutiny as companies with respect to their integration of ESG factors into investment decisions and accountability for supporting climate change and sustainability. Fourth, collaborative engagement, rather than confrontation and activism, will play an increasingly important role in resolving misunderstandings and disputes between companies and shareholders.

The 2020 annual meeting season will mark the beginning of a new era in governance and shareholder relations.


*John C. Wilcox is Chairman of Morrow Sodali. This post is based on a Morrow Sodali memorandum by Mr. Wilcox. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Toward Fair and Sustainable Capitalism by Leo E. Strine, Jr. (discussed on the Forum here).

Vous siégez à un conseil d’administration | Comment bien se comporter ?


Johanne Bouchard* a eu l’occasion d’agir à titre d’auteure invitée sur mon blogue en gouvernance de nombreuses fois depuis 5 ans.

Cet article de Johanne a été visionné de multiples fois sur mon site ; c’est pourquoi je vous propose de revisiter ce billet qui a aussi été publié sur son blogue en français https://www.johannebouchard.com/

L’auteure a une solide expérience d’interventions de consultation auprès de conseils d’administration de sociétés américaines et d’accompagnements auprès de hauts dirigeants de sociétés publiques. Dans ce billet, elle aborde ce que, selon elle, doivent être les qualités des bons administrateurs.

Quels conseils, simples et concrets, une personne qui connaît bien la nature des conseils d’administration peut-elle prodiguer aux administrateurs eu égard aux qualités et aux comportements à adopter dans leurs rôles de fiduciaires ?

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

Siéger à un conseil d’administration : comment exceller ?

par

Johanne Bouchard

 

C’est un privilège de servir au sein d’un conseil d’administration. Servir au sein d’un conseil est l’occasion de vraiment faire une différence dans la vie des gens, puisque les décisions que vous prenez peuvent avoir un effet significatif, non seulement sur l’entreprise, mais aussi sur les individus, les familles, et même sur les communautés entières.

Vous êtes un intervenant-clé dans l’orientation et la stratégie globale, qui, à son tour, détermine le succès de l’entreprise et crée de la valeur ajoutée pour les actionnaires.

 

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En 2014, Bryan Stolle, un des contributeurs de la revue Forbes, également investisseur au Mohr Davidow Ventures, a examiné le sujet dans un billet de son blogue. Il a écrit : « L’excellence d’un conseil d’administration est le résultat de l’excellence de chacun de ses membres ». Il poursuit en soulignant ce qu’il considère en être les principaux attributs. Je suis d’accord avec lui, mais j’aimerais ajouter ce qui, selon moi, fait la grandeur et la qualité exceptionnelle d’un membre de conseil d’administration.

Intention

 

D’abord et avant tout, être un excellent membre de conseil d’administration commence avec « l’intention » d’en être un, avec l’intention d’être bienveillant, et pas uniquement avec l’intention de faire partie d’un conseil d’administration. Malheureusement, trop de membres ne sont pas vraiment résolus et déterminés dans leur volonté de devenir membres d’un conseil.

La raison de se joindre à un conseil doit être authentique, avec un désir profond de bien servir l’entité. Être clair sur les raisons qui vous poussent à vous joindre au conseil est absolument essentiel, et cela aide à poser les jalons de votre réussite comme administrateur.

En adhérant à un conseil d’administration, votre devoir, ainsi que celui de vos collègues-administrateurs, est de créer une valeur ajoutée pour les actionnaires.

Attentes

 

Ensuite, vous devez comprendre ce que l’on attend de vous et du rôle que vous serez appelé à jouer au sein du conseil d’administration. Trop de membres d’un conseil ne comprennent pas leur rôle et saisissent mal les attentes liées à leurs tâches. Souvent, le président du conseil et le chef de la direction ne communiquent pas suffisamment clairement leurs attentes concernant leur rôle.

Ne tenez rien pour acquis concernant le temps que vous devrez consacrer à cette fonction et ce qu’on attendra de votre collaboration. Dans quelle mesure devez-vous être présent à toutes les réunions, que vous siégiez à un comité ou que vous participiez aux conférences téléphoniques entre les réunions normalement prévues ? Votre réseau suffit-il, à ce stade-ci de la croissance de l’entreprise, pour répondre au recrutement de nouveaux talents et pour créer des partenariats ? Est-ce que votre expérience de l’industrie est adéquate ; comment serez-vous un joueur-clé lors des discussions ? Y aura-t-il un programme d’accueil et d’intégration des nouveaux administrateurs pour faciliter votre intégration au sein du conseil ?

De plus, comment envisagez-vous d’atteindre un niveau suffisant de connaissance des stratégies commerciales de l’entreprise ? Soyez clairs en ce qui concerne les attentes.

Exécution

 

Vous devez honorer les engagements associés à votre responsabilité de membre du conseil d’administration. Cela signifie :

Être préparé : se présenter à une réunion du conseil d’administration sans avoir lu l’ordre du jour au préalable ainsi que les documents qui l’accompagnent est inacceptable. Cela peut paraître évident, mais vous seriez surpris du nombre de membres de conseils coupables d’un tel manque de préparation. De même, le chef de la direction, soucieux d’une gestion efficace du temps, a la responsabilité de s’assurer que le matériel est adéquatement préparé et distribué à l’avance à tous les administrateurs.

Respecter le calendrier : soyez à l’heure et assistez à toutes les réunions du conseil d’administration.

Participation

 

Écoutez, questionnez et ne prenez la parole qu’au moment approprié. Ne cherchez pas à provoquer la controverse uniquement dans le but de vous faire valoir, en émettant un point de vue qui n’est ni opportun ni pertinent. N’intervenez pas inutilement, sauf si vous avez une meilleure solution ou des choix alternatifs à proposer.

Bonnes manières

 

Il est important de faire preuve de tact, même lorsque vous essayez d’être directs. Évitez les manœuvres d’intimidation ; le dénigrement et le harcèlement n’ont pas leur place au sein d’une entreprise, encore moins dans une salle du conseil. Soyez respectueux, en particulier pendant la présentation du comité de direction. Placez votre cellulaire en mode discrétion. La pratique de bonnes manières, notamment les comportements respectueux, vous permettra de gagner le respect des autres.

Faites valoir vos compétences

 

Vos compétences sont uniques. Cherchez à les présenter de manière à ce que le conseil d’administration puisse en apprécier les particularités. En mettant pleinement à profit vos compétences et en participant activement aux réunions, vous renforcerez la composition du conseil et vous participerez également à la réussite de l’entreprise en créant une valeur ajoutée pour les actionnaires.

Ne soyez pas timide

 

Compte tenu de la nature stratégique de cette fonction, vous devez avoir le courage de faire connaître votre point de vue. Un bon membre de conseil d’administration ne doit pas craindre d’inciter les autres membres à se tenir debout lorsqu’il est conscient des intérêts en cause ni d’être celui qui saura clairement faire preuve de discernement. Un bon membre de conseil d’administration doit être prêt à accomplir les tâches les plus délicates, y compris celles qui consistent à changer la direction de l’entreprise et le chef de la direction, quand c’est nécessaire, et avant qu’il ne soit trop tard.

Évitez les réclamations financières non justifiées

 

Soyez conscients des émoluments d’administrateur qu’on vous paie. N’abusez pas des privilèges. Les conséquences sont beaucoup trop grandes pour vous, pour la culture de l’entreprise et pour la réputation du conseil. Si vous voulez que je sois plus précise, je fais référence aux déclarations de certaines dépenses que vous devriez payer vous-même.

Sachez qu’un employé du service de la comptabilité examine vos allocations de dépenses, et que cela pourrait facilement ternir votre réputation si vous soumettiez des dépenses inacceptables.

Faites preuve de maturité

 

Vous vous joignez à un conseil qui agit au plus haut niveau des entreprises (privée, publique ou à but non lucratif), dont les actions et les interventions ont une grande incidence sur les collectivités en général. Gardez confidentiel ce qui est partagé lors des réunions du conseil, et ne soyez pas la source d’une fuite.

Maintenez une bonne conduite

 

Le privilège de siéger au sein d’un conseil d’administration vous expose à une grande visibilité. Soyez conscients de votre comportement lors des réunions du conseil d’administration et à l’extérieur de la salle de réunion ; évitez de révéler certains de vos comportements inopportuns.

Confiance et intégrité

 

Faites ce que vous avez promis de faire. Engagez-vous à respecter ce que vous promettez. Tenez votre parole. Soyez toujours à votre meilleur et soyez fier d’être un membre respectable du conseil d’administration.

Valeurs

 

Un bon membre de conseil d’administration possède des valeurs qu’il ne craint pas de révéler. Il est sûr que ses agissements reflètent ses valeurs.

Un bon membre de conseil est un joueur actif et, comme Stolle l’a si bien noté, de bons administrateurs constituent l’assise d’un bon conseil d’administration. Ce conseil d’administration abordera sans hésiter les enjeux délicats, tels que la rémunération du chef de la direction et la planification de la relève — des éléments qui sont trop souvent négligés.

Un bon membre du conseil d’administration devrait se soucier d’être un modèle et une source d’inspiration en exerçant sa fonction, que ce soit à titre d’administrateur indépendant, de président, de vice-président, de président du conseil, d’administrateur principal, de président de comité, il devrait avoir la maturité et la sagesse nécessaires pour se retirer d’un conseil d’administration avec grâce, quand vient le temps opportun de le faire.

Enfin, prenez soin de ne pas être un membre dysfonctionnel, ralentissant les progrès du conseil d’administration. En tant qu’administrateur indépendant, vous aurez le même devoir qu’un joueur d’équipe.

Je vous invite à aspirer à être un bon membre de conseil d’administration et à respecter vos engagements. Siéger à un trop grand nombre de conseils ne fera pas de vous un meilleur membre.

Je conduis des évaluations du rendement des conseils d’administration, et je vous avoue, en toute sincérité, que de nombreux administrateurs me font remarquer que certains de leurs collègues semblent se disperser et qu’ils ne sont pas les administrateurs auxquels on est en droit de s’attendre. Vous ne pouvez pas vous permettre de trop « étirer l’élastique » si vous voulez pleinement honorer vos engagements.

Rappelez-vous que c’est acceptable de dire « non » à certaines demandes, d’être sélectif quant à ce que vous souhaitez faire, mais il est vital de bien accomplir votre tâche dans le rôle que vous tenez.


*Johanne Bouchard est maintenant consultante auprès de conseils d’administration, de chefs de la direction et de comités de direction. Johanne a développé une expertise au niveau de la dynamique et de la composition d’un conseil d’administration. Après l’obtention de son diplôme d’ingénieure en informatique, sa carrière l’a menée à œuvrer dans tous les domaines du secteur de la technologie, du marketing et de la stratégie à l’échelle mondiale.

Le modèle de gouvernance canadien donne la primauté aux Stakeholders | Le modèle de Wall Street donne la primauté aux actionnaires !


Shareholder Governance, “Wall Street” and the View from Canada

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The Business Roundtable, a group of executives of major corporations in the United States, recently released a statement on the purpose of a corporation that reflects a shift from shareholder primacy to a commitment to all stakeholders. While the statement seems radical to some, it is consistent with recent Canadian corporate law. Boards of directors in Canada have had to make decisions incorporating the concepts expressed in the Business Roundtable statement for over a decade.

The primary concern expressed by those opposed to a shift from shareholder primacy is that it undercuts managerial accountability, thereby resulting in increased agency costs and undermining the overall effectiveness and efficiency of corporations. The experience in Canada suggests such concerns are largely overblown.

A stakeholder-based governance model rejects the idea that corporations exist principally to serve shareholders. Instead, a stakeholder-based governance model requires the consideration of various stakeholder groups to inform directors as to what is in the best interest of the corporation.

The move to a stakeholder-based governance model is largely the result of general dissatisfaction with the shareholder primacy model, under which:

    • Management and boards felt intense pressure to focus on short-term results at the expense of long-term success;
    • Communities and workers often felt ignored or abandoned;
    • Customers felt unsatisfied with product quality and customer service;
    • And suppliers felt threatened and pressured to drive down costs, even if doing so requires reducing quality or moving offshore.

Indeed, the introduction of the statement by the Business Roundtable provides that:

Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.

Put differently, a stakeholder model reflects a rejection of the Gordon Gekko ethos from the 1987 movie “Wall Street” that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

The 2008 Supreme Court of Canada decision in BCE Inc. v 1976 Debentureholders rejected Revlon duties to maximize shareholder value in connection with a change of control transaction. In its decision, the court specifically provided that “the fiduciary duty of the directors to the corporation originated in common law. It is a duty to act in the best interests of the corporation. Often the interests of shareholders and stakeholders are co-extensive with the interests of the corporation. But if they conflict, the directors’ duty is clear—it is to the corporation.”

The thinking in the BCE decision has now been reflected in Canada’s federal corporate statute, which provides that that, when acting with a view to the best interests of the corporation, directors may consider, without limitation, the interests of shareholders, employees, retirees and pensioners, creditors, consumers and governments; the environment; and the long-term interests of the corporation.

At its most basic level, the move away from shareholder primacy better reflects the history and animating principles of corporate law, which establish that a corporation is a separate legal person and its shareholders are not owners of its assets per se, but investors with certain contractual and statutory rights (including a right to elect directors and a residual claim on the assets). That distinction―that shareholders are not owners in the classic sense―is of fundamental importance and gets to the heart of corporate governance and the role of boards. Indeed, the seminal work of Berle and Means, which has influenced a generation of corporate governance scholars, is focused exactly on the separation of ownership and control.

When the BCE decision first came out in Canada some expressed concern that a focus on the corporation provides no meaningful guidance for boards of directors. That concern has not manifested itself. The experience of advising boards following BCE has not been one of confusion or uncertainty―that’s not to say decisions are easy, but well-advised boards of directors understand and act in accordance with their fiduciary duties as expressed by BCE.

It is also worth pointing out that a singular focus on shareholders does not provide clear guidance to boards of directors. In a modern public company, shareholders come and go, each with their own investment criteria and objectives.

As a practical matter, in Canada, a stakeholder model allows directors to exercise their business judgment to consider the interests of stakeholders, to the extent those directors have an informed basis for believing that doing so will contribute to the long-term success and value of the corporation. However, in the context of a change of control transaction, much of the focus rightly remains on what consideration shareholders will receive.

As long as directors fulfill their duties of loyalty and due care when considering the interests and reasonable expectations of the corporation’s stakeholders, the business judgment rule protects Canadian directors from liability. Minutes of meetings should reflect, where appropriate, that directors considered such factors as reputation of the corporation, legal and regulatory risk, investments in employees, the environment and any other matter that could affect the success or value of the corporation.

Other factors that help address concerns of those who fear a stakeholder-based governance system is that the market for corporate control remains healthy and, since Canadian securities law does not permit a “just say no” defense, the threat of an unsolicited offer being made directly to shareholders is always present. In addition, product markets and reputational pressures also provide meaningful incentives to promote responsible and disciplined management. And perhaps most important, shareholders retain their most basic and powerful right in the stakeholder model: they elect the board of directors and can change the board if they are dissatisfied with its performance.

So, to our friends in the United States, we encourage you to consider the experience here in Canada before concluding that the ideas put forth by the Business Roundtable will undermine the effectiveness of your public corporations.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 13 février 2020


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 13 février 2020.

Cette semaine, j’ai choisi dix billets d’intérêt. Il y a plusieurs rapports sur la gouvernance qui sont publiés en début d’année.

J’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

Top 10 predictions for Thailand 2020 | The Thaiger
  1. 2020 Governance Outlook
  2. Private Equity—Year in Review and 2020 Outlook
  3. Strengthening the Board’s Effectiveness in 2020: A Framework for Board Evaluations
  4. Leading Boards Rethinking Strategy and Enabling Innovation
  5. Year in Review: Delaware Corporate Law and Litigation
  6. Accelerating ESG Disclosure—World Economic Forum Task Force
  7. S&P 500 CEO Compensation Increase Trends
  8. Core Principles of Exculpation and Director Independence
  9. Let’s Get Concrete About Stakeholder Capitalism
  10. Technology and Life Science 2019 IPO Report

Vous recevez une invitation à vous joindre à un CA ! Comment devriez-vous agir ?


Dois-je me joindre à ce conseil d’administration ? Pourquoi me sollicite-t-on à titre de fiduciaire de ce CA ? Comment me préparer à assumer ce rôle ? J’appréhende la première rencontre ! Comment agir ?

Voilà quelques questions que se posent les nouveaux membres de conseils d’administration. L’article de Nada Kakabadse, professeure de stratégie, de gouvernance et d’éthique à Henley Business School, répond admirablement bien aux questions que devraient se poser les nouveaux membres.

L’article a été publié sur le site de Harvard Law School on Corporate Governance.

L’auteure offre le conseil suivant aux personnes sollicitées :

Avant d’accepter l’invitation à vous joindre à un CA, effectuez un audit informel pour vous assurer de comprendre la dynamique du conseil d’administration, l’étendue de vos responsabilités, et comment vous pouvez ajouter de la valeur.

Bonne lecture !

 

 

The coveted role of non-executive director (NED) is often assumed to be a perfect deal all round. Not only is joining the board viewed as a great addition to any professional’s CV, but those offered the opportunity consistently report feeling excited, nervous and apprehensive about the new role, the responsibilities it entails and how they will be expected to behave.

Our ongoing research into this area is packed with commentary such as:

“If you’re a new face on the board, you pay a lot of attention to others’ behaviour, and you are very apprehensive. You try to say only things that you perceive that are adding value. You feel that saying the wrong thing or at the wrong time may cost you your reputation and place at the board”—new female NED.

“Joining the board I felt intimidated because I was in a foreign territory. I did not know how it was all going to work. I did not know personalities, nor a pecking order for the group”—male NED.

Despite this, the status that comes with being offered a place on the board usually serves to quickly put any such concerns to one side.

Board members who are perceived to be high profile or status tend to experience a feeling of high achievement, which is further magnified if the position is symbolic of their personal progress.

“I just felt very privileged to be invited and be part of this board, recognising the quality of the individuals that are already here”—male NED.

Questions to consider

 

Savvy and experienced NEDs begin by conducting an informal audit before joining the board. Questions that should come to mind include:

    • How will my business acumen help me understand this organisation’s situation?
    • Will my knowledge of governance, legal and regulatory frameworks allow me to effectively discharge my responsibilities?
    • Will my financial astuteness enable me to understand the company’s debt and finance issues?
    • Have I got the emotional intelligence to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically?
    • Will my integrity help or hinder this board operation?
    • Ultimately, how will I add value to this board?

Many new NEDs don’t take this approach because they are just thrilled that an opportunity has arrived and eagerly accept the nomination. Then they attend their first board meeting and reality bites. The questions they find themselves suddenly asking are:

    • What kind of board have I joined?
    • What culture does this board have?
    • How will I contribute to the board?

“I am always honoured to be invited on to a board. But, I always undertake an audit about who sits on the board. Particularly important for me is ‘who is the chair of the board?’ I accept the invitation only if the chair meets my criteria”—experienced female NED.

It is important for all new NEDs to recognise the complexity that goes hand-in-hand with sitting on the board of any modern organisation. Areas that will need careful review include the nature of the business and its ownership structure, information overload, digitalisation, and society and stakeholder’s shifting expectations of what a board is for.

While the board and chair shape the culture, they cannot force it upon an organisation

The board and NED’s job are nuanced and challenging. Dilemmas, rather than routine choices, underpin most decisions. Mergers and acquisitions, restructuring and competitive pressures often bring this activities into sharp focus.

Ultimately the chair has the role of “responsibility maximiser”. They have to ensure that all groups’ views are considered and that, in the long term, these interests are served as well as possible. The chair should also ensure that decisions are felt to be well-considered and fair, even if they might not be to everyone’s liking.

According to the UK Corporate Governance Code one of the key roles for boards is to establish the culture, values and ethics of a company. It is important that the board sets the correct “tone from the top”.

A healthy corporate culture is an asset, a source of competitive advantage and vital to the creation and protection of long-term value. While the board and chair shape the culture, they cannot force it upon an organisation. Culture must evolve.

“The culture of the board is to analyse and debate. A kind of robustness of your argument, rather than getting the job done and achieving an outcome. Although decisions also must be made”—male NED.

An appetite for risk

 

Culture is closely linked to risk and risk appetite, and the code also asks boards to examine the risks which might affect a company and its long-term viability. Chairs and chief executives recognise the relevance of significant shifts in the broader environment in which a business operates.

Well-chosen values typically stand the test of time, but need to be checked for ongoing relevance

Acceptable behaviour evolves, meaning company culture must be adjusted to mirror current context and times. For example, consumers are far more concerned about the environmental behaviour and impact of an organisation than they were 20 years ago. Well-chosen values typically stand the test of time, but need to be checked for ongoing relevance as society moves on and changes.

The board’s role is to determine company purpose and ensure that its strategy and business model are aligned. Mission should reflect values and culture, something which cannot be developed in isolation. The board needs to oversee both and this responsibility is an inherently complex business that needs to satisfy multiple objectives and manage conflicting stakeholder demands.

Remuneration and promotion policies

 

Novice NEDs have the freedom to ask innocent and penetrating questions as they learn how to operate on a new board.

An excellent starting point is to ask HR for employee data and look for any emerging trends, such as disciplinary matters, warnings given, firings, whistleblowing or any gagging agreements. This information quickly unveils the culture of an organisation and its board.

Remuneration and promotion policies exert a significant influence over organisational culture

NEDs should further request details of remuneration and promotion policies. These exert a significant influence over organisational culture and as such should be cohesive, rather than divisive.

Most performance reviews take into account the fit between an executive and company’s managerial ethos and needs. Remuneration, in particular, shapes the dominant corporate culture. For example, if the gender pay gap is below the industry standard, this flags a potential problem from the outset.

Joining the board

 

Once a NED understands board culture they can begin to develop a strategy about how to contribute effectively. However, the chair also needs to play an essential role of supporting new members with comparatively less experience by giving them encouragement and valuing their contribution. New board members will prosper, provided there is a supportive chair who will nurture their talent.

Before joining the board undertake an audit. Interview other board members, the chair and CEO. Listen to their description of what a board needs, and then ask the questions:

    • Are there any taboo subjects for the board?
    • What is the quality of relationship between the chair and the rest of the board, the management team, and the CEO?

The answers to these questions will determine whether the prospective board member can add value. If “yes”, join; if “no”, then decline. As a new board member, get to know how the board really functions and when you gain in confidence start asking questions.

Take your time to fully appreciate the dynamics of the board and the management team so that, as a new member, you enhance your credibility and respect by asking pertinent questions and making relevant comments.

Top 15 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 6 février 2020


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 6 février 2020.

Cette semaine, j’ai choisi plusieurs billets d’intérêt. C’est normal, car c’est le début de l’année 2020 et il y a plusieurs rapports sur la gouvernance qui sont publiés à la fin du premier mois.

J’ai relevé les quinze principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "top 15"

 

 

  1. Navigating the ESG Landscape
  2. 2019 Year-End Securities Enforcement Update
  3. IAC Recommendation Concerning SEC Guidance and Rule Proposals on Proxy Advisors and Shareholder Proposals
  4. SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspection: Examination Priorities for 2020
  5. 2020 Compensation Committee Handbook
  6. Supreme Court Is Asked to Weaken the SEC’s Ability to “Make Things Right”: Amici Curiae Brief
  7. CEO Letter to Board Members Concerning 2020 Proxy Voting Agenda
  8. White-Collar and Regulatory Enforcement: What Mattered in 2019 and What to Expect in 2020
  9. Governance of Corporate Insider Equity Trades
  10. Confidential Treatment Applications and SEC Disclosure Guidance
  11. Advance Notice Bylaw and Activists Board Nominees
  12. The Economics of Shareholder Proposal Rules
  13. ISS Comment Letter on Amendments to Exemptions from the Proxy Rules for Proxy Voting Advice
  14. Glass Lewis Comment Letter to the SEC About Proposed Proxy Rules for Proxy Voting Advice
  15. The Economics of Regulating Proxy Advisors