Spencer Stuart Board Index | 2019.


Julie Hembrock Daum , Laurel McCarthy et Ann Yerger, associés de la firme  Spencer Stuart présentent les grandes lignes du rapport annuel Spencer Stuart Board Index | 2019.

Comme vous le noterez, les changements observés sont cohérents avec les changements de fonds en gouvernance.

Cependant, puisque les CA ont tendance à être de plus petites tailles et que la rotation des administrateurs sur les conseils est plutôt faible, les changements se font à un rythme trop lent pour observer une modernisation significative

The 2019 U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index finds that boards are heeding the growing calls from shareholders and other stakeholders and adding new directors with diversity of gender, age, race/ethnicity and professional backgrounds. However, because boardroom turnover remains low, with the new directors representing only 8% of all S&P 500 directors, changes to overall numbers continue at a slow pace.

Voici les points saillants de l’étude.

Bonne lecture !

2019 U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index

 

A summary of the most notable findings in the 2019 U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index.

Key Takeaways—2019 Spencer Stuart Board Index

Diversity is a priority

Of the 432 independent directors added to S&P 500 boards over the past year, a record-breaking 59% are diverse (defined as women and minority men), up from half last year. Women comprise 46% of the incoming class. Minority women (defined as African-American/Black, Asian and Hispanic/Latino) comprise 10% of new S&P 500 directors, and minority men 13%.

The professional experiences of S&P 500 directors are changing

Two thirds (65%) of the 2019 incoming class come from outside the ranks of CEO, chair/vice chair, president and COO. Financial talent is a focus area; 27% of the new directors have financial backgrounds. Other corporate leadership skills are valued, with 23% bringing experiences as division/subsidiary heads or as EVPs, SVPs or functional unit leaders.

Diverse directors are driving the changing profile of new S&P 500 directors

Only 19% of the diverse directors are current or former CEOs, compared to 44% of non-diverse men. Meanwhile 34% of the diverse directors are first-time corporate directors, nearly double the 18% of the non-diverse directors. Diverse directors bring other types of corporate leadership experience to the boardroom, with 31% of the diverse directors offering experiences as current or former line or functional leaders, compared to just 11% of the non-diverse men.

Sitting CEOs are increasingly not sitting on outside boards

This year’s survey found that on average, independent directors of S&P 500 companies serve on 2.1 boards, unchanged over the past five years. Meanwhile 59% of S&P 500 CEOs serve on no outside boards, up from 55% last year. Only 23 S&P 500 CEOs (5%) serve on two or more outside boards, and 79 independent directors (2%) serve on more than four public company boards.

Boards are adding younger directors, but the average age of S&P 500 directors is unchanged

Once again, one out of six directors added to S&P 500 boards are 50 or younger. Over half (59%) bring experiences from the private equity/investment management, consumer and information technology sectors. These younger directors are more diverse than the rest of the incoming class, with 69% either women (57% of “next gen” group) or minority men (12% of “next gen” group). They are also more likely to be serving on their first corporate board; 54% are first-time directors.

However, an overwhelming number of new directors are older. More than 40% of the incoming class is 60 or older; the average age of a new S&P 500 independent director is 57.5 years. Of the universe of S&P 500 independent directors, 20% are 70 or older, while only 6% are 50 or younger. The average age of an S&P 500 independent director is 63, largely unchanged since 2009.

Low turnover in the boardroom persists

Consistent with past years, 56% of S&P 500 boards added at least one independent director over the past year. More than one quarter (29%) made no changes to their roster of independent directors—neither adding nor losing independent directors—and 15% reduced the number of independent directors without adding any new independent directors.

The end result: in spite of the record number of female directors, representation of women on S&P 500 boards increased incrementally to 26% of all directors, up from 24% in 2018 and 16% in 2009. Today, 19% of all directors of the top 200 companies are male or female minorities, up from 17% last year and 15% in 2009.

Individual director assessments are gaining traction, but mandatory retirement policies continue to proliferate

This year 44% of S&P 500 companies disclosed some form of individual director assessment (up from 38% last year and 22% 10 years ago). However, 71% of S&P 500 boards (largely unchanged over the past five years) disclosed a mandatory retirement age for directors, and retirement ages continue to rise, with 46% of boards with caps setting the age at 75 or older, compared to just 15% in 2009.

Age caps influenced the majority of director departures from boards with retirement policies, with 41% either exceeding or reaching the age cap and another 14% leaving within three years of the retirement age.

Demographically, only 15% of the independent directors on boards with age caps are within three years of mandatory retirement. As a result, most S&P 500 directors have a long runway before reaching mandatory retirement.

Independent board chairs continue to grow in numbers and pay

Today more than half of S&P 500 boards (53%) split the chair and CEO roles, up from 37% a decade ago. One-third (34%) are chaired by an independent director, up from 31% last year and 16% in 2009.

Although the roles and responsibilities of an independent board chair and a lead director are frequently similar, the difference in compensation is wide and growing. Independent chairs receive, on average, an additional $172,000 in annual compensation, compared to an annual average supplement of $41,000 for independent lead directors.

For the first time, total director pay at S&P 500 boards averages more than $300,000

The average total compensation for S&P 500 non-employee directors, excluding independent chairs, is around $303,000, a 2% year-over-year increase. Director pay varies widely by sector, with a $100,000 difference between the average total pay of the highest and lowest paying sectors.

Key Takeaways—Survey of S&P 500 Nominating and Governance Committee Members

Our survey of more than 110 nominating and governance committee members of S&P 500 companies portends a continuation of trends identified in 2019 U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index.

Turnover in the boardroom will remain low

On average, the surveyed nominating and governance committee members anticipate appointing/replacing one director each year over the next three years.

Boards will increase their focus on racial/ethnic diversity and continue to focus on gender diversity

Diversity considerations are two of the top five issues for the next three years. While 75% of the surveyed committee members reported that gender diversity was addressed in the past year, 66% said it would continue to be a priority over the next three years. Only 38% reported that racial/ethnic diversity was addressed in the past year, but 65% said it was a top priority for the next three years.

Industry experience will be a key recruiting consideration

The top priority for the next three years—cited by 82% of the surveyed committee members—is expanding director sector/industry experience.

Evaluations of boards and directors will be examined

Enhancing board and individual director evaluations is another top priority for the next three years, identified by 61% of the respondents. While more than three quarters of respondents ranked their full board and committee assessments as very or extremely effective, only 62% gave similar marks to peer evaluations and a just over a majority (53%) gave similar rankings to self-assessments.

Boards will have to cast a wide net to identify director talent

The top five recruiting priorities for the next three years are: female directors (40%); technology experience (38%); active CEO/COO (35%); digital/social media experience (29%); and minorities (27%). Finding a single director who meets all of these criteria is difficult at best, and given supply/demand pressures, boards will have to dig deeper to identify qualified director candidates.

Together the 2019 U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index and Spencer Stuart’s Survey of S&P 500 Nominating and Governance Committee Members indicate that the profile of S&P 500 directors will continue to change and board composition will continue to evolve. But the pace of change will remain measured.

Actionnaires de contrôle des entreprises | cibles des activistes


Voici un article très intéressant de Amy Freedman, Michael Fein et Ian Robertson de la firme Kingsdale Advisors, publié sur le Forum de Harvard Law School aujourd’hui.

Les auteurs expliquent très bien les situations de contrôle et de quasi-contrôle des entreprises. Ils montrent pourquoi ces entreprises sont vulnérables et comment elles constituent une cible de choix pour les activistes, qui n’hésitent pas à utiliser différents moyens pour arriver à leurs fins.

Les actionnaires minoritaires activistes cherchent à bouleverser les structures de contrôle existantes afin de diminuer le pouvoir des principaux propriétaires. Ultimement, on cherche à modifier la composition du conseil d’administration.

L’article expose différents stratagèmes pour ébranler le pouvoir des actionnaires de contrôle.

      • « Undermine the image of the current board and controlling shareholder as competent business managers
      • Identify and exploit divides between independent directors and the controlling shareholder’s representatives
      • Where familial relationships exist, seek to divide the family members or position them against other directors
      • Demonstrate unfair and abusive treatment of minority shareholders
      • Shine a spotlight on what is seen as “self-dealing” in exposing related-party transactions
      • Demonstrate a divide between top management and the average worker on pay issues
      • Illustrate divides where board and management are out of touch with other stakeholder groups beyond shareholders such as employees, unions, and the communities in which they operate
      • Inflict brand damage that will impact business relations with customers, consumers, and the general public ».

Bonne lecture !

Fall of the Ivory Tower: Controlled Companies and Shareholder Activism

 

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Despite longstanding complaints about governance and the tyranny of a few who may or may not hold a meaningful economic interest in the company they founded and/or now control, investors have continued to allocate to controlled or quasi-controlled companies. What has changed is that minority shareholders are no longer content to sit quietly and go along for the ride, increasingly demonstrating they are willing to pull on the few levers of activism and change available at these companies.

Companies that were set up to inoculate themselves from the whims of shareholders have now become targets. Even if directors aren’t at risk of losing their seats in a vote, they are at risk of losing their reputations and being embarrassed into change.

While governance concerns usually provide the thin edge of the wedge to begin the advancement of change, the underlying driver for a minority shareholder is usually a dissatisfaction with the way the controlling entity is running the business—not just in terms of current performance, but also in a lack of willingness to explore other accretive opportunities that may impact the controller’s vision for the company and status quo.

Many of today’s controlled and quasi-controlled companies found their genesis in family enterprises that grew beyond the bounds of private ownership to embrace the opportunities of external capital and diversified ownership, for better or worse.

Given strong, centralized leadership from proven entrepreneur-managers, senior management, and closely aligned directors, the boards of these companies have traditionally seen themselves as only marginally accountable to minority shareholders that held slivers of “their company.” But all of this is starting to transform as shareholders have begun testing the waters for change. The fact is, controlled companies are no longer impenetrable. But will they realize this? And if not, at what cost?

A general awareness of the tools of shareholder activism, the advent of advocacy and advisory groups who target ESG issues at public companies (especially those who are seen as governance laggards), and advancing regulations related to disclosure and transparency have created an environment where controlled companies are exposed, at least from a reputational perspective.

Activists have developed an appetite and motivation for chasing difficult targets Notably, Third Point ran a highly publicized proxy contest to replace the entire twelve-person board at Campbell Soup Company, despite the fact that heirs of the company’s founder held 41% of the shares. Third Point ultimately settled for two seats on an expanded fourteen-person board, indicating that some degree of change is possible despite daunting odds.

While it is unlikely a shareholder proposal related to something like executive pay disclosure would pass, it could serve to embarrass the company and educate the broader shareholder base and market about the actions of the current management.

So far, 2019 has seen the greatest frequency of say-on-pay proposals received by controlled issuers. Furthermore, 2019 has seen an unprecedented level of shareholder support, with an average of 24.95%, compared to 20.65% in 2017 and 17.68% in 2015, years that had comparable volumes of proposals.

How We Define Control

A controlled company is commonly defined as a corporation where more than 50% of voting power is held by a single person, entity, or group. This may be facilitated through a dual-class share structure or outright ownership of the majority of an issuer’s common shares outstanding.

A wider concept of control may also include quasi-controlled companies, wherein a stake of 20% or greater is held by a single person, entity, or group.

Both types of controlled groups are largely comprised of enterprises that were once family-operated or those that have a strategic partner with a large ownership stake. Despite partially divesting their significant ownership stakes, these families and stakeholders still maintain extraordinary influence over operating facets of these companies, from day-to-day strategy to overarching governance, largely influencing how the board is constituted, and the respective board and committee mandates.

Why Controlled Companies Are Vulnerable to Change: The Adapted Activist Playbook

Pursuing an activist course of action at controlled companies presents a unique set of challenges that often require some creativity on the part of the minority shareholder. Given the significant obstacles to immediate and meaningful change, these challenges result in what are often seen as “against all odds” campaigns.

Shareholders who target controlled companies modulate their campaigns with the understanding that it will often require a long, multi-staged process to advance change. Given that influencing meaningful change in a single instance of activism is likely impossible, from a pragmatic standpoint, controlled company activist tactics and goals differ from those of traditional activists. Tactically, activists will rely on informal avenues for change while aiming for more incremental objectives.

Absent conventional proxy fight and bargaining mechanisms—such as the threat of nominating and electing an activist director or calling a special meeting to force change—reputational damage and exposure are the primary forces that an activist at a controlled company can use to influence change. A single campaign tied to a shareholder proposal or a withhold campaign targeted at a specific director may not result in immediate substantive change, but can act as a disciplinary mechanism by publicly shaming the board, serve as a lightning rod to attract and expose broader shareholder opposition that would be useful in a future campaign, or be used as a bargaining chip or lever to obtain smaller, more gradual, changes, such as adding new, independent members to the board or adjusting executive pay to reflect market realities. Through this lens, a successful campaign may not be one that passes, just one that exposes a controlled company’s entrenchment and opens the eyes of the controlling entity.

As such, when private pressure fails, an activist’s strategy at a controlled company usually centers on exacting maximum reputational damage to force change. Such campaigns can become a significant distraction and headache for the board and management. At Kingsdale, we have observed that campaigns against controlled companies generally retain a number of common features, with the activist seeking to:

  • Undermine the image of the current board and controlling shareholder as competent business managers

  • Identify and exploit divides between independent directors and the controlling shareholder’s representatives

  • Where familial relationships exist, seek to divide the family members or position them against other directors

  • Demonstrate unfair and abusive treatment of minority shareholders

  • Shine a spotlight on what is seen as “self-dealing” in exposing related-party transactions

  • Demonstrate a divide between top management and the average worker on pay issues

  • Illustrate divides where board and management are out of touch with other stakeholder groups beyond shareholders such as employees, unions, and the communities in which they operate

  • Inflict brand damage that will impact business relations with customers, consumers, and the general public

L’activisme actionnarial | la situation en France


Voici un texte publié par le Club des juristes français portant sur l’activiste actionnarial.

Cette organisation vient de publier son rapport sur l’état des lieux de l’activisme en France. Le document est en français, ce qui améliore sensiblement la compréhension de la situation.

Après un bref historique du phénomène, les auteurs ont :

identifié les progrès souhaitables (première partie) et ils proposent plusieurs pistes d’amélioration de l’encadrement juridique ou des bonnes pratiques qui régissent l’exercice de l’engagement actionnarial des activistes (deuxième partie).

Vous trouverez ci-dessous le sommaire du rapport, suivi de la table des matières qui fait état des principales recommandations.

Bonne lecture !

ACTIVISME ACTIONNARIAL | Club des juristes français

 

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Sommaire du rapport

 

▶ L’engagement des actionnaires dans la vie de l’émetteur étant
généralement considéré par tous les acteurs du marché comme une
condition de son bon fonctionnement et encouragé comme tel par les
autorités de marché, comment pourrait-on s’étonner qu’un actionnaire
soit particulièrement actif ?

▶ L’activisme actionnarial apparaît aux États-Unis dans les années
1930. Après s’y être épanoui à partir des années 70 et 80, il s’observe
désormais partout où les actionnaires connaissent un renforcement
de leurs droits : en Italie, en Allemagne, aux Pays-Bas, au Royaume-Uni,
etc. L’intérêt pour le sujet a ainsi pris de l’ampleur en Europe, à partir des
campagnes activistes menées dans les années 2000. Davantage qu’un
mimétisme spontané des actionnaires européens, c’est une exportation
des activistes américains à laquelle on assiste. Près de la moitié des
sociétés visées en 2018 ne sont pas américaines. Il semble que
l’activisme se soit développé en cadence de, et parfois en relation avec,
la généralisation de la gestion passive de titres pour compte de tiers.
En contrepoint d’une gestion indicielle qui ne permet pas d’intervenir
de manière ciblée sur une société déterminée, l’actionnaire activiste
intervient ponctuellement et revendique une fonction d’optimisation du
fonctionnement du marché.

▶ Les fonds activistes ont connu une croissance significative, gagnant
par la même occasion en crédibilité et en force. Par exemple, les
activistes américains ont atteint 250,3 milliards de dollars d’actifs
sous gestion au deuxième trimestre de 2018 quand ils n’en avaient que
94,7 milliards au quatrième trimestre de 2010. L’activisme représente
désormais une puissance colossale avec 65 milliards de capital déployé
dans des campagnes en 2018. Les campagnes en Europe ne sont plus
occasionnelles. Avec 58 campagnes européennes en 2018, les fonds
activistes ont indéniablement intégré le paysage boursier.

▶ Désormais, l’activisme actionnarial présente une telle diversité que sa
délimitation, et par conséquent son encadrement, sont des plus ardus.
Ainsi, aucune réglementation spécifique n’est applicable aux seuls
activistes. Seul le droit commun applicable à tout investisseur permet
d’appréhender l’activiste qui se prévaut précisément des prérogatives
ordinaires de l’actionnaire. Qu’il s’agisse des questions écrites posées
en assemblée générale, de la présentation de résolutions alternatives,
de la demande d’une expertise de gestion, ou, enfin, de l’information
périodique ou permanente, l’activiste invoque ses droits de minoritaire.
Il fait toutefois un exercice de ces droits qui peut apparaître
particulièrement radical voire, selon certains, déloyal, et faire peser un
risque d’atteinte à l’intérêt social. Il peut ainsi sortir du cadre que lui
réservait le législateur en mettant parfois en difficulté la société.

▶ Logiquement, le droit commun fournit des outils pour réagir :
identification des actionnaires, déclaration de franchissement de
seuils, déclaration d’intention, déclaration d’un projet d’opération,
déclaration des transferts temporaires de titres, déclaration des
positions nettes courtes en cas de ventes à découvert, déclaration à
la Banque de France, déclaration de clauses des pactes d’actionnaires,
encadrement de la sollicitation active de mandats et transparence sur
la politique de vote des fonds d’investissement. Ce droit commun
apparaît néanmoins insuffisant au regard de la diversité des outils dont
disposent les activistes et de leur sophistication juridique.

▶ La perspective d’une régulation adaptée ou d’une amélioration des
pratiques impose de cerner au préalable ce que recouvre l’activisme
actionnarial.

▶ Une campagne activiste peut être définie comme le comportement
d’un investisseur usant des prérogatives accordées aux minoritaires
afin d’influencer la stratégie, la situation financière ou la gouvernance
de l’émetteur, par le moyen initial d’une prise de position publique.
L’activiste a un objectif déterminé qui peut varier selon les activistes
et les circonstances propres à chaque campagne. L’activisme peut
être short ou long, avec le cas échéant des objectifs strictement
économiques ou alors environnementaux et sociétaux (ESG), chaque
activiste développant des modalités d’action qui lui sont propres.
Malgré ces différences indéniables entre les types d’activisme, les
difficultés soulevées par l’activisme sont communes et justifient de
traiter de l’activisme dans son ensemble.

▶ L’activisme ne doit pas être confondu avec la prise de position ponctuelle
par un actionnaire sur un sujet particulier, lorsque son investissement
n’est pas motivé par cette seule critique. Un investisseur peut ainsi être
hostile aux droits de vote double et le faire savoir, y compris en recourant
à une sollicitation active de mandats, sans être qualifié d’activiste car la création de valeur recherchée ne repose pas exclusivement sur cette
critique. Dans le cas où le retour sur investissement attendu ne repose
que sur une stratégie de contestation, l’investisseur adopte alors une
forme d’activisme économique.

▶ D’un point de vue prospectif, la question de l’activisme actionnarial a
parfois été abordée à l’occasion de travaux portant sur d’autres sujets
de droit des sociétés ou de droit boursier. Outre les rapports élaborés
par le Club des juristes, dans le cadre de la Commission Europe et
de la Commission Dialogue administrateurs-actionnaires, l’AMF,
tout comme les législateurs français et européen ont identifié la
problématique, sans toutefois proposer, à ce jour, un régime juridique
spécifique.

▶ Alors que l’année 2018 a été qualifiée d’année record de l’activisme,
la question de la montée en puissance des activistes, en Europe et en
France, est devenue un enjeu de Place dont se sont notamment saisis
les pouvoirs publics, comme l’illustrent le lancement par l’Assemblée
nationale d’une Mission d’information sur l’activisme actionnarial et
les déclarations récentes du ministre de l’Économie et des Finances.
Les entreprises y voient un sujet sensible et se sont déjà organisées
individuellement en conséquence. L’Association française des
entreprises privées (AFEP) et Paris Europlace ont également initié des
réflexions à ce sujet.

▶ En parallèle, l’activisme actionnarial a depuis plusieurs années donné
lieu à un vif débat académique sur ses effets économiques et sociaux
sur le long terme, tant aux États-Unis qu’en France. Pour ses
partisans, l’activisme actionnarial permet à la société de créer de la
valeur actionnariale et économique sur le long terme. Pour d’autres, les éventuels effets bénéfiques sont identifiés sur le seul court-terme et les
émetteurs doivent au contraire se focaliser sur la création de valeur à
long terme en intégrant plus vigoureusement les questions sociales et
environnementales comme cela a été acté en France par la loi PACTE
à la suite du Rapport NOTAT SÉNARD et aux États-Unis par la position
récente du Business Roundtable.

▶ C’est dans ce contexte que le Club des juristes a décidé la création d’une
commission multidisciplinaire chargée de faire le point des questions
posées par l’activisme actionnarial et de proposer éventuellement
des améliorations à l’environnement juridique et aux pratiques qui le
concernent.

▶ L’objectif de la Commission n’est pas de prendre parti dans le débat
économique, politique et parfois philosophique qui oppose les partisans
et les détracteurs de l’activisme actionnarial, ni de prendre position sur
telle ou telle campagne activiste actuelle ou passée. Il s’agit plutôt
d’identifier les comportements susceptibles d’être préjudiciables à
la transparence, la loyauté et le bon fonctionnement du marché et
d’examiner, au plan juridique, l’encadrement et les bonnes pratiques qui
pourraient être appliqués aux campagnes activistes.

▶ Les travaux de la Commission du Club des juristes ont consisté à
auditionner une trentaine de parties prenantes à la problématique
de l’activisme actionnarial, représentants des émetteurs et des
investisseurs, intermédiaires de marché et des personnalités
qualifiées, afin de bénéficier de leur expérience et de recueillir leur
avis sur les pistes de droit prospectif. Les autorités compétentes ont participé aux travaux de la Commission en qualité d’observateurs et
ne sont en rien engagées par les conclusions de la Commission. Pour
compléter son analyse, une enquête a été effectuée auprès d’environ
deux cents directeurs financiers et responsables des relations avec les
investisseurs de sociétés cotées.

 

Table des matières du rapport 

PREMIÈRE PARTIE – ÉTAT DES LIEUX 

I. LA DÉFINITION DE L’ACTIVISME FACE A LA DIVERSITÉ DES ACTIVISTES

1. L’absence de définition juridique de l’activisme actionnarial
2. L’irréductible hétérogénéité de l’activisme actionnarial

II. DES COMPORTEMENTS PARFOIS DISCUTABLES

1. La construction de la position
2. Le dialogue actionnarial
3. La campagne publique
4. Le vote en assemblée générale

DEUXIÈME PARTIE – PISTES DE RÉFLEXION 

1. De nouvelles règles de transparence
2. L’encadrement du short selling
3. L’encadrement du prêt-emprunt de titres en période
d’assemblée générale
4. L’extension de la réglementation sur la sollicitation
active de mandats à la campagne activiste

II. L’AMÉLIORATION DU DIALOGUE ENTRE éMETTEURS ET INVESTISSEURS 

1. Dialogue collectif : la création d’une plateforme de dialogue
actionnarial
2. Le renforcement du dialogue actionnarial en amont
de la campagne
3. La méthode d’élaboration du code de gouvernement
d’entreprise

III. RÉFLEXIONS SUR LE RÔLE DE L’AMF ET SUR L’ESMA

1. L’intervention de l’AMF
2. Les incertitudes de la notion d’action de concert

Conclusions

Constats sur la perte de contrôle des sociétés québécoises | Le cas de RONA


C’est avec plaisir que je partage l’opinion de Yvan Allaire, président exécutif du CA de l’IGOPP, publié ce jour même dans La Presse.

Ce troisième acte de la saga RONA constitue, en quelque sorte, une constatation de la dure réalité des affaires corporatives d’une société multinationale, vécue dans le contexte du marché financier québécois.

Yvan Allaire présente certains moyens à prendre afin d’éviter la perte de contrôle des fleurons québécois.

Selon l’auteur, « Il serait approprié que toutes les institutions financières canadiennes appuient ces formes de capital, en particulier les actions multivotantes, pourvu qu’elles soient bien encadrées. C’est ce que font la Caisse de dépôt, le Fonds de solidarité et les grands fonds institutionnels canadiens regroupés dans la Coalition canadienne pour la bonne gouvernance ».

Cette opinion d’Yvan Allaire est un rappel aux moyens de défense efficaces face à des possibilités de prises de contrôle hostiles.

Dans le contexte juridique et réglementaire canadien, le seul obstacle aux prises de contrôle non souhaitées provient d’une structure de capital à double classe d’actions ou toute forme de propriété (actionnaires de contrôle, protection législative) qui met la société à l’abri des pressions à court terme des actionnaires de tout acabit. Faut-il rappeler que les grandes sociétés québécoises (et canadiennes) doivent leur pérennité à des formes de capital de cette nature, tout particulièrement les actions à vote multiple ?

Bonne lecture !

RONA, LE TROISIÈME ACTE

 

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Acte I : La velléité de la société américaine Lowe’s d’acquérir RONA survenant à la veille d’une campagne électorale au Québec suscite un vif émoi et un consensus politique : il faut se donner les moyens de bloquer de telles manœuvres « hostiles ». Inquiet de cette agitation politique et sociale, Lowe’s ne dépose pas d’offre.

Acte II : Lowe’s fait une offre « généreuse » qui reçoit l’appui enthousiaste des dirigeants, membres du conseil et actionnaires de RONA, tous fortement enrichis par cette transaction. Lowe’s devient propriétaire de la société québécoise.

Acte III : Devant un aréopage politique et médiatique québécois, s’est déroulé la semaine dernière un troisième acte grinçant, bien que sans suspense, puisque prévisible dès le deuxième acte.

En effet, qui pouvait croire aux engagements solennels, voire éternels, de permanence des emplois, etc. pris par l’acquéreur Lowe’s en fin du deuxième acte ?

Cette société cotée en Bourse américaine ne peut se soustraire au seul engagement qui compte : tout faire pour maintenir et propulser le prix de son action. Il y va de la permanence des dirigeants et du quantum de leur rémunération. Toute hésitation, toute tergiversation à prendre les mesures nécessaires pour répondre aux attentes des actionnaires sera sévèrement punie.

C’est la loi implacable des marchés financiers. Quiconque est surpris des mesures prises par Lowe’s chez RONA n’a pas compris les règles de l’économie mondialisée et financiarisée. Ces règles s’appliquent également aux entreprises canadiennes lors d’acquisitions de sociétés étrangères.

On peut évidemment regretter cette tournure, pourtant prévisible, chez RONA, mais il ne sert à rien ni à personne d’invoquer de possibles représailles en catimini contre RONA.

QUE FAIRE, ALORS ?

Ce n’est pas en aval, mais en amont que l’on doit agir. Dans le contexte juridique et réglementaire canadien, le seul obstacle aux prises de contrôle non souhaitées provient d’une structure de capital à double classe d’actions ou toute forme de propriété (actionnaires de contrôle, protection législative) qui met la société à l’abri des pressions à court terme des actionnaires de tout acabit. Faut-il rappeler que les grandes sociétés québécoises (et canadiennes) doivent leur pérennité à des formes de capital de cette nature, tout particulièrement les actions à vote multiple ?

Il serait approprié que toutes les institutions financières canadiennes appuient ces formes de capital, en particulier les actions multivotantes, pourvu qu’elles soient bien encadrées. C’est ce que font la Caisse de dépôt, le Fonds de solidarité et les grands fonds institutionnels canadiens regroupés dans la Coalition canadienne pour la bonne gouvernance.

(Il est étonnant que Desjardins, quintessentielle institution québécoise, se soit dotée d’une politique selon laquelle cette institution « ne privilégie pas les actions multivotantes, qu’il s’agit d’une orientation globale qui a été mûrement réfléchie et qui s’appuie sur les travaux et analyses de différents spécialistes » ; cette politique donne à Desjardins, paraît-il, toute la souplesse requise pour évaluer les situations au cas par cas ! On est loin du soutien aux entrepreneurs auquel on se serait attendu de Desjardins.)

Mais que fait-on lorsque, comme ce fut le cas au deuxième acte de RONA, les administrateurs et les dirigeants appuient avec enthousiasme la prise de contrôle de leur société ? Alors restent les actionnaires pourtant grands gagnants en vertu des primes payées par l’acquéreur. Certains actionnaires institutionnels à mission publique, réunis en consortium, pourraient détenir suffisamment d’actions (33,3 %) pour bloquer une transaction.

Ce type de consortium informel devrait toutefois être constitué bien avant toute offre d’achat et ne porter que sur quelques sociétés d’une importance stratégique évidente pour le Québec.

Sans actionnaire de contrôle, sans protection juridique contre les prises de contrôle étrangères (comme c’est le cas pour les banques et compagnies d’assurances, les sociétés de télécommunications, de transport aérien), sans mesures pour protéger des entreprises stratégiques, il faut alors se soumettre hélas aux impératifs des marchés financiers.

La responsabilité des administrateurs eu égard aux risques climatiques


Les responsabilités des conseils d’administration ne cessent de s’accroître. La gestion du risque est une activité essentielle qui relève des fonctions de surveillance dévolues aux administrateurs de sociétés.
L’article ci-dessous, publié par Richard Howitt dans Board Agenda, présente clairement les devoirs et les responsabilités des administrateurs eu égard aux changements climatiques.
Pour la plupart des entreprises, il s’agit du risque le plus déterminant quoique souvent le plus sous-estimé. L’auteur montre toute l’ampleur du problème et suggère plusieurs manières d’exercer un leadership éclairé dans la considération des risques de cette nature.
À mon avis, chaque administrateur devrait être bien au fait de la situation et réfléchir aux mesures à prendre. L’auteur note que les entreprises qui divulguent leurs plans concernant les risques climatiques sont perçues de façon positive par les investisseurs.

The necessity for “climate competence” to be a core skill for corporate boards had already been underlined through the publication of guidance for Effective Climate Governance on Corporate Boards at the World Economic Forum in January.

Bonne lecture !

TCFD summit confirms climate risk should be your board’s priority

 

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) has set a pathway for climate risk to become an integral part of corporate governance.

climate, climate change, ice melting

Image: Bernhard Staehli/Shutterstock

The recent global summit of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) made it clear that companies will increasingly be subject to challenge on management of climate risk by regulators, investors and wider stakeholders.

The necessity for “climate competence” to be a core skill for corporate boards had already been underlined through the publication of guidance for Effective Climate Governance on Corporate Boards at the World Economic Forum in January.

There was a call for increased quality and quality of TCFD reporting, now standing at 800, in the Task Force’s last Status Report in June.

But as climate protests fill news bulletins around the world, this month’s summit in Tokyo is potentially far more significant, in setting a pathway for climate risk to become integral and unavoidable for mainstream corporate governance in all economic sectors.

A major push

If the original TCFD recommendations were a call to action, the summit charted an action plan through which they will be implemented.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney used the summit to warn that regulation requiring TCFD reporting is probably two years away, appealing to businesses present to develop their own reporting in the meanwhile, to ensure mandatory measures are shaped to be most effective for business itself.

The veiled threat is that companies who delay on climate disclosure will find themselves subject to costly burden.

Full integration of TCFD recommendations in the EU’s Non-Financial Reporting Directive guidelines is a further sign that Europe may lead mandatory reporting requirements as part of its major push towards sustainable finance, also in the next two years.

Investors are themselves now rewarding and penalising companies on how far they are genuinely integrating climate risk

The UK’s own Green Finance Strategy is hardly less ambitious, setting a target for all listed companies and large asset owners to disclose their climate-related risks and opportunities by 2022 at the latest. And the capital markets regulator in Australia has issued guidance to company directors on addressing climate risk.

But the global summit was notable for its recognition that investors, not simply regulators, are themselves now rewarding and penalising companies on how far they are genuinely integrating climate risk.

One tangible initiative from the summit was new green investment guidance published by Japan’s own TCFD consortium. The effect will be a significant increase in investor engagement with companies on climate issues.

Companies present at the summit reporting anecdotal evidence of increased investor engagement on the issue included Shell, Total and Sumitomo Chemical.

A PwC report cited in Tokyo shows positive correlation between stock or share price and the quantity of TCFD disclosures made by the company, with research from the Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative quantifying that that the risk of non-disclosure is a bigger liability for the company than of disclosure itself.

Meanwhile, during the 2019 proxy season shareholder activists pressed disclosure resolutions including climate risk at no fewer than 64 company AGMs in the US alone.

An opportunity for leadership

The summit heard TCFD reporting is being adopted by companies valued at a combined market capitalisation of $118trn—an important challenge to organisations that have not yet made the shift.

Already we know that climate-related financial risk should be treated by directors as a core part of their duty to promote the success of the company. Failure to do so could expose directors to legal challenge.

But the action required is now clear. The board should ensure that material climate-related risks and opportunities are not simply reported, but fully integrated in to the company’s strategy, risk-management process and investment decisions.

Climate-related financial risk should be treated by directors as a core part of their duty to promote the success of the company

Among the actions required are ensuring board and committee structures incorporate climate risk and opportunity; recruitment of new directors with the requisite knowledge and skills; incorporating management of climate risk into executive remuneration; and fully integrating it in the company’s own risk management.

Board members must provide the leadership for the company to engage with relevant experts and stakeholders to tackle the challenge, and should ensure they are sufficiently informed themselves to maintain adequate oversight.

Lastly, boards should recognise that climate risk may involve addressing timescales beyond conventional board terms, but are within mainstream investment and planning horizons accorded to every other financial risk and opportunity.

A board responsibility

The summit underlined how existing TCFD reporting is still falling short of being decision-useful, in demonstrating strategic resilience of the company and in incorporating targets for transition to net zero.

It also enabled further discussion of the measurements required for reporting, including clarifying what is green revenue, and the definition of terms such as “environmentally sustainable”.

But as work from the Corporate Reporting Dialogue shows, almost all of the necessary indicators are already available in existing frameworks. It is not whether they are available, but how they are used.

Ultimately this is a responsibility that must reside in the boardroom itself

Plentiful assistance for board members is on hand through online resources like the TCFD Knowledge Hub organised by the Climate Disclosure Standards Board, training offered by organisations such as Competent Boards, or detailed guidance for specific sectors through specific TCFD preparer forums.

But ultimately this is a responsibility that must reside in the boardroom itself. Every company board has its own responsibility to consider where its own business model stands in relation to that transition.

And with finance ministries, central banks and regulators in the top 20 economies of the world concluding that climate change is a risk to the stability of the entire global financial system, no company can ignore this task.

______________________________

Richard Howitt is a strategic adviser on corporate responsibility and sustainability, and former CEO at the International Integrated Reporting Council.

Êtes-vous moniste, pluraliste ou de l’approche impartiale, eu égard aux objectifs de l’organisation ?


Voici un article très éclairant sur la compréhension des modèles qui expliquent la recherche des objectifs de l’entreprise par les administrateurs de sociétés.

L’article de Amir Licht, professeur de droit à Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, et publié sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, présente une nouvelle façon de concevoir la gouvernance des organisations.

Êtes-vous moniste, pluraliste ou de l’approche impartiale, eu égard à la détermination des objectifs de l’organisation  ?

Dans le domaine de la gouvernance des entreprises, l’approche de la priorité accordée aux actionnaires domine depuis le début des lois sur la gouvernance des sociétés. C’est l’approche moniste qui considère que les organisations ont comme principal objectif de maximiser les bénéfices des actionnaires.

Récemment, une nouvelle approche émerge avec vigueur. C’est la conception selon laquelle l’entreprise doit prioritairement viser à atteindre les objectifs de l’ensemble des parties prenantes. On parle alors d’une approche pluraliste, c’est-à-dire d’un modèle de gouvernance qui vise à rencontrer les objectifs de plusieurs parties prenantes, d’une manière satisfaisante et optimale.

L’auteur constate que ces deux approches ont plusieurs failles et qu’un modèle mettant principalement l’accent sur l’impartialité de tous les administrateurs est la clé pour l’atteinte des objectifs de l’organisation.

The monistic position endorses a single maximand (that which is to be maximized)—invariably, shareholder interest—while the pluralistic position supports a multiple-objective duty that would balance the interests of several stakeholder constituencies, shareholders included.

Je vous invite à lire ce court article afin de vous former une opinion sur le modèle de gestion privilégiée par votre organisation.

Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

Bonne lecture !

 

Stakeholder Impartiality: A New Classic Approach for the Objectives of the Corporation

 

Modèles de gouvernance
Ivan Tchotourian, revue Contact – Université Laval

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stockholder/stakeholder dilemma has occupied corporate leaders and corporate lawyers for over a century. Most recently, the Business Roundtable, in a complete turnaround of its prior position, stated that “the paramount duty of management and of boards of directors is to the corporation’s stockholders.” The signatories of this statement failed, however, to specify how they would carry out these newly stated ideals. Directors of large U.K. companies don’t enjoy this luxury anymore. Under section 172 of the Companies Act 2006, directors are required to have regard to the interests of the company’s employees, business partners, the community, and the environment, when they endeavor to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members (shareholders). Government regulations promulgated in 2018 require large companies to include in their strategic reports a new statement on how the directors have considered stakeholders’ interest in discharging this duty.

These developments are recent twists in a plot that has been unfolding—in circles, in must be said—in the debate over the objectives of the corporation. This debate oscillates between two polar positions, dubbed “monistic” and “pluralistic” in the business management parlance. The monistic position endorses a single maximand (that which is to be maximized)—invariably, shareholder interest—while the pluralistic position supports a multiple-objective duty that would balance the interests of several stakeholder constituencies, shareholders included. How to perform this balancing act is a question that has virtually never been addressed until now. When the Supreme Court of Canada in 2008 discussed it in BCE Inc. v. 1976 Debentureholders, it explicitly eschewed giving it an answer. Lawyers are similarly at sea with regard to a multiple-stakeholder-objective provision in India’s Companies Act, 2013.

This article advances a new, yet classical, approach for the task of considering the interests of various stakeholders by directors and other corporate fiduciaries. I argue that for lawfully accomplishing this task, while also complying with their standard duties of loyalty and care, directors should exercise their discretion impartially. Respectively, judicial review of directors’ conduct in terms of treating different stakeholders should implement the concomitant doctrine of impartiality. This approach is new, as it has not yet been implemented in this context. At the same time, this approach is also classical, even orthodox. The duty of impartiality (or even-handedness, or fairness; courts use these terms interchangeably) has evolved in traditional trust law mostly during the nineteenth century. In recent years, it has been applied in trust cases in several common law jurisdictions. More importantly, this duty has been applied during the latter part of the twentieth century in modern, complex settings of pension funds, where fund trustees face inescapable conflicts between subgroups of savers. These conflicts resemble the tensions between different stakeholders in business corporations—a feature that renders this doctrine a suitable source of inspiration for the task at hand.

In a nutshell, the duty of impartiality accepts that there could be irreconcilable tensions and conflicts among several trust beneficiaries who in all other respects stand on equal footing vis-à-vis the trustee. Applying the rule against duty-duty conflict (dual fiduciary) in this setting would be ineffective, as it would disable the trustee—and consequently, the trust—without providing a solution to the conundrum. The duty of impartiality calls on the trustee to consider the different interests of the beneficiaries impartially, even-handedly, fairly, etc.; it does not impose any heavier burden on the good-faith exercise of the trustee’s discretion. Crucially, the duty of impartiality does not imply equality. All that it requires is that the different interests be considered within very broad margins.

This article thus proposes an analogous process-oriented impartiality duty for directors—to consider the interests of relevant stakeholders. Stakeholder impartiality, too, is a lean duty whose main advantage lies in its being workable. It is particularly suitable for legal systems that hold a pluralistic stance on the objectives of the corporation, such as Canada’s and India’s open-ended stakeholderist approaches. Such a doctrinal framework might also prove useful for systems and individuals that endorse a monistic, shareholder-focused approach. That could be the case in the United Kingdom and Australia, for instance, where directors could face liability if they did not consider creditors’ interest in a timely fashion even before the company reaches insolvency. Moreover, this approach could be helpful where the most extreme versions of doctrinal shareholderism arguably rein, such as Delaware law post-NACEPF v. Gheewalla—in particular, with regard to tensions between common and preferred stockholders post-Trados.

A normatively appealing legal regime is unlikely to satisfy even its proponents if it does not lend itself to practical implementation; a fortiori for its opponents. For legal systems and for individual lawyers that champion a pluralistic stakeholder-oriented approach for the objective of the corporation, having a workable doctrine for implementing that approach is crucial—an absolute necessity. This is precisely where impartiality holds a promise for advancing the discourse and actual legal regulation of shareholder-stakeholder relations through fiduciary duties.

The complete article is available for download here.

Changement de perspective en gouvernance de sociétés !


Yvan Allaire*, président exécutif du conseil de l’Institut sur la gouvernance (IGOPP) vient de me faire parvenir un nouvel article intitulé « The Business Roundtable on “The Purpose of a Corporation” Back to the future! ».

Cet article, qui doit bientôt paraître dans le Financial Post, intéressera assurément tous les administrateurs siégeant à des conseils d’administration, et qui sont à l’affût des nouveautés dans le domaine de la gouvernance.

Le document discute des changements de paradigmes proposés par les CEO des grandes corporations américaines. Les administrateurs selon ce groupe de dirigeants doivent tenir compte de l’ensemble des parties prenantes (stakeholders) dans la gouverne des organisations, et non plus accorder la priorité aux actionnaires.

Cet article discute des retombées de cette approche et des difficultés eu égard à la mise en œuvre dans le système corporatif américain.

Le texte est en anglais. Une version française devrait être produite bientôt sur le site de l’IGOPP.

Bonne lecture !

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « the purpose of a corporation business roundtable »
CEOs in Business Roundtable ‘Redefine’ Corporate Purpose To Stretch Beyond Shareholders

The Business Roundtable on “The Purpose of a Corporation” Back to the future!

Yvan Allaire, PhD (MIT), FRSC

 

In September 2019, CEOs of large U.S. corporations have embraced with suspect enthusiasm the notion that a corporation’s purpose is broader than merely“ creating shareholder value”. Why now after 30 years of obedience to the dogma of shareholder primacy and servile (but highly paid) attendance to the whims and wants of investment funds?


Simply put, the answer rests with the recent conversion of these very funds, in particular index funds, to the church of ecological sanctity and social responsibility. This conversion was long acoming but inevitable as the threat to the whole system became more pressing and proximate.

The indictment of the “capitalist” system for the wealth inequality it produced and the environmental havoc it wreaked had to be taken seriously as it crept into the political agenda in the U.S. Fair or not, there is a widespread belief that the root cause of this dystopia lies in the exclusive focus of corporations on maximizing shareholder value. That had to be addressed in the least damaging way to the whole system.

Thus, at the urging of traditional investment funds, CEOs of large corporations, assembled under the banner of the Business Roundtable, signed a ringing statement about sharing “a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders”.

That commitment included:

Delivering value to our customers

Investing in our employees

Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers.

Supporting the communities in which we work.

Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate.

It is remarkable (at least for the U.S.) that the commitment to shareholders now ranks in fifth place, a good indication of how much the key economic players have come to fear the goings-on in American politics. That statement of “corporate purpose” was a great public relations coup as it received wide media coverage and provides cover for large corporations and investment funds against attacks on their behavior and on their very existence.


In some way, that statement of corporate purpose merely retrieves what used to be the norm for large corporations. Take, for instance, IBM’s seven management principles which guided this company’s most successful run from the 1960’s to 1992:

Seven Management Principles at IBM 1960-1992

  1. Respect for the individual
  2. Service to the customer
  3. Excellence must be way of life
  4. Managers must lead effectively
  5. Obligation to stockholders
  6. Fair deal for the supplier
  7. IBM should be a good corporate citizen

The similarity with the five “commitments” recently discovered at the Business Roundtable is striking. Of course, in IBM’s heydays, there were no rogue funds, no “activist” hedge funds or private equity funds to pressure corporate management into delivering maximum value creation for shareholders. How will these funds whose very existence depends on their success at fostering shareholder primacy cope with this “heretical nonsense” of equal treatment for all stakeholders?

As this statement of purpose is supported, was even ushered in, by large institutional investors, it may well shield corporations against attacks by hedge funds and other agitators. To be successful, these funds have to rely on the overt or tacit support of large investors. As these investors now endorse a stakeholder view of the corporation, how can they condone and back these financial players whose only goal is to push up the stock price often at the painful expense of other stakeholders?

This re-discovery in the US of a stakeholder model of the corporation should align it with Canada and the UK where a while back the stakeholder concept of the corporation was adopted in their legal framework.

Thus in Canada, two judgments of the Supreme Court are peremptory: the board must not grant any preferential treatment in its decision-making process to the interests of the shareholders or any other stakeholder, but must act exclusively in the interests of the corporation of which they are the directors.

In the UK, Section 172 of the Companies Act of 2006 states: “A director of a company must act in the way he considers, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole, among which the interests of the company’s employees, the need to foster the company’s business relationships with suppliers, customers and others, the impact of the company’s operations on the community and the environment,…”

So, belatedly, U.S. corporations will, it seems, self-regulate and self-impose a sort of stakeholder model in their decision-making.

Alas, as in Canada and the UK, they will quickly find out that there is little or no guidance on how to manage the difficult trade-offs among the interests of various stakeholders, say between shareholders and workers when considering outsourcing operations to a low-cost country.

But that may be the appeal of this “purpose of the corporation”: it sounds enlightened but does not call for any tangible changes in the way corporations are managed.

 

La gouvernance de sociétés au Canada | Au delà de la théorie de l’agence


Les auteurs Imen Latrousa, Marc-André Morencyb, Salmata Ouedraogoc et Jeanne Simard, professeurs à l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, ont réalisé une publication d’une grande valeur pour les théoriciens de la gouvernance.

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, un résumé de l’article paru dans la Revue Organisations et Territoires

Résumé

De nombreux chercheurs ont mis en évidence les aspects et conséquences discutables de certaines conceptions financières ou théories de l’organisation. C’est le cas de la théorie de l’agence, conception particulièrement influente depuis une quarantaine d’années, qui a pour effet de justifier une gouvernance de l’entreprise vouée à maximiser la valeur aux actionnaires au détriment des autres parties prenantes.

Cette idéologie de gouvernance justifie de rémunérer les managers, présumés négliger ordinairement les détenteurs d’actions, avec des stock-options, des salaires démesurés. Ce primat accordé à la valeur à court terme des actions relève d’une vision dans laquelle les raisons financières se voient attribuer un rôle prééminent dans la détermination des objectifs et des moyens d’action, de régulation et de dérégulation des entreprises. Cet article se propose de rappeler les éléments centraux de ce modèle de gouvernance et de voir quelles critiques lui sont adressées par des disciplines aussi diverses que l’économie, la finance, le droit et la sociologie.

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « théorie de l'agence »

 

Voir l’article ci-dessous :

La gouvernance d’entreprise au Canada : un domaine en transition

Gouvernance fiduciaire et rôles des parties prenantes (stakeholders)


Je partage avec vous l’excellente prise de position de Martin Lipton *, Karessa L. Cain et Kathleen C. Iannone, associés de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, spécialisée dans les fusions et acquisitions et dans les questions de gouvernance fiduciaire.

L’article présente un plaidoyer éloquent en faveur d’une gouvernance fiduciaire par un conseil d’administration qui doit non seulement considérer le point de vue des actionnaires, mais aussi des autres parties prenantes,

Depuis quelque temps, on assiste à des changements significatifs dans la compréhension du rôle des CA et dans l’interprétation que les administrateurs se font de la valeur de l’entreprise à long terme.

Récemment, le Business Roundtable a annoncé son engagement envers l’inclusion des parties prenantes dans le cadre de gouvernance fiduciaire des sociétés.

Voici un résumé d’un article paru dans le Los Angeles Times du 19 août 2019 : In shocking reversal, Big Business puts the shareholder value myth in the grave.

Among the developments followers of business ethics may have thought they’d never see, the end of the shareholder value myth has to rank very high.

Yet one of America’s leading business lobbying groups just buried the myth. “We share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” reads a statement issued Monday by the Business Roundtable and signed by 181 CEOs. (Emphasis in the original.)

The statement mentions, in order, customers, employees, suppliers, communities and — dead last — shareholders. The corporate commitment to all these stakeholders may be largely rhetorical at the moment, but it’s hard to overstate what a reversal the statement represents from the business community’s preexisting viewpoint.

Stakeholders are pushing companies to wade into sensitive social and political issues — especially as they see governments failing to do so effectively.

Since the 1970s, the prevailing ethos of corporate management has been that a company’s prime responsibility — effectively, its only responsibility — is to serve its shareholders. Benefits for those other stakeholders follow, but they’re not the prime concern.

In the Business Roundtable’s view, the paramount duty of management and of boards of directors is to the corporation’s stockholders; the interests of other stakeholders are relevant as a derivative of the duty to stockholders,” the organization declared in 1997.

Bonne lecture. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus !

 

Stakeholder Governance and the Fiduciary Duties of Directors

 

Jamie Dimon
JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon signed the business statement disavowing the shareholder value myth.(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

 

There has recently been much debate and some confusion about a bedrock principle of corporate law—namely, the essence of the board’s fiduciary duty, and particularly the extent to which the board can or should or must consider the interests of other stakeholders besides shareholders.

For several decades, there has been a prevailing assumption among many CEOs, directors, scholars, investors, asset managers and others that the sole purpose of corporations is to maximize value for shareholders and, accordingly, that corporate decision-makers should be very closely tethered to the views and preferences of shareholders. This has created an opportunity for corporate raiders, activist hedge funds and others with short-termist agendas, who do not hesitate to assert their preferences and are often the most vocal of shareholder constituents. And, even outside the context of shareholder activism, the relentless pressure to produce shareholder value has all too often tipped the scales in favor of near-term stock price gains at the expense of long-term sustainability.

In recent years, however, there has been a growing sense of urgency around issues such as economic inequality, climate change and socioeconomic upheaval as human capital has been displaced by technological disruption. As long-term investors and the asset managers who represent them have sought to embrace ESG principles and their role as stewards of corporations in pursuit of long-term value, notions of shareholder primacy are being challenged. Thus, earlier this week, the Business Roundtable announced its commitment to stakeholder corporate governance, and outside the U.S., legislative reforms in the U.K. and Europe have expressly incorporated consideration of other stakeholder interests in the fiduciary duty framework. The Council of Institutional Investors and others, however, have challenged the wisdom and legality of stakeholder corporate governance.

To be clear, Delaware law does not enshrine a principle of shareholder primacy or preclude a board of directors from considering the interests of other stakeholders. Nor does the law of any other state. Although much attention has been given to the Revlon doctrine, which suggests that the board must attempt to achieve the highest value reasonably available to shareholders, that doctrine is narrowly limited to situations where the board has determined to sell control of the company and either all or a preponderant percentage of the consideration being paid is cash or the transaction will result in a controlling shareholder. Indeed, theRevlon doctrine has played an outsized role in fiduciary duty jurisprudence not because it articulates the ultimate nature and objective of the board’s fiduciary duty, but rather because most fiduciary duty litigation arises in the context of mergers or other extraordinary transactions where heightened standards of judicial review are applicable. In addition, Revlon’s emphasis on maximizing short-term shareholder value has served as a convenient touchstone for advocates of shareholder primacy and has accordingly been used as a talking point to shape assumptions about fiduciary duties even outside the sale-of-control context, a result that was not intended. Around the same time that Revlon was decided, the Delaware Supreme Court also decided the Unocal and Household cases, which affirmed the board’s ability to consider all stakeholders in using a poison pill to defend against a takeover—clearly confining Revlonto sale-of-control situations.

The fiduciary duty of the board is to promote the value of the corporation. In fulfilling that duty, directors must exercise their business judgment in considering and reconciling the interests of various stakeholders—including shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, the environment and communities—and the attendant risks and opportunities for the corporation.

Indeed, the board’s ability to consider other stakeholder interests is not only uncontroversial—it is a matter of basic common sense and a fundamental component of both risk management and strategic planning. Corporations today must navigate a host of challenges to compete and succeed in a rapidly changing environment—for example, as climate change increases weather-related risks to production facilities or real property investments, or as employee training becomes critical to navigate rapidly evolving technology platforms. A board and management team that is myopically focused on stock price and other discernible benchmarks of shareholder value, without also taking a broader, more holistic view of the corporation and its longer-term strategy, sustainability and risk profile, is doing a disservice not only to employees, customers and other impacted stakeholders but also to shareholders and the corporation as a whole.

The board’s role in performing this balancing function is a central premise of the corporate structure. The board is empowered to serve as the arbiter of competing considerations, whereas shareholders have relatively limited voting rights and, in many instances, it is up to the board to decide whether a matter should be submitted for shareholder approval (for example, charter amendments and merger agreements). Moreover, in performing this balancing function, the board is protected by the business judgment rule and will not be second-guessed for embracing ESG principles or other stakeholder interests in order to enhance the long-term value of the corporation. Nor is there any debate about whether the board has the legal authority to reject an activist’s demand for short-term financial engineering on the grounds that the board, in its business judgment, has determined to pursue a strategy to create sustainable long-term value.

And yet even if, as a doctrinal matter, shareholder primacy does not define the contours of the board’s fiduciary duties so as to preclude consideration of other stakeholders, the practical reality is that the board’s ability to embrace ESG principles and sustainable investment strategies depends on the support of long-term investors and asset managers. Shareholders are the only corporate stakeholders who have the right to elect directors, and in contrast to courts, they do not decline to second-guess the business judgment of boards. Furthermore, a number of changes over the last several decades—including the remarkable consolidation of economic and voting power among a relatively small number of asset managers, as well as legal and “best practice” reforms—have strengthened the ability of shareholders to influence corporate decision-making.

To this end, we have proposed The New Paradigm, which conceives of corporate governance as a partnership among corporations, shareholders and other stakeholders to resist short-termism and embrace ESG principles in order to create sustainable, long-term value. See our paper, It’s Time to Adopt The New Paradigm.


Martin Lipton * is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy; Karessa L. Cain is a partner; and Kathleen C. Iannone is an associate. This post is based on their Wachtell Lipton publication.

Deux développements significatifs en gouvernance des sociétés


Aujourd’hui, je veux porter à l’attention de mes lecteurs un article de Assaf Hamdani* et Sharon Hannes* qui aborde deux développements majeurs qui ont pour effet de bouleverser les marchés des capitaux.

D’une part, les auteurs constatent le rôle de plus en plus fondamental que les investisseurs institutionnels jouent sur le marché des capitaux aux É. U., mais aussi au Canada.

En effet, ceux-ci contrôlent environ les trois quarts du marché, et cette situation continue de progresser. Les auteurs notent qu’un petit nombre de fonds détiennent une partie significative du capital de chaque entreprise.

Les investisseurs individuels sont de moins en moins présents sur l’échiquier de l’actionnariat et leur influence est donc à peu près nulle.

Dans quelle mesure les investisseurs institutionnels exercent-ils leur influence sur la gouvernance des entreprises ? Quels sont les changements qui s’opèrent à cet égard ?

Comment leurs actions sont-elles coordonnées avec les actionnaires activistes (hedge funds) ?

La seconde tendance, qui se dessine depuis plus de 10 ans, concerne l’augmentation considérable de l’influence des actionnaires activistes (hedge funds) qui utilisent des moyens de pression de plus en plus grands pour imposer des changements à la gouvernance des organisations, notamment par la nomination d’administrateurs désignés aux CA des entreprises ciblées.

Quelles sont les nouvelles perspectives pour les activistes et comment les autorités réglementaires doivent-elles réagir face à la croissance des pressions pour modifier les conseils d’administration ?

Je vous invite à lire ce court article pour avoir un aperçu des changements à venir eu égard à la gouvernance des sociétés.

Bonne lecture !

 

 

The Future of Shareholder Activism

 

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Two major developments are shaping modern capital markets. The first development is the dramatic increase in the size and influence of institutional investors, mostly mutual funds. Institutional investors today collectively own 70-80% of the entire U.S. capital market, and a small number of fund managers hold significant stakes at each public company. The second development is the rising influence of activist hedge funds, which use proxy fights and other tools to pressure public companies into making business and governance changes.

Our new article, The Future of Shareholder Activism, prepared for Boston University Law Review’s Symposium on Institutional Investor Activism in the 21st Century, focuses on the interaction of these two developments and its implications for the future of shareholder activism. We show that the rise of activist hedge funds and their dramatic impact question the claim that institutional investors have conflicts of interest that are sufficiently pervasive to have a substantial market-wide effect. We further argue that the rise of money managers’ power has already changed and will continue to change the nature of shareholder activism. Specifically, large money managers’ clout means that they can influence companies’ management without resorting to the aggressive tactics used by activist hedge funds. Finally, we argue that some activist interventions—those that require the appointment of activist directors to implement complex business changes—cannot be pursued by money managers without dramatic changes to their respective business models and regulatory landscapes.

We first address the overlooked implications of the rise of activist hedge funds for the debate on institutional investors’ stewardship incentives. The success of activist hedge funds, this Article argues, cannot be reconciled with the claim that institutional investors have conflicts of interest that are sufficiently pervasive to have a substantial market-wide effect. Activist hedge funds do not hold a sufficiently large number of shares to win proxy battles, and their success to drive corporate change therefore relies on the willingness of large fund managers to support their cause. Thus, one cannot celebrate—or express concern over—the achievements of activist hedge funds and at the same time argue that institutional investors systemically desire to appease managers.

But if money managers are the real power brokers, why do institutional investors not play a more proactive role in policing management? One set of answers to this question focuses on the shortcomings of fund managers—their suboptimal incentives to oversee companies in their portfolio and conflicts of interest. Another answer focuses on the regulatory regime that governs institutional investors and the impediments that it creates for shareholder activism.

We offer a more nuanced account of the interaction of activists and institutional investors. We argue that the rising influence of fund managers is shaping and is likely to shape the relationships among corporate insiders, institutional investors, and activist hedge funds. Institutional investors’ increasing clout allows them to influence companies without resorting to the aggressive tactics that are typical of activist hedge funds. With institutional investors holding the key to their continued service at the company, corporate insiders today are likely to be more attentive to the wishes of their institutional investors, especially the largest ones.

In fact, in today’s marketplace, management is encouraged to “think like an activist” and initiate contact with large fund managers to learn about any concerns that could trigger an activist attack. Institutional investors—especially the large ones—can thus affect corporations simply by sharing their views with management. This sheds new light on what is labeled today as “engagement.” Moreover, the line between institutional investors’ engagement and hedge fund activism could increasingly become blurred. To be sure, we do not expect institutional investors to develop deeply researched and detailed plans for companies’ operational improvement. Yet, institutional investors’ engagement is increasingly likely to focus not only on governance, but also on business and strategy issues.

The rising influence of institutional investors, however, is unlikely to displace at least some forms of activism. Specifically, we argue that institutional investors are unlikely to be effective in leading complex business interventions that require director appointments. Activists often appoint directors to target boards. Such appointments may be necessary to implement an activist campaign when the corporate change underlying the intervention does not lend itself to quick fixes, such as selling a subsidiary or buying back shares. In complex cases, activist directors are required not only in order to continuously monitor management, but also to further refine the activist business plan for the company.

This insight, however, only serves to reframe our Article’s basic question. Given the rising power of institutional investors, why can they not appoint such directors to companies’ boards? The answer lies in the need of such directors to share nonpublic information with the fund that appointed them. Sharing such information with institutional investors would create significant insider trading concerns and would critically change the role of institutional investors as relatively passive investors with a limited say over company affairs.

The complete article is available here.

________________________________________________________________

*Assaf Hamdani is Professor of Law and Sharon Hannes is Professor of Law and Dean of the Faculty at Tel Aviv University Buchmann Faculty of Law. This post is based on their recent article, forthcoming in the Boston University Law Review. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Dancing with Activists by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, Wei Jiang, and Thomas Keusch (discussed on the Forum here); The Agency Problems of Institutional Investors by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forumhere); and Index Funds and the Future of Corporate Governance: Theory, Evidence, and Policy by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the forum here).

Quelles sont les responsabilités dévolues à un conseil d’administration ?


En gouvernance des sociétés, il existe un certain nombre de responsabilités qui relèvent impérativement d’un conseil d’administration.

À la suite d’une décision rendue par la Cour Suprême du Delaware dans l’interprétation de la doctrine Caremark (voir ici),il est indiqué que pour satisfaire leur devoir de loyauté, les administrateurs de sociétés doivent faire des efforts raisonnables (de bonne foi) pour mettre en œuvre un système de surveillance et en faire le suivi.

Without more, the existence of management-level compliance programs is not enough for the directors to avoid Caremark exposure.

L’article de Martin Lipton *, paru sur le Forum de Harvard Law School on Corporate Governance, fait le point sur ce qui constitue les meilleures pratiques de gouvernance à ce jour.

Bonne lecture !

 

Spotlight on Boards

 

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  1. Recognize the heightened focus of investors on “purpose” and “culture” and an expanded notion of stakeholder interests that includes employees, customers, communities, the economy and society as a whole and work with management to develop metrics to enable the corporation to demonstrate their value;
  2. Be aware that ESG and sustainability have become major, mainstream governance topics that encompass a wide range of issues, such as climate change and other environmental risks, systemic financial stability, worker wages, training, retraining, healthcare and retirement, supply chain labor standards and consumer and product safety;
  3. Oversee corporate strategy (including purpose and culture) and the communication of that strategy to investors, keeping in mind that investors want to be assured not just about current risks and problems, but threats to long-term strategy from global, political, social, and technological developments;
  4. Work with management to review the corporation’s strategy, and related disclosures, in light of the annual letters to CEOs and directors, or other communications, from BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard, and other investors, describing the investors’ expectations with respect to corporate strategy and how it is communicated;
  5. Set the “tone at the top” to create a corporate culture that gives priority to ethical standards, professionalism, integrity and compliance in setting and implementing both operating and strategic goals;
  6. Oversee and understand the corporation’s risk management, and compliance plans and efforts and how risk is taken into account in the corporation’s business decision-making; monitor risk management ; respond to red flags if and when they arise;
  7. Choose the CEO, monitor the CEO’s and management’s performance and develop and keep current a succession plan;
  8. Have a lead independent director or a non-executive chair of the board who can facilitate the functioning of the board and assist management in engaging with investors;
  9. Together with the lead independent director or the non-executive chair, determine the agendas for board and committee meetings and work with management to ensure that appropriate information and sufficient time are available for full consideration of all matters;
  10. Determine the appropriate level of executive compensation and incentive structures, with awareness of the potential impact of compensation structures on business priorities and risk-taking, as well as investor and proxy advisor views on compensation;
  11. Develop a working partnership with the CEO and management and serve as a resource for management in charting the appropriate course for the corporation;
  12. Monitor and participate, as appropriate, in shareholder engagement efforts, evaluate corporate governance proposals, and work with management to anticipate possible takeover attempts and activist attacks in order to be able to address them more effectively, if they should occur;
  13. Meet at least annually with the team of company executives and outside advisors that will advise the corporation in the event of a takeover proposal or an activist attack;
  14. Be open to management inviting an activist to meet with the board to present the activist’s opinion of the strategy and management of the corporation;
  15. Evaluate the individual director’s, board’s and committees’ performance on a regular basis and consider the optimal board and committee composition and structure, including board refreshment, expertise and skill sets, independence and diversity, as well as the best way to communicate with investors regarding these issues;
  16. Review corporate governance guidelines and committee workloads and charters and tailor them to promote effective board and committee functioning;
  17. Be prepared to deal with crises; and
  18. Be prepared to take an active role in matters where the CEO may have a real or perceived conflict, including takeovers and attacks by activist hedge funds focused on the CEO.

 

Afin de satisfaire ces attentes, les entreprises publiques doivent :

 

  1. Have a sufficient number of directors to staff the requisite standing and special committees and to meet investor expectations for experience, expertise, diversity, and periodic refreshment;
  2. Compensate directors commensurate with the time and effort that they are required to devote and the responsibility that they assume;
  3. Have directors who have knowledge of, and experience with, the corporation’s businesses and with the geopolitical developments that affect it, even if this results in the board having more than one director who is not “independent”;
  4. Have directors who are able to devote sufficient time to preparing for and attending board and committee meetings and engaging with investors;
  5. Provide the directors with the data that is critical to making sound decisions on strategy, compensation and capital allocation;
  6. Provide the directors with regular tutorials by internal and external experts as part of expanded director education and to assure that in complicated, multi-industry and new-technology corporations, the directors have the information and expertise they need to respond to disruption, evaluate current strategy and strategize beyond the horizon; and
  7. Maintain a truly collegial relationship among and between the company’s senior executives and the members of the board that facilitates frank and vigorous discussion and enhances the board’s role as strategic partner, evaluator, and monitor.

_________________________________________________________

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 and is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Un document incontournable en gouvernance des entreprises cotées : « OECD Corporate Governance Factbook 2019 »


Voici un rapport de recherche exhaustif publié tous les deux ans par l’OCDE.

Vous y retrouverez une mine de renseignements susceptibles de répondre à toute question relative à la gouvernance des plus importantes autorités des marchés financiers au monde.

C’est un document essentiel qui permet de comparer et d’évaluer les progrès en gouvernance dans les 49 plus importants marchés financiers.

Vous pouvez télécharger le rapport à la fin du sommaire exécutif publié ici. Le document est illustré par une multitude de tableaux et de figures qui font image il va sans dire.

Voici l’introduction au document de recherche. Celui-ci vient d’être publié. La version française devrait suivre bientôt.

Bonne lecture !

 

The 2019 edition of the OECD Corporate Governance Factbook (the “Factbook”) contains comparative data and information across 49 different jurisdictions including all G20, OECD and Financial Stability Board members. The information is presented and commented in 40 tables and 51 figures covering a broad range of institutional, legal and regulatory provisions. The Factbook provides an important and unique tool for monitoring the implementation of the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance. Issued every two years, it is actively used by governments, regulators and others for information about implementation practices and developments that may influence their effectiveness.

It is divided into five chapters addressing: 1) the corporate and market landscape; 2) the corporate governance framework; 3) the rights of shareholders and key ownership functions; 4) the corporate boards of directors; and 5) mechanisms for flexibility and proportionality in corporate governance.

 

OECD (2019), OECD Corporate Governance Factbook 2019

 

 

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The corporate and market landscape

 

Effective design and implementation of corporate governance rules requires a good empirical understanding of the ownership and business landscape to which they will be applied. The first chapter of the Factbook therefore provides an overview of ownership patterns around the world, with respect to both the categories of owners and the degree of concentration of ownership in individual listed companies. Since the G20/OECD Principles also include recommendations with respect to the functioning of stock markets, it also highlights some key structural changes with respect to stock exchanges.

The OECD Equity Market Review of Asia (OECD, 2018a) reported that stock markets have undergone profound changes during the past 20 years. Globally, one of the most important developments has been the rapid growth of Asian stock markets—both in absolute and in relative terms. In 2017, a record number of 1 074 companies listed in Asia, almost twice as many as the annual average for the previous 16 years. Of the five jurisdictions that have had the highest number of non-financial company IPOs in the last decade, three are in Asia. In 2017, Asian non-financial companies accounted for 43% of the global volume of equity raised. The proportion attributable to European and US companies has declined during the same period. In terms of stock exchanges, by total market capitalisation, four Asian exchanges were in the top ten globally (Japan Exchange Group, Shanghai Stock Exchange, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, and Shenzhen Stock Exchange).

With respect to ownership patterns at the company level in the world’s 50 000 listed companies, a recent OECD study (De la Cruz et al., forthcoming) reports a number of features of importance to policymaking and implementation of the G20/OECD Principles. The report, which contains unique information about ownership in companies from 54 jurisdictions that together represent 95% of global market capitalisation, shows that four main categories of investors dominate ownership of today’s publicly listed companies. These are: institutional investors, public sector owners, private corporations, and strategic individual investors. The largest category is institutional investors, holding 41% of global market capitalisation. The second largest category is the public sector, which has significant ownership stakes in 20% of the world’s listed companies and hold shares representing 13% of global market capitalisation. With respect to ownership in individual companies, in half of the world’s publicly listed companies, the three largest shareholders hold more than 50% of the capital, and in three-quarters of the world’s public listed companies, the three largest owners hold more than 30%. This is to a large extent attributable to the growth of stock markets in Asian emerging markets.

Stock exchanges have also undergone important structural changes in recent years, such as mergers and acquisitions and demutualisations. Out of 52 major stock exchanges in 49 jurisdictions, 18 now belong to one of four international groups. Thirty-three (63%) of these exchanges are either self-listed or have an ultimate parent company that is listed on one or more of its own exchanges. More than 62% of market capitalisation is concentrated in the five largest stock exchanges, while more than 95% is concentrated in the largest 25. The top 25 highest valued exchanges include 11 non-OECD jurisdictions.

 

The corporate governance framework

 

An important bedrock for implementing the Principles is the quality of the legal and regulatory framework, which is consistent with the rule of law in supporting effective supervision and enforcement.

Against this background, the Factbook monitors who serves as the lead regulatory institution for corporate governance of listed companies in each jurisdiction, as well as issues related to their independence. Securities regulators, financial regulators or a combination of the two play the key role in 82% of all jurisdictions, while the Central Bank plays the key role in 12%. The issue of the independence of regulators is commonly addressed (among 86% of regulatory institutions) through the creation of a formal governing body such as a board, council or commission, usually appointed to fixed terms ranging from two to eight years. In a majority of cases, independence from the government is also promoted by establishing a separate budget funded by fees assessed on regulated entities or a mix of fees and fines. On the other hand, 25% of the regulatory institutions surveyed are funded by the national budget.

Since 2015 when the G20/OECD Principles were issued, 84% of the 49 surveyed jurisdictions have amended either their company law or securities law, or both. Nearly all jurisdictions also have national codes or principles that complement laws, securities regulation and listing requirements. Nearly half of all jurisdictions have revised their national corporate governance codes in the past two years and 83% of them follow a “comply or explain” compliance practice. A growing percentage of jurisdictions—67%—now issue national reports on company implementation of corporate governance codes, up from 58% in 2015. In 29% of the jurisdictions it is the national authorities that serve as custodians of the national corporate governance code.

 

The rights and equitable treatment of shareholders and key ownership functions

 

The G20/OECD Principles state that the corporate governance framework shall protect and facilitate the exercise of shareholders’ rights and ensure equitable treatment of all shareholders, including minority and foreign shareholders.

Chapter 3 of the Factbook therefore provides detailed information related to rights to obtain information on shareholder meetings, to request meetings and to place items on the agenda, and voting rights. The chapter also provides detailed coverage of frameworks for review of related party transactions, triggers and mechanisms related to corporate takeover bids, and the roles and responsibilities of institutional investors.

All jurisdictions require companies to provide advance notice of general shareholder meetings. A majority establish a minimum notice period of between 15 and 21 days, while another third of the jurisdictions provide for longer notice periods. Nearly two-thirds of jurisdictions require such notices to be sent directly to shareholders, while all but four jurisdictions require multiple methods of notification, which may include use of a stock exchange or regulator’s electronic platform, publication on the company’s web site or in a newspaper.

Approximately 80% of jurisdictions establish deadlines of up to 60 days for convening special meetings at the request of shareholders, subject to specific ownership thresholds. This is an increase from 73% in 2015. Most jurisdictions (61%) set the ownership threshold for requesting a special shareholder meeting at 5%, while another 32% set the threshold at 10%. Compared to the threshold for requesting a shareholder meeting, many jurisdictions set lower thresholds for placing items on the agenda of the general meeting. With respect to the outcome of the shareholder meeting, approximately 80% of jurisdictions require the disclosure of voting decisions on each agenda item, including 59% that require such disclosure immediately or within 5 days.

The G20/OECD Principles state that the optimal capital structure of the company is best decided by the management and the board, subject to approval of the shareholders. This may include the issuing of different classes of shares with different rights attached to them. In practice, all but three of the 49 jurisdictions covered by the Factbook allow listed companies to issue shares with limited voting rights. In many cases, such shares come with a preference with respect to the receipt of the firm’s profits.

Related party transactions are typically addressed through a combination of measures, including board approval, shareholder approval, and mandatory disclosure. Provisions for board approval are common; two-thirds of jurisdictions surveyed require or recommend board approval of certain types of related party transactions. Shareholder approval requirements are applied in 55% of jurisdictions, but are often limited to large transactions and those that are not carried out on market terms. Nearly all jurisdictions require disclosure of related party transactions, with 82% requiring use of International Accounting Standards (IAS24), while an additional 8% allow flexibility to follow IAS 24 or the local standard.

The Factbook provides extensive data on frameworks for corporate takeovers. Among the 46 jurisdictions that have introduced a mandatory bid rule, 80% take an ex-post approach, where a bidder is required to initiate the bid after acquiring shares exceeding the threshold. Nine jurisdictions take an ex-ante approach, where a bidder is required to initiate a takeover bid for acquiring shares which would exceed the threshold. More than 80% of jurisdictions with mandatory takeover bid rules establish a mechanism to determine the minimum bidding price.

Considering the important role played by institutional investors as shareholders of listed companies, nearly all jurisdictions have established provisions for at least one category of institutional investors (such as pension, investment or insurance funds) to address conflicts of interest, either by prohibiting specific acts or requiring them to establish policies to manage conflicts of interest. Three-fourths of all jurisdictions have established requirements or recommendations for institutional investors to disclose their voting policies, while almost half require or recommend disclosure of actual voting records. Some jurisdictions establish regulatory requirements or may rely on voluntary stewardship codes to encourage various forms of ownership engagement, such as monitoring and constructive engagement with investee companies and maintaining the effectiveness of monitoring when outsourcing the exercise of voting rights.

 

The corporate board of directors

 

The G20/OECD Principles require that the corporate governance framework ensures the strategic guidance of the company by the board and its accountability to the company and its shareholders. The most common board format is the one-tier board system, which is favoured in twice as many jurisdictions as those that apply two-tier boards (supervisory and management boards). A growing number of jurisdictions allow both one and two-tier structures.

Almost all jurisdictions require or recommend a minimum number or ratio of independent directors. Definitions of independent directors have also been evolving during this period: 80% of jurisdictions now require directors to be independent of significant shareholders in order to be classified as independent, up from 64% in 2015. The shareholding threshold determining whether a shareholder is significant ranges from 2% to 50%, with 10% to 15% being the most common.

Recommendations or requirements for the separation of the board chair and CEO have doubled in the last four years to 70%, including 30% required. The 2015 edition of the Factbook reported a binding requirement in only 11% of the jurisdictions, with another 25% recommending it in codes.

Nearly all jurisdictions require an independent audit committee. Nomination and remuneration committees are not mandatory in most jurisdictions, although more than 80% of jurisdictions at least recommend these committees to be established and often to be comprised wholly or largely of independent directors.

Requirements or recommendations for companies to assign a risk management role to board level committees have sharply increased since 2015, from 62% to 87% of surveyed jurisdictions. Requirements or recommendations to implement internal control and risk management systems have also increased significantly, from 62% to 90%.

While recruitment and remuneration of management is a key board function, a majority of jurisdictions have a requirement or recommendation for a binding or advisory shareholder vote on remuneration policy for board members and key executives. And nearly all jurisdictions surveyed now require or recommend the disclosure of the remuneration policy and the level/amount of remuneration at least at aggregate levels. Disclosure of individual levels is required or recommended in 76% of jurisdictions.

The 2019 Factbook provides data for the first time on measures to promote gender balance on corporate boards and in senior management, most often via disclosure requirements and measures such as mandated quotas and/or voluntary targets. Nearly half of surveyed jurisdictions (49%) have established requirements to disclose gender composition of boards, compared to 22% with regards to senior management. Nine jurisdictions have mandatory quotas requiring a certain percentage of board seats to be filled by either gender. Eight rely on more flexible mechanisms such as voluntary goals or targets, while three resort to a combination of both. The proportion of senior management positions held by women is reported to be significantly higher than the proportion of board seats held by women.

 

Mechanisms for flexibility and proportionality in corporate governance

 

It has already been pointed out that effective implementation of the G20/OECD Principles requires a good empirical understanding of economic realities and adaption to changes in corporate and market developments over time. The G20/OECD Principles therefore state that policy makers have a responsibility to put in place a framework that is flexible enough to meet the needs of corporations that are operating in widely different circumstances, facilitating their development of new opportunities and the most efficient deployment of resources. The 2019 Factbook provides a special chapter that presents the main findings of a complementary OECD review of how 39 jurisdictions apply the concepts of flexibility and proportionality across seven different corporate governance regulatory areas. The chapter builds on the 2018 OECD report Flexibility and Proportionality in Corporate Governance (OECD, 2018b). The report finds that a vast majority of countries have criteria that allow for flexibility and proportionality at company level in each of the seven areas of regulation that were reviewed: 1) board composition, board committees and board qualifications; 2) remuneration; 3) related party transactions; 4), disclosure of periodic financial information and ad hoc information; 5) disclosure of major shareholdings; 6) takeovers; and 7) pre-emptive rights. The report also contains case studies of six countries, which provide a more detailed picture of how flexibility and proportionality is being used in practice.

The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Tendances observées eu égard à la diversité des conseils d’administration américains en 2019


L’article publié par Subodh Mishra, directrice générale de Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), paru sur le site du forum de Harvard Law School montre clairement que les tendances eu égard à la diversité des Boards américains sont remarquables.

Qu’entend-on par la diversité des conseils d’administration ?

  1. le taux de remplacement des administrateurs sur le conseil
  2. le pourcentage de femmes qui accèdent à des conseils
  3. la diversité ethnique sur les conseils
  4. le choix d’administrateurs dont les compétences ne sont pas majoritairement financières
  5. le taux de nouveaux administrateurs pouvant être considérés comme relativement jeune

 

L’étude indique que pour chacune de ces variables, les conseils d’administration américains font preuve d’une plus grande diversité, sauf pour l’âge des administrateurs qui continue de croître.

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de cet article pour vous former une idée plus juste des tendances observées sur les conseils d’administration.

Je n’ai pas de données comparables au Canada, mais je crois que la tendance à l’accroissement de la diversité est similaire.

Bonne lecture !

 

U.S. Board Diversity Trends in 2019

 

 

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As the U.S. annual shareholder meeting season is coming to an end, we review the characteristics of newly appointed directors to reveal trends director in nominations. As of May 30, 2019, ISS has profiled the boards of 2,175 Russell 3000 companies (including the boards of 401 members of the S&P 500) with a general meeting of shareholders during the year. These figures represent approximately 75 percent of Russell 3000 companies that are expected to have a general meeting during the year. (A small portion of index constituents may not have a general meeting during a given calendar year due to mergers and acquisitions, new listings, or other extraordinary circumstances).

Based on our review of 19,791 directorships in the Russell 3000, we observe five major trends in new director appointments for 2019, as outlined below.

1. Board renewal rates continue to increase, as board refreshment, director qualifications, and board diversity remain high-priority issues for companies and investors.

2. The percentage of women joining boards reaches a new record high, with 45 percent of new Russell 3000 board seats filled by women in 2019 (compared to only 12 percent in 2008) and 19 percent of all Russell 3000 seats held by women.

3. Ethnic diversity also reached record highs, but has grown at a much slower rate, with approximately 10 percent of Russell 3000 directors currently belonging to an ethnic minority group, while 15 percent of new directors are ethnically diverse.

4. New director appointments focus on non-financial skillsets, with an increased proportion of directors having international experience, ESG expertise, and background in human resources.

5. The average director age continues to increase, as the appointment of younger directors is less frequent than in previous years, with only 7.2 percent of new directorships filled by directors younger than 45 years, compared to 11.5 percent of new directors in 2008.

Board Refreshment

 

After a decline in board renewal rates in the first years after the Great Recessions, boards began to add more new directors starting in 2012 and reached record numbers of board replenishment in 2017 and 2018, as a growing number of investors focused on board refreshment and board diversity. In 2019, the trend of board renewal continued, as we observe relatively higher rates of new director appointments as a percentage of all directorships compared to the beginning of the decade. But overall renewal rates are low. As of May 2019, only 5.3 percent of profiled Russell 3000 board directors were new to their boards, down from the record-high figure of 5.7 percent in 2018.

 

Proposals by Category

 

The surge in new director appointments observed in the past few years can be attributed to a greater emphasis on board gender diversity and board refreshment by many investors and companies. The percentage of companies introducing at least one new board member increased from 34.3 percent in 2018 to 35.6 percent this year. The percentage of companies introducing at least two new directors declined from 11.2 percent in 2018 to 10.2 percent in 2019, consistently above the 10-percent threshold along with the record-setting years of 2017 and 2018.

 

Proposals by Category

Gender Diversity

 

Gender diversity on boards accelerated further this year, breaking another record in terms of the percentage of new directors who are women. In the Russell 3000, 45 percent of new directors are women, up from 34 percent in 2018. Unlike previous years, when the percentage of new female directors was higher at large-capitalization companies, the high rate of new female directors—at almost parity—is consistent across all market segments. Several asset owners and asset managers had voting policies related to gender diversity prior to 2017. However, following State Street’s policy initiative to require at least one female director at every board in 2017, many more large investors have become more vocal about improving gender diversity on boards in the past two years, and many have introduced similar voting policies. We expect this trend to continue, as more investors are beginning to require more than the bare minimum of at least one woman on the board. Proxy advisors also introduced similar policies, with ISS’ policy to make adverse recommendation at all-male boards coming into effect in 2020.

But, more importantly, the push for gender diversity is no longer driven by shareholder engagement and voting only. New regulation in California mandates that all boards of companies headquartered in the state should have at least one woman on their boards in 2019, while at least three women board members are required by 2021 for boards with six members or more. Other states may follow suit, as New Jersey recently introduced legislation modeled after the California law, and Illinois is debating a bill that will require both gender and ethnic diversity on corporate boards.

Given the California mandate (affecting close to 700 public companies) and the continued focus by investors, it is no surprise that smaller firms, where gender diversity has been considerably lower compared to large companies, are revamping their efforts to improve gender diversity.

 

Proposals by Category

 

As a result of the record-setting recruitment of women on boards, 2019 saw the biggest jump in the overall gender diversity. The S&P 500 is well on its way of reaching 30 percent directorships held by women in the next couple of years, much earlier than we had predicted in the beginning of last year using a linear regression analysis. Obviously, female director recruitments has seen exponential growth in the past two years, which has accelerated the trend.

 

Proposals by Category

Ethnic Diversity

 

In 2019, we also see record number of ethnic minorities joining boards as new board members, with more than one-in-five new directorships being filled by non-Caucasian nominees at S&P 500, while approximately 15 percent of new board seats at all Russell 3000 companies are filled by minorities (the figure stands at 13 percent when excluding the S&P 500). As the discussion of diversity moves beyond gender, we may see the trend of higher minority representation on boards continue.

 

Proposals by Category

 

While the trend of increasing ethnic diversity on boards is visible, the rate of change is considerably slower than the trend in board gender diversity. Among board members whose race was identified, non-white Russell 3000 directors crossed the 10-percent threshold for the first time in 2019, compared to approximately 8 percent in 2008. These figures stand well below the proportion of non-White, non-Hispanic population in the U.S. of approximately 40 percent, according to the U.S. census bureau.

 

Proposals by Category

Director Skills

 

But diversity among new directors goes beyond gender and ethnicity. We observe a change in the skillsets disclosed by companies for new directors compared to incumbent directors. The rate of disclosure of skills is generally higher for new directors compared to directors who have served on boards for five years or more. Relative to tenure directors, we observe an increase in the percentage of new directors with expertise in technology (10 percentage points), sales (8 percentage points), international experience (8 percentage points), and strategic planning (6 percentage points). At the same time, we see a decrease in some traditional skills, such as financial and audit expertise, and CEO experience.

 

Proposals by Category

The increase in non-traditional skills becomes more pronounced when we look at the percentage difference in the frequency of each skill for new directors compared to directors with tenure of five years or more. Based on this analysis, international expertise, experience in corporate social responsibility, and human resources expertise all increase by more than 50 percent at new directors compared to their counterparts with tenure on the board of at least five years. As sustainability and corporate culture become focus items for many investors and companies, we expect this trend to continue. The percentage of “other” skills, which do not fall neatly in the established categories, also increases considerably. The list of skills that rank the lowest in terms of change compared to the tenured directors is telling of the increased emphasis in non-traditional skills: CFO experience, financial expertise, CEO experience, government experience, and audit expertise.

Proposals by Category

Age Diversity

 

U.S. boards are getting older. During the past twelve years, the average director age in the Russell 3000 has increased from 59.7 years in 2008 to 62.1 years in 2019. This trend becomes apparent when observing the age groups of newly appointed directors. In 2008, approximately 11.5 percent of new director were younger than 45 years, and this number has dropped to an all-time low of 7.2 percent in 2019. The percentage of newly appointed directors above the age of 67 has also been decreasing in the past five years reaching 6.5 percent in 2019, compared to its peak of 10.8 in 2014.

 

Proposals by Category

 

However, as incumbent directors stay on boards with the passing of time, the overall percentage of directors above the age of 67 years continues to increase, reaching a record high of 31.6 percent of all directorships in 2019, compared to 22.1 percent in 2008. We observe the opposite trend in relation to younger directors, whereby the proportion of directors younger than 45 years has dropped by almost 40 percent from 5.1 percent of directorships in 2008 to 3.2 of directorships in 2019.

 

Proposals by Category

The Changing Landscape for U.S. Boards

The U.S. is experiencing a significant shift in the composition of corporate boards, as the market expects companies to address a new set of challenges and their boards to better reflect developments in society. Board refreshment continues its upward trajectory in 2019, with higher rates of new directors compared to the beginning of the decade. While traditional skillsets remain paramount, we see a greater emphasis on non-financial skills, highlighting the need to focus on corporate culture, sustainability, and technology. At the same time, investors, companies, and regulators recognize the benefits of diversity, as we see record numbers of women and minorities on boards. Experience and qualifications appear more important than ever, which may explain the decline in younger directors in the past decade. These trends will likely continue, as investors continue to focus on board quality and governance as a foremost measure for protecting their investments and managing risk for sustainable growth.

Un plan de fusion avorté entre deux OBNL


Voici un cas publié sur le site de Julie McLelland qui aborde un processus de fusion manqué entre deux OBNL dont la mission est de s’occuper de déficience.

C’est un bris de confiance dramatique qui se produit entre les deux organisations, et la plupart des organisations sont dépourvues lorsqu’une telle situation se présente.

Kalinda, la présidente du conseil d’administration, se pose beaucoup de questions sur l’éjection de deux de ses hauts dirigeants qui siégeaient au CA de l’entreprise ciblée.

Elle n’est pas certaine de la meilleure approche à adopter dans une telle situation et c’est la raison pour laquelle elle cherche les meilleures avenues pour l’organisation et pour les cadres déchus.

Le cas présente la situation de manière assez factuelle, puis trois experts se prononcent sur le cas.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

 

Un plan de fusion avorté entre deux OBNL

 

 

Kalinda chairs a small disability-sector not for profit company. For almost a year the company has been in friendly merger discussions with a similar company operating in an adjacent geographic area.

Kalinda’s CEO and CFO were elected to the board of the neighbouring company in advance of the merger. Everyone expected the merger to proceed. Kalinda’s CEO and CFO reported that the merger was a major topic of that board’s discussions, but they could not give details as it would be a conflict of interest and they were excluded from most of the discussions.

Now Kalinda has received a letter from the chair of the other board saying the merger is not going ahead because due diligence uncovered some ‘worrying information’.

The letter also said the CEO and CFO must resign immediately as it was ‘no longer appropriate’ for them to be directors. Kalinda immediately called the executives who said they had no idea what had happened: They had not been made aware of any issues.

Kalinda’s executives called the CEO of the other company but she refused to talk to them and said the other directors had voted them off in a special meeting three days ago. Kalinda tried calling the other chair but her calls were all declined.

She wants to know what has been found and if there is any possibility of getting the merger discussions back on course. Her company has deferred several strategic projects, incurred legal costs, and refrained from bidding for a government contract so as not to compete against the other company.

What should Kalinda do?

 

Julia’s Answer

Kalinda should identify the actual reasons for the merger failing and analyse whether the show stoppers are on her side, the partner’s side, or connected to a third-party.

What if the problem is in her company and not evident to her? It could possibly be known or even invented (?) by the partner company – but they don’t seem to be open to providing any information. They could even think she is involved herself. It could be fraud, financial problems or any other major issues they consider as deal breaking. Kalinda needs to do her homework in her own company, carefully prioritising, and usually with external support. Her aim is to eliminate any potential time bombs quickly and efficiently.

Step two – analysing third party show stoppers on the partner’s side: The partner has been offered more attractive merger conditions by another company – Kalinda should identify the competitor and consider adapting her conditions, or they decided not to merge anymore, e.g. due to changing market circumstances or new, promising chances for business growth without a partner – Kalinda should find out what these could be and what they mean for her. The partner could also think that his and Kalinda’s executives are not a good match in general. In this case Kalinda needs to evaluate the consequences of a future with a merger but without her CEO and CFO.

Kalinda also needs to consider a completely new strategy starting from scratch – without the original target partner, possibly with a different partner or a business model and growth strategy her executive team drives alone. In each case Kalinda should evaluate whether her executive team is capable of delivering the future target performance and adds value with regards to the option/s she finally chooses and whether alternative executives would add more value.

Julia Zdrahal-Urbanek is Managing Partner of AltoPartners Austria and heads their board practice. She is based in Vienna, Austria.

 

Julie’s Answer

What a mess!

Kalinda is too far removed from the negotiations. She needs to talk with whoever has been handling the merger discussions from her company’s side and find out what are the issues that have led to this decision. If these are a concern to the prospective merger partner they should be a concern to the board.

She then needs to decide how she is going to move forwards when her two most senior executives are on the other party’s board and thus bound to act in the other party’s interests.  Kalinda is in no position to instruct her CEO and/or CFO on whether they should resign; that is a personal decision for them to make. Whilst they are on the other board they cannot act for Kalinda’s board on the merger.

It is the members, rather than the directors, who can vote directors off a board and, until there is a properly constituted members’ meeting they remain on the board unless they resign; they are not off the board simply because the other directors said so!

There should be a draft heads of agreement setting out how the parties will treat each other. Kalinda should reread it and see what it says about the costs of the deal, non-compete on tendering, deferral of projects, and other issues, that have now harmed her company.  She needs to consult her company’s legal adviser and find out if they can recover costs or claim damages.

Most important, she needs to schedule a board meeting and build consensus on a way forward. That is a board decision and not hers, as chair, to make. With any merger, acquisition, or divestment, a good board should always have a contingency plan. It is now time to implement it.

Julie Garland McLellan is a non-executive director and board consultant based in Sydney, Australia.

 

Brendan’s Answer

Kalinda needs to take a hard look at how they approached this potential and so called “friendly” merger.

Conscious Governance uses a six-step model for assessing partnerships, alliances, mergers and acquisitions: you must have the right strategy, information, timing, price, conditions, and integration.

From the information available, Kalinda, her Board and her executives failed significantly in their duty to their own organisation, especially on the first three items.

Firstly, I hear no clear strategic imperative for the merger to be entertained.  It is also puzzling why Kalinda’s CEO and CFO were elected to the other Board.  It is puzzling why Kalinda’s and the organisation’s policies allowed them to join the other board as Directors.  It is also puzzling, if not troubling, that the other Board facilitated their engagement as Directors, especially while merger discussions were underway.

Conscious Governance also encourages Boards to consider 20 tough questions (copies available on request) before embarking on merger discussions, and hopefully before someone wants to merge with you.  One question proposes a $30,000 break fee if the other party pulls out of the merger discussions.  This will test how serious they are.  It would also would have helped Kalinda’s organisation cover some costs but would not recompense lost business opportunities or contracts.

Brendan Walsh is a Senior Associate at Conscious Governance. He is based in Parkville, Victoria, Australia.

 

 

 

 

Les actions multivotantes sont populaires aux États-Unis. Les entreprises canadiennes devraient-elles emboîter le pas ?


Je vous recommande la lecture de cet article d’Yvan Allaire*, président exécutif du conseil d’administration de l’IGOPP, paru dans le Financial Post le 6 mars 2019.

Comme je l’indiquais dans un précédent billet, Les avantages d’une structure de capital composée d’actions multivotantes, celles-ci « n’ont pas la cote au Canada ! Bien que certains arguments en faveur de l’exclusion de ce type de structure de capital soient, de prime abord, assez convaincants, il existe plusieurs autres considérations qui doivent être prises en compte avant de les interdire et de les fustiger ».

Cependant, comme l’auteur le mentionne dans son article, cette structure de capital est de plus en plus populaire dans le cas d’entreprises entrepreneuriales américaines.

Il y a de nombreux avantages de se prévaloir de la formule d’actions multivotantes. Selon Allaire, les entreprises canadiennes, plus particulièrement les entreprises québécoises, devraient en profiter pour se joindre au mouvement.

J’ai reproduit, ci-dessous, l’article publié dans le Financial Post. Quelle est votre opinion sur ce sujet controversé ?

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

Dual-class shares are hot in the U.S. again. Canada should join in

 

 

Image associée
Some 69 dual-class companies are now listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, down from 100 in 2005. Peter J. Thompson/National Post 

American fund managers are freaking out about the popularity of multiple voting shares among entrepreneurs going for an initial public offering (IPO). In recent years, some 20 per cent of American IPOs (and up to a third among tech entrepreneurs) have adopted a dual-class structure. Fund managers are working overtime to squelch this trend.

In Canada, this form of capital structure has been the subject of unrelenting attacks by some fund managers, proxy-advisory firms and, to a surprising degree, by academics. Some 69 dual-class companies are now listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, down from 100 in 2005. Since 2005, only 23 Canadian companies went public with dual-class shares and 16 have since converted to a single-class.

A dual class of shares provides some measure of protection from unwanted takeovers as well as from the bullying that has become a feature of current financial markets. (The benefits of homegrown champions, controlled by citizens of the country and headquartered in that country need no elaboration. Not even the U.S. tolerates a free-for-all takeover regime, but Canada does!)

These 69 dual-class companies have provided 19 of Canada’s industrial champions as well as 12 of the 50 largest Canadian employers. The 54 companies (out of the 69 that were listed on the TSX 10 years ago) provided investors with a mean annual compounded return of 8.98 per cent (median 9.62 per cent) as compared to 5.06 per cent for the S&P/TSX Index and 6.0 per cent for the TSX 60 index (as per calculations by the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations).

As for the quality of their governance, by the standards set by The Globe and Mail for its annual governance scoring of TSX-listed companies, the average governance score of companies without a dual-class of shares is 66.15 while the score of companies with multiple voting shares, once the penalty (up to 10 points) imposed on dual-class companies is removed, is 60.1, a barely significant difference.

 


*Cet article a été et rédigé par Yvan Allaire, Ph. D. (MIT), MSRC, président exécutif du conseil d’administration de l’IGOPP.

Vague de déréglementation des sociétés américaines sous l’administration Trump | Est-ce judicieux ?


Aujourd’hui, un article publié par Mark Lebovitch et Jacob Spaid de la firme Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, paru dans HLS Forum, a attiré mon attention.

En effet, l’article décrit les gestes posés par l’administration Trump qui sont susceptibles d’avoir un impact significatif sur les marchés financiers en réduisant la transparence et la reddition de compte des grandes entreprises publiques soumises à la réglementation de la SEC.

Les auteurs brossent un portrait plutôt sombre des attaques portées à la SEC par l’administration en place.

« Several administration priorities are endangering financial markets by reducing corporate accountability and transparency.

Nearly two years into the Trump presidency, extensive deregulation is raising risks for investors. Several of the administration’s priorities are endangering financial markets by reducing corporate accountability and transparency. SEC enforcement actions under the Administration continue to lag previous years. The Trump administration has also instructed the SEC to study reducing companies’ reporting obligations to investors, including by abandoning a hallmark of corporate disclosure: the quarterly earnings report. Meanwhile, President Trump and Congress have passed new legislation loosening regulations on the same banks that played a central role in the Great Recession. It is important for institutional investors to stay abreast of these emerging developments as they contemplate the risk of their investments amid stark changes in the regulatory landscape ».

L’article s’intitule « In Corporations We Trust : Ongoing Deregulation and Government Protections ». Les auteurs mettent en lumière les actions menées par les autorités réglementaires américaines pour réaffirmer les prérogatives des entreprises.

La SEC fait-elle fausse route en amoindrissant la réglementation des entreprises ? Quel est votre point de vue ?

 

In Corporations We Trust: Ongoing Deregulation and Government Protections

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « SEC »

 

The number of SEC actions against public companies is plummeting

 

The number of SEC actions enforcing the federal securities laws is now lower than in previous administrations. In 2016, before President Trump took office, the SEC filed 868 enforcement actions and recovered $4.08 billion in settlements. These figures declined to 754 enforcement actions and $3.78 billion in settlements in 2017. Enforcement actions against public companies in particular dropped by a third, from 92 actions in 2016 to just 62 in 2017. The first half of 2018 witnessed an even more precipitous decline in SEC enforcement actions. Compared to the same six-month period in 2017, enforcement actions against public companies have dropped by 66 percent, from 45 such actions to just 15. More importantly, recoveries against public companies over the same time period were down a stunning 93.5 percent.

The most recently released data confirms the SEC’s retreat from enforcement. On November 2, 2018, the SEC released its fiscal year 2018 Annual Report: Division of Enforcement, which shows that the SEC’s enforcement efforts and results during the first 20 months under the Trump administration pale in comparison to those of the same period under the Obama administration, with the SEC (1) charging far fewer high-profile defendants, including less than half as many banks and approximately 40 percent fewer public companies; (2) shifting its focus from complex, market-manipulation cases involving large numbers of investors, to simpler, less time-intensive cases involving fewer investors, such as actions against investment advisors accused of lying and stealing; (3) recovering nearly $1 billion less; and (4) returning approximately 62 percent less to investors ($1.7 billion compared to $5 billion).

The enforcement numbers with regard to public companies are consistent with Chairman Jay Clayton’s stated intention to change the SEC’s focus away from enforcement actions against large companies that commit fraud. During his first speech as SEC Chairman, Clayton expressly rejected the enforcement philosophy of former SEC Chair Mary Jo White, who had pushed the SEC to be “aggressive and creative” in pursuing penalties against all wrongdoers to ensure that the SEC would “have a presence everywhere and be perceived to be everywhere.” Clayton stated that “the SEC cannot be everywhere” and that “increased disclosure and other burdens” on public companies “are, in two words, not good.” Rather than utilizing SEC enforcement powers to protect investors and deter fraud, Clayton’s priority is to provide information to investors so they can protect themselves. As Clayton explained, his “short but important message” for investors is that “the best way to protect yourself is to check out who you are dealing with, and the SEC wants to make that easier.” This comment comes dangerously close to “caveat emptor.”

A recent appointee to the SEC under President Trump, Commissioner Hester M. Peirce, is also an advocate for limiting enforcement. Peirce views civil penalties against corporations not as an effective regulatory tool, but rather as an “area of concern” that justifies her vetoing enforcement actions. Commissioner Peirce has also publicly admitted (perhaps touted) that the current SEC is not inclined to bring any cases that involve novel issues that might “push the bounds of authority,” such as those involving “overly broad interpretations of ‘security’ or extraterritorial impositions of the law.” Far from focusing on the interests of investors whose capital literally keeps our markets at the forefront of the global economy, Peirce has expressed concern for the “psychological toll” that an SEC investigation can take on suspected perpetrators of fraud.

Given the SEC’s stark departure from its previous stance in favor of pursuing enforcement actions to protect investors, investors should take extra measures to stay informed about the companies in which they are invested. Investors should also demand increased transparency in corporate reporting, and evaluate their rights in the face of suspected fraud.

 

President Trump directs the SEC to consider eliminating quarterly reporting requirements

 

For generations, investors in the US stock markets have relied on quarterly reports to apprise them of companies’ financial condition, recent developments, and business prospects. Such quarterly reports have been required by the SEC since 1970, and are now widely considered part of the bedrock of corporate transparency to investors. Even before 1970, more than half of the companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange voluntarily issued quarterly reports.

Consistent with a focus on protecting companies, some of whom may well violate SEC rules and regulations, at the expense of the investing public, in August 2018, President Trump instructed the SEC to study whether eliminating quarterly reporting requirements will “allow greater flexibility and save money” and “make business (jobs) even better.” President Trump stated that he based his instruction on advice from “some of the world’s top business leaders,” but provided no evidence of that assertion.

While eliminating quarterly reporting would certainly “allow greater flexibility” for corporations doing the reporting, investors would suffer from the resulting lack of transparency. Unsurprisingly, some of the world’s most prominent financial leaders, including Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon, have criticized the suggested elimination of quarterly reporting. Buffett and Dimon have explained that such reporting is necessary for corporate transparency and “an essential aspect of US public markets.” This makes sense for numerous reasons, including that without quarterly reports, significant corporate events that took place in between reporting periods could go unreported. Notably, Buffett and Dimon acknowledge that quarterly earnings guidance can over-emphasize short-term profits at the expense of long-term focus and growth. Yet they still favor the transparency and accountability offered by quarterly reporting over a world in which companies can effectively “go dark” for extended periods of time.

It is unclear how quickly the SEC may move to review President Trump’s suggested elimination of quarterly reporting. In October 2018, SEC Chairman Clayton explained that quarterly reporting will remain in effect. But days later, the SEC announced that it may, in fact, draft a notice for public feedback on the proposed change.

Meanwhile, Congress is moving forward with legislation that could lead to the elimination of quarterly reporting. In July 2018, the House of Representatives passed the JOBS and Investor Confidence Act of 2018 (aka “JOBS Act 3.0”). If enacted into law, the Act would require that the SEC provide to Congress a cost-benefit analysis of quarterly reporting requirements, as well as recommendations of ways to decrease corporate reporting costs. The harm to investors from decreased reporting is not necessarily a focus of Congress’s request. The Senate is expected to consider the JOBS 3.0 in the near term.

Congress and regulators weaken banking regulations

 

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) is the landmark legislation passed in response to the high-risk, predatory and fraudulent banking practices that led to the Great Recession, and which has as a primary focus on increasing regulation of the financial services industry. President Trump, however, has referred to Dodd-Frank as a “disaster” that has prevented many “friends of [his], with nice businesses” from borrowing money. President Trump made promises on the campaign trail that he would “kill” Dodd-Frank and repeated the same vow early in his presidency, stating that he would “do a big number on” Dodd-Frank.

Making good on his promises, on May 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law Senator Mike Crapo’s Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (the Crapo Bill). The Crapo Bill removes many mandatory oversight measures put in place to ensure that banks engage in transparent and safe lending, investing, and leverage activities, striking a significant blow to Dodd-Frank protections and placing investors’ assets at risk. As Senator Elizabeth Warren stated, despite the Crapo Bill being sold as one that will relieve “small” banks from “big” bank regulation, it puts “American consumers at greater risk.” The Crapo Bill rolled back certain regulations for banks with less than $250 billion in assets under management and rolled back additional regulations for banks with less than $10 billion in assets under management.

For example, the Crapo Bill raises from $50 to $250 billion the threshold at which a bank is considered a systemically important financial institution (SIFI)—the point at which the Federal Reserve’s heightened prudential standards become mandatory (e.g., mandatory stress tests that measure a bank’s ability to withstand a financial downturn). At the time Dodd-Frank was enacted, approximately 40 banks were considered SIFIs. Only 12 banks would now meet that standard. Moreover, proponents of the bill refer to the $250 billion threshold as an “arbitrary” benchmark to assess a bank’s systemic risk, arguing that over sight should be lessened even for banks with more than $250 billion. In short, the Crapo Bill essentially opens the door for the same type of high-risk, predatory and fraudulent banking practices that led to the financial crisis and threatens the stability and prominence of the United States’ financial markets.

A new direction at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) similarly invites banks to increase their leverage and thus threatens the stability of the financial system. OCC head Joseph Otting, a former CEO of OneWest Bank, recently instructed financial institutions that they should not feel bound by OCC leverage regulations, encouraging them to “do what you want as long as it does not impair safety and soundness. It’s not our position to challenge that.” Far from “challenging” the financial entities that the OCC is tasked with regulating, Otting instead has told bankers that they are the OCC’s “customers” and the Trump administration is “very banker-supportive.”

 

Institutional investors are the last line of defense

 

Congress and federal regulators have taken significant steps to change the regulatory landscape, and new efforts are underway to weaken well-established norms from SEC enforcement to quarterly reporting requirements. The core philosophy of those running the SEC and other critical regulators seems to abandon historic concern for investors in favor of a view that government should exist to protect and benefit corporations (whether or not they comply with the law). The institutional investor community should continue to speak out in favor of corporate transparency and help ensure the continued health and prominence of the United States’ financial

Les avantages d’une structure de capital composée d’actions multivotantes


C’est avec ravissement que je vous recommande la lecture de cette onzième prise de position d’Yvan Allaire* au nom de l’IGOPP.

Au Canada, mais aussi dans plusieurs pays, les actions multivotantes n’ont pas la cote ! Bien que certains arguments en faveur de l’exclusion de ce type de structure de capital soient de prime abord assez convaincantes, il existe plusieurs autres considérations qui doivent être prises en compte avant de les interdire et de les fustiger.

Comme l’auteur le mentionne dans ses recommandations, l’analyse attentive de ce type d’action montre les nombreux avantages à se doter de cet instrument.

J’ai reproduit, ci-dessous, le sommaire exécutif du document ainsi que les recommandations. Pour plus de détails, je vous invite à lire le texte au complet.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus. Ils orienteront les nouvelles exigences en matière de gouvernance.

 

Prise de position en faveur des actions multivotantes

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « action multivotantes »

 

Sommaire exécutif

 

En 2018, 69 sociétés ayant des actions à droit de vote supérieur (ADVS) étaient inscrites à la bourse de Toronto alors qu’elles étaient 100 en 2005. De 2005 à 2018, 38 n’avaient plus d’ADVS suite à des fusions, acquisitions, faillites et autres, 16 sociétés avaient converti leurs ADVS en actions à droit de vote unique et 23 nouvelles sociétés ayant des ADVS s’étaient inscrites à la bourse de Toronto
en émettant des ADVS.

Les arguments pour ou contre ce type de structure de capital-actions sont nombreux et, à certains égards, persuasifs. D’une part, certains fonds « proactifs » (notamment les fonds de couverture « activistes ») insistent auprès de conseils et des directions de sociétés publiques ciblées pour que soient prises des mesures et des décisions, qui selon eux feraient accroître le prix de l’action, quand ce n’est pas carrément de chercher à imposer la vente prématurée de l’entreprise au plus offrant. Évidemment, ce phénomène a renforcé la détermination des entrepreneurs à se protéger contre de telles pressions en adoptant lors de leur premier appel public à l’épargne des actions ayant différents droits de vote (davantage aux USA qu’au Canada).

D’autre part, les fonds indiciels et les fonds négociés en bourse (FNB ou ETF en anglais), désormais des investisseurs importants et en croissance, mais obligés de refléter soigneusement dans leurs placements la composition et la valeur des titres des indices boursiers, ne peuvent donc pas simplement manifester leurs insatisfactions en vendant leurs actions. Ils doivent exercer leur influence sur la direction d’une société par l’exercice de leur droit de vote (lequel est restreint dans les sociétés ayant des ADVS) et en exprimant haut et fort leur frustration et leurs désaccords. C’est sans surprise que ces fonds sont farouchement opposés aux actions à droit de vote supérieur, exhortant avec succès les fournisseurs d’indices (ex. : Dow-Jones, et autres) à exclure toutes nouvelles sociétés ayant des actions à droit de vote supérieur.

Ils font aussi campagne, avec moins de succès à ce jour, auprès de la Securities and Exchange Commission des États-Unis (SEC) afin qu’elle interdise cette structure de capital-actions. Leur dernier stratagème en date, promu par le Council of Institutional Investors (CII), serait d’imposer une clause crépusculaire temporelle obligatoire rentrant en vigueur 7 ans après un PAPE3. Bien entendu, ce terme pourrait être renouvelé par un vote majoritaire de  l’ensemble des actionnaires (quels que soient leurs droits de vote).

La question des « clauses crépusculaires » est ainsi devenue un enjeu névralgique. Certains investisseurs institutionnels, les agences de conseils en vote et autres gendarmes de la gouvernance ainsi qu’un certain nombre de chercheurs académiques proposent de restreindre, de contrôler et d’imposer un temps limite à la liberté relative que procurent aux entrepreneurs et aux entreprises familiales les actions à droits de vote supérieurs.

Au cours des dernières années, un vif débat s’est engagé, particulièrement aux États-Unis, entre les apôtres du dogme « une action, un vote » et les hérétiques qui estiment bénéfiques les actions ayant des droits de vote inégaux.

 

Recommandations

 

Les sociétés ayant des ADVS et les entreprises familiales comportent de grands avantages à la condition que soient bien protégés les porteurs d’actions ayant des droits de vote inférieurs.

La clause d’égalité de traitement (« coattail ») imposée depuis 1987 par la Bourse de Toronto, une caractéristique uniquement canadienne, doit être conservée pour les sociétés qui ont émis ou voudraient émettre des actions ayant différents droits de vote.

Comme l’IGOPP l’a fait en 2006, il recommande à nouveau en 2018 que le ratio des droits de vote des ADVS soit plafonné à 4:1, ce qui signifie qu’il est nécessaire de détenir 20 % de la valeur des capitaux propres de la société pour en détenir le contrôle absolu (50 % des votes et plus).

La bourse TSX de Toronto devrait plafonner le ratio des droits de vote des ADVS à 10:1.

Les actions sans droit de vote devraient être interdites ; en effet, il est impossible d’accorder le droit d’élire un tiers des membres du conseil à des actionnaires qui n’ont aucun droit de vote ; ou encore d’assurer un décompte distinct des votes sur les propositions des actionnaires et pour l’élection des membres du conseil à une classe d’actionnaires sans droit de vote !

Nous recommandons fortement un décompte distinct des voix pour chaque classe d’actions et de rendre les résultats publics, tant pour l’élection des membres du conseil d’administration que pour toute autre proposition soumise au vote des actionnaires.

Les actionnaires disposant de droits de vote inférieurs devraient avoir le droit d’élire un tiers des membres du conseil d’administration, dont les candidatures seraient proposées par le conseil. Jumelée au décompte distinct des voix pour chaque classe d’actions, cette mesure inciterait le conseil et les gestionnaires à sélectionner des candidats susceptibles de s’attirer les faveurs des actionnaires « minoritaires ». Évidemment, tous les membres du conseil d’administration ne doivent agir que dans l’intérêt de la société.

Pour les raisons citées précédemment et expliquées par la suite dans la position, l’IGOPP s’oppose résolument à l’imposition de clauses crépusculaires temporelles pour les sociétés ayant des ADVS. Nous sommes aussi contre les clauses crépusculaires déclenchées par un événement précis ainsi que par celles déclenchées en fonction de l’âge du fondateur, de l’entrepreneur ou de l’actionnaire de contrôle.

Toutefois, l’IGOPP recommande qu’à l’avenir une clause crépusculaire basée sur un seuil de propriété (dilution sunset) soit incluse lors du PAPE d’une société faisant usage d’ADVS.

Dans la suite logique de notre démonstration de la valeur économique et sociale des entreprises familiales, l’IGOPP est favorable à une grande latitude de transférabilité du contrôle aux membres de la famille du fondateur.

Également dans la suite de notre appui aux ADVS comme rempart contre les visées à court terme et l’influence indue de certains types de spéculateurs, nous recommandons que le contrôle de ces sociétés puisse aussi être transmis à une fiducie dirigée par une majorité de fiduciaires indépendants au bénéfice des héritiers du fondateur.

Lorsqu’un parent ou un descendant de l’actionnaire de contrôle est candidat pour le poste de PDG, les administrateurs indépendants, conseillés adéquatement, devraient discuter des mérites des divers candidats avec l’actionnaire de contrôle et faire rapport de la démarche adoptée par le conseil pour arrêter son choix à l’assemblée annuelle des actionnaires suivant l’entrée en fonction d’un nouveau chef de la direction.

L’IGOPP est favorable à l’adoption d’une forme d’ADVS comportant des droits de vote supérieurs que pour l’élection de la majorité (ou la totalité) des membres du conseil.

« L’examen approfondi des arguments et des controverses à propos d’actions multivotantes nous mène à la conclusion que les avantages de cette structure l’emportent haut la main sur ses inconvénients.

Non seulement de plus en plus d’études confortent leur performance économique, mais le fait de combiner la propriété familiale et les actions à droit de vote supérieur résulte en une plus grande longévité de l’entreprise, en une meilleure intégration dans les collectivités hôtes, à moins de vulnérabilité aux pressions des actionnaires de court terme et à moins de susceptibilité aux « modes » stratégiques et financières.

Cette précieuse forme de propriété doit être assortie de mesures assurant le respect et la protection des droits des actionnaires minoritaires. Nous avons formulé un certain nombre de recommandations à cette fin. Nous encourageons les sociétés ayant présentement des ADVS et les entrepreneurs qui souhaiteront demain inscrire une société en bourse et émettre des ADVS à adopter nos recommandations ».

 


*Ce document a été préparé et rédigé par Yvan Allaire, Ph. D. (MIT), MSRC, président exécutif du conseil d’administration de l’IGOPP.

Dissension au conseil d’administration et violation de confidentialité


Voici un cas publié sur le site de Julie Garland McLellan qui expose un sérieux problème de gouvernance auquel plusieurs conseils d’administration sont confrontés, surtout dans les OBNL.

Certains administrateurs ont beaucoup de difficulté à soutenir les prises de position du conseil lorsqu’ils sont en profond désaccord avec les décisions du CA.

Comment un président de CA doit-il agir afin de s’assurer que les décisions prises au conseil sont confidentielles et que les administrateurs sont tenus d’y adhérer, même s’ils ne sont pas de l’avis du CA ?

Et comment le président du CA doit-il se comporter lorsque la situation dégénère lourdement comme dans le cas exposé ci-dessous ?

À tout le moins, le membre dissident ne devrait pas défendre son point de vue dissident sur la place publique !

Le cas présente une situation bien réelle et plus fréquente que l’on pense ; puis, trois experts se prononcent de façon relativement unanime sur le dilemme que vit Henry, le président du CA. Il s’agit de :

Jane Davel is a non-executive director and consultant. She is based in Auckland, New Zealand

Julie Garland McLellan is a non-executive director and board consultant based in Sydney, Australia

Lauren Smith is President of the Florida Chapter of NACD and a director on five boards. She is based in Miami, Florida, USA

Je vous invite donc à prendre connaissance de ces avis, en cliquant sur le lien ci-dessous, et me faire part de vos commentaires, si vous le souhaitez.

Bonne lecture !

 

Dissension au conseil d’administration et violation de confidentialité

 

 

 

 

Henry chairs a not-for-profit company and usually finds it a gratifying experience. Recently the company has been through hard times as the government ceased funding some activities although the community still needs them.

Henry and his board worked hard to develop new income streams to support continuing the company’s work. They achieved some success, but not enough to avoid having to discontinue some work and reduce headcount. All directors regretted having to make long-serving and loyal staff redundant. However, they had to find a balance of activity and income that would be sustainable; this was a necessary part of the strategy for success.

One director was vehemently opposed to the changes, preferring to run at a loss, eat into reserves, and hope for a change of heart from the government. When it was clear that this director would never agree, Henry took the matter to a vote and the cuts were approved with only one dissenter. Henry reminded the board that board decisions were ‘board decisions’ and all agreed that they would publicly support the approved course of action.

Since then the CEO has complained to Henry that the dissenting director has spoken to staff suggesting they ‘lawyer up’ to protect themselves from redundancies, oppose the closure of the unsustainable activities, and start a Facebook campaign to ‘shame the government into resuming funding’. Henry has also heard from friends that his dissenter is complaining publicly about the decision even though board policy is that the CEO or Chair are the two authorised spokesmen.

How can Henry handle this dissident director?

Tendances globales en gouvernance et « Trends » régionaux


À l’occasion de la nouvelle année 2019, je partage avec vous une étude de la firme Russell Reynolds Associates sur les tendances en gouvernance selon différentes régions du monde.

L’article a été publié sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum par Jack « Rusty » O’Kelley, III, Anthony Goodman et Melissa Martin.

Ce qu’il y a de particulier dans cette publication ,c’est que l’on identifie cinq (5) grandes tendances globales et que l’on tente de prédire les Trends dans plusieurs régions du monde telles que :

(1) Les États-Unis et le Canada

(2) L’Union européenne

(3) La Grande-Bretagne

(4) Le Brésil

(5) l’Inde

(6) Le Japon

Les grandes tendances observées sont :

(1) la qualité et la composition du CA

(2) le degré d’attention apportée à la surveillance de la culture organisationnelle

(3) les activités des investisseurs qui limitent la primauté des actionnaires en mettant l’accent sur le long terme

(4) la responsabilité sociale des entreprises qui constitue toujours une variable critique et

(5) les investisseurs activistes qui continuent d’exercer une pression sur les CA.

Je vous recommande la lecture intégrale de cette publication pour vous former une opinion réaliste de l’évolution des saines pratiques de gouvernance. Les États-Unis et le Canada semblent mener la marche, mais les autres régions du globe ont également des préoccupations qui rejoignent les tendances globales.

C’est une lecture très instructive pour toute personne intéressée par la gouvernance des sociétés.

Bonne lecture et Bonne Année 2019 !

 

2019 Global & Regional Trends in Corporate Governance

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Russell Reynolds Associates governance »

 

Institutional investors (both active managers and index fund giants) spent the last few years raising their expectations of public company boards—a trend we expect to see continue in 2019. The demand for board quality, effectiveness, and accountability to shareholders will continue to accelerate across all global markets. Toward the end of each year, Russell Reynolds Associates interviews a global mix of institutional and activist investors, pension fund managers, proxy advisors, and other corporate governance professionals regarding the trends and challenges that public company boards may face in the coming year. This year we interviewed over 40 experts to develop our insights and identify trends.

Overview of Global Trends

 

In 2019, we expect to see the emergence or continued development of the following key global governance trends:

 

1. Board quality and composition are at the heart of corporate governance.

Since investors cannot see behind the boardroom veil, they have little choice but to rely on various governance criteria as a stand-in for board quality: whether the board is truly independent, whether its composition is deliberate and under regular review, and whether board competencies align with and support the company’s forward-looking strategy. Directors face increased scrutiny around how equipped the board is with industry knowledge, capital allocation skills, and transformation experience. Institutional investors are pushing to further encourage robust, independent, and regular board evaluation processes that may result in board evolution. Boards will need to be vigilant as they consider individual tenure, director overboarding, and gender imbalance—all of which may provoke votes against the nominating committee or its chair. Gender diversity continues to be an area of focus across many countries and investors. Companies can expect increased pressure to disclose their prioritization of board competencies, board succession plans, and how they are building a diverse pipeline of director candidates. Norges Bank Investment Management, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has set a new standard for at least two independent directors with relevant industry experience on each of their 9,000 investee boards.

2. Deeper focus on oversight of corporate culture.

Human capital and intangible assets, including organizational culture and reputation, are important aspects of enterprise value, as they directly impact the ability to attract and retain top talent. Culture risk exists when there is misalignment between the values a company seeks to embody and the behaviors it demonstrates. Investors are keen to learn how boards are engaging with management on this issue and how they go about understanding corporate culture. A few compensation committees are including culture and broader human capital issues as part of their remit.

3. Investors placing limits on shareholder primacy and emphasizing long-termism.

The role of corporations in many countries is evolving to include meeting the needs of a broader set of stakeholders. Global investors are increasingly discussing social value; long-termism; and environment, social, and governance (ESG) changes that are shifting corporations from a pure shareholder primacy model. While BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s 2018 letter to investee companies on the importance of social purpose and a strategy for achieving long-term growth generated discussion in the US, much of the rest of the world viewed this as further confirmation of the focus on broader stakeholder, as well as shareholder, concerns. Institutional investors are more actively focusing on long-termism and partnering with groups to increase the emphasis on long-term, sustainable results.

4. ESG continues to be a critical issue globally and is at the forefront of governance concerns in some countries.

Asset managers and asset owners are integrating ESG into investment decisions, some under the framework of sustainability or integrated reporting. The priority for investors will be linking sustainability to long-term value creation and balancing ESG risks with opportunities. ESG oversight, improved disclosure, relative company performance against peers, and understanding how these issues are built into corporate strategy will become key focus areas. Climate change and sustainability are critical issues to many investors and are at the forefront of governance in many countries. Some investors regard technology disruption and cybersecurity as ESG issues, while others continue to categorize them as a major business risk. Either way, investors want to understand how boards are providing adequate oversight of technology disruption and cyber risk.

5. Activist investors continue to impact boards.

Activist investors are using various strategies to achieve their objectives. The question for boards is no longer if, but when and why an activist gets involved. The characterization of activists as hostile antagonists is waning, as some activists are becoming more constructive with management. Institutional investors are increasingly open to activists’ perspectives and are deploying activist tactics to bring about desired change. Activists continue to pay close attention to individual director performance and oversight failures. We are seeing even more boards becoming “their own activist” or commissioning independent assessments to preemptively identify vulnerabilities. Firms such as Russell Reynolds are conducting more director-vulnerability analysis, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of board composition and proactively identifying where activists may attack director composition. In the following sections, we explore these trends and how they will impact the United States and Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom, Brazil, India, and Japan.

 

The United States and Canada

Investor stewardship.

Eighty-eight percent of the S&P 500 companies have either Vanguard, BlackRock, or State Street as the largest shareholder, and together these investors collectively own 18.7 percent of all the shares in the S&P 500. Because the index funds’ creators are obligated to hold shares for as long as a company is included in a relevant index (e.g., Dow Jones, S&P 500, Russell 3000), the institutional investors view themselves as permanent capital. These investors view governance not as a compliance exercise, but as a key component of value creation and risk mitigation. Passive investors are engaging even more frequently with companies to ensure that their board and management are taking the necessary actions and asking the right questions. Investors want to understand the long-term value creation story and see disclosure showing the right balance between the long term and short term. They take this very seriously and continue to invest in stewardship and governance oversight. Several of the largest institutional investors want greater focus on long-term, sustainable results and are partnering with organizations to drive the dialogue toward the long term.

Board quality.

Investors are pushing for improved board quality and view board composition, diversity, and the refreshment process as key elements. There is similarly a push for richer insight into director skill relevancy. The Boardroom Accountability Project 2.0 has encouraged more companies to disclose a “board matrix,” setting out the skills, experiences, and demographic profile of directors. That practice is fast becoming the norm for proxy disclosure. Many more institutional investors want richer disclosure around director competencies and a clearer, more direct link between each director’s skills and the company’s strategy. As one investor noted, “We want to know why this collection of directors was selected to lead the company and whether they are prepared for change and disruption.” Some of the largest US institutional investors are pushing for better board succession and board evaluation processes and the use of external firms to assess board quality, composition, and effectiveness. Institutional investors are even more concerned about board succession processes and the continued use of automatic refreshment mechanisms (retirement ages and tenure limits) rather than a “foundational assessment process over time with a mix of internal and external reviewers.”

Board diversity.

In 2019, directors should expect more investors to vote against the nominating committee or its chair if there are no women on the board (or fewer than two women in some cases). Investors want to see an increased diversity of thought and experiences to better enable the board to identify risks and improve company performance. In the US, gender diversity has become a proxy for cognitive diversity. Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has updated its policies on gender diversity for Russell 3000 and S&P 1500 companies and may recommend votes against nominating committee chairs or members beginning in 2020. This follows recent California legislation requiring gender diversity for California-headquartered companies. Some very large investors are starting to take a broader approach to diversity, particularly as it relates to ethnicity and race. In Canada, nearly 40 percent of TSX-listed companies have no women on their boards. Proxy advisors have recently established voting guidelines related to the disclosure of formal gender diversity policies and gender diversity by TSX-listed companies.

ESG.

Investors are pushing companies to consider their broader societal impact—both what they do and how they disclose it. ESG has moved from being a discrete topic to a fundamental part of how investors evaluate companies. They will increasingly focus on how companies explain their approach to value creation, the impact of the company on society, and how companies weigh various stakeholder interests. Other investors will continue to look at ESG primarily through a financial lens, screening for risk identification and measurement, incorporation of ESG into strategy and long-term value creation, and executive compensation. There is continued and growing focus in the US on sustainability and climate change across a range of sectors. In Canada, proactive companies will consider developing and disclosing their own ESG policies and upgrading boards—through both changes in director education and, on occasion, board composition—to ensure that directors are equipped to understand ESG risk.

Oversight of corporate culture.

Given many high-profile failures in corporate culture and leadership over the last few years, investors and regulators will expect more disclosure and will ask more questions regarding how a board understands the company’s culture. When engaging with institutional investors, boards should expect questions regarding how they are understanding and assessing the health of a corporation’s culture. Boards need to reflect on whether they really understand the company culture and how they plan to assess hot spots and potential issues.

Activist investing.

Shareholder activism remains part of the US corporate governance landscape and is continuing to grow in Canada. In Canada, the industries with the highest levels of activism include basic materials, energy, banking, and financial institutions, and emerging sectors with high growth potential (e.g., blockchain, cannabis) could be next. Proxy battles are showing no signs of slowing down, but activists are using other methods to promote change, such as constructive engagement. Canadian companies are also seeing an increase in proxy contests launched by former insiders or company founders. Experts in Canada anticipate this trend will continue and, as a result, increased shareholder engagement will be critical.

Executive compensation.

Investors are looking for better-quality disclosure around pay-for-performance metrics, particularly sustainability metrics linked to risk management and strategy. In the US, institutional investors may vote against pay plans where there is misalignment and against compensation committees where there is “excessive” executive pay for two or more consecutive years. Some investors are uncomfortable with stock performance being a primary driver of CEO compensation since it may not reflect real leadership impact. In Canada, investors are urging companies to adopt say-on-pay policies in the absence of a mandatory vote, even though such adoption rates have been sluggish to date. Investors will likely continue to push for this reform.

Governance codes.

Earlier this year, the Corporate Governance Principles of the Investor Stewardship Group (ISG) went into effect with the purpose of setting consistent governance standards for the US market. Version 2.0 of the Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance was also published. US companies will want to consider proactive disclosure of how they comply with these sets of principles.

European Union

Investors more active.

Institutional investors are expanding resources for their engagement and stewardship teams in Europe. In 2019, investors will focus on connecting governance to long-term value creation through board oversight of talent management, ESG, and corporate culture. Additionally, some US activists are setting their sights on Europe and raising funds focused on European companies. Institutional investors are more willing to support activist investors if inadequate oversight by the board has led to poor share price and total shareholder return (TSR) performance.

Company and board diversity.

Though EU boards tend to have more women directors due to legislation and regulation, progress on gender diversity has not carried over into the C-suite. Boards can expect to engage with investors on this topic and will need to explain the root causes and plans to address it through talent management processes and diversity and inclusion initiatives. With gender diversity regulations already widely adopted across Europe, Austria has now also stipulated that public company boards have at least 30 percent women directors. However, since board terms are usually for five years, the full impact likely will not be visible until future election cycles.

ESG.

Many investors are encouraging use of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework for consistent measurement, assessment, and disclosure of ESG risks. Investors are likely to integrate climate-change competency and risk oversight into their voting guidelines in some form, and boards will need to demonstrate that they are thinking strategically about the opportunities, risks, and impact of climate change. A new legislative proposal in France could mandate that companies consider various stakeholders, the social environment, and the nonfinancial outcome of their actions.

Revised governance codes.

A recent study found strong compliance rates for the German Corporate Governance Code, except for the areas of executive remuneration and board composition recommendations. German boards should expect more investor engagement and pressure on these matters, including enhanced disclosure. Next year, the German code may include amendments impacting director independence and executive compensation. The revised governance code in the Netherlands focuses more closely on how long-term value creation and culture are vital elements within the governance framework. Denmark’s code now recommends that remuneration policies be approved at least every four years and bars retiring CEOs from stepping into the chairman or vice chairman role.

Board leadership.

Norges Bank Investment Management (commonly referred to as The Government Pension Fund Global) is pushing globally for the separation of CEO and chairman roles and independent chair appointments. In France, investors are focused on board composition and quality. Boards should expect to see continued pressure on separating the CEO and chairman roles as well as strengthening the role and prevalence of the lead director. Companies without a lead director could see negative votes against the reelection of the CEO/chair.

United Kingdom

Revised code.

Recent legislation and market activity have set the stage for the United Kingdom to implement governance reforms that will continue to influence global markets. The new UK Corporate Governance code will apply to reporting periods starting from January 1, 2019, although many companies have begun to apply it more quickly. The new code was complemented by updated and enhanced Guidance on Board Effectiveness to reemphasize that boards need to focus on improving their effectiveness—not just their compliance. Meanwhile the voluntary principle of “comply or explain” is itself being tested as the Kingman Review reconsiders the Financial Reporting Council’s powers and its twin role as both the government-designated regulator and the custodian of a voluntary code. Proxy advisors, who are growing more powerful, are also frequently voting against firms choosing to “explain” rather than comply. 2019 code changes include guidance around the board’s duty to consider the perspective of key stakeholders and to incorporate their interests into discussion and decisionmaking. Employees can be engaged via designating an existing non-executive director (already on the board), a workforce advisory committee, or a workforce representative on the board.

Board leadership and composition.

Other changes in the code include prioritizing non-executive chair succession planning and capping non-executive chair total tenure at nine years (including any time spent previously as a non-executive director)—a recommendation which could impact over 10 percent of the FTSE 350. Several investors noted that they understand the new tenure rule may cause unintended consequences around board chair succession planning. Investors are likely to focus on skills mix, diversity, and functional and industry experience. While directors can expect negative votes against their reelection if they are currently on more than four boards, better disclosure of director capacity and commitment may help sway investors.

Culture oversight.

The board’s evolving role in overseeing corporate culture—now explicit in the revised code—will be a primary focus for investors in 2019. The Financial Reporting Council has suggested that culture can be measured using several factors, such as turnover and absenteeism rates, reward and promotion decisions, health and safety data, and exit interviews. The code emphasizes that the board is responsible for a healthy culture that should promote delivering long-term sustainable performance. Auditor reform. Given public concern about recent corporate collapses, the role of external auditor and the structure of the audit firm market are under scrutiny. The government is under pressure to improve auditing and increase competition. Audit independence, rigor, and quality are likely to be examined, and boards may face greater pressure to change auditors more regularly. ISS is changing its policies for its UK/Ireland (and Continental European) policies beginning in 2019. ISS will begin tracking significant audit quality issues at the lead engagement partner level and will identify (when possible) any lead audit partners who have been linked to significant audit controversies.

Activist investors.

While institutional investors’ concerns center around the impact of disruption and how companies are responding with an eye toward long-termism and sustainability, activist campaigns continue to act as a potential counterweight. UK companies account for about 55 percent of activist campaigns in Europe, and UK companies will likely continue to be targeted next year.

Company diversity.

Diversity will continue to be a priority for board attention, including gender and ethnic diversity. The revised code broadened the role of the nominating committee to oversee the development of diversity in senior management ranks and to review diversity and inclusion initiatives and outcomes throughout the business.

Brazil

Outlook.

Following the highly polarized presidential election, Brazil is still facing some political uncertainty around the potential business and political agenda the new government will pursue. Despite recent ministry appointments being generally well received, global investors will likely still be cautious about investing in the country given the government’s deep history of entanglement with corporate affairs.

Governance reforms and stewardship.

Governance regulation is still in its early stages in Brazil and continues to be focused on overhauling compliance practices and implementing governance reforms. Securities regulator CVM recently issued guidelines regarding indemnity agreements between companies and board members (and other company stakeholders), which could lead to possible disclosure implications. The guidance serves to warn companies about potential conflicts of interest, and directors are cautioned to pay close attention to these new policies. Brazilian public companies are now required to file a comply-or-explain governance report as part of the original mandate stemming from the 2016 Corporate Governance Code, with an emphasis on the quality of such disclosures. Stewardship continues to be of growing importance, and boards are at the center of that discussion. The Association of Capital Market Investors is focusing on ensuring that the CVM and other market participants are holding companies to the highest governance standards not issuing waivers or failing to hold companies accountable for their actions.

Improved independence.

There is an ongoing push for more independence within the governance framework. More independent directors are being appointed to boards due to wider capital distribution. Brazil is working toward implementing reforms targeting political appointments within state-owned enterprises (SOE), but progress could slow depending upon the new government’s priorities. Recently, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved legislation that would allow politicians to once again be nominated to SOE boards. The Federal Senate will soon decide on the proposal, but its approval could trigger a backlash. Organizations like the Brazilian Institute of Corporate Governance are firmly positioning themselves against the law change, viewing it as a step back from recent governance progress. However, the Novo Mercado rules and Corporate Governance Code are strengthening the definition of independence and using shareholder meetings to confirm the independence of those directors.

Remote voting.

The recent introduction of the remote voting card for shareholders could have a major impact on boards. Public companies required to implement the new system should expect to see more flexibility and inclusion of minority shareholder-backed nominees on the ballot. While Brazil is making year-over-year progress toward minority shareholder protections, they continue to be a challenge.

Board effectiveness.

Experts anticipate increased pressure to upgrade board mechanics and processes, including establishing a nominations policy regarding board director and committee appointments, routine board evaluation processes, succession planning, and onboarding/training programs. CVM, along with B3 (the Brazilian stock exchange), continues to push for higher governance standards and processes. There is an increased focus on board and director assessment (whether internally or externally led) to ensure board effectiveness and the right board composition. Under the Corporate Governance Code, companies will have to comply or explain why they do not have a board assessment process.

Compensation disclosure.

For almost a decade, Brazilian companies used a court injunction (known as the “IBEF Injunction”) to avoid having to disclose the remuneration of their highest-paid executives. Now that this has been overturned, public companies will be expected to start disclosing compensation information for their highest-paid executives and board members. Companies are concerned that the disclosure may trigger a backlash among minority shareholders and negative votes against remuneration.

India

Regulatory reform.

Motivated by a desire to attract global investments, curb corruption, and strengthen corporate governance, India is continuing to push for regulatory reform. In the spring of 2018, much to the surprise of many, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) adopted many of the 81 provisions put forward by the Kotak Committee. The adoption of the recommendations has caused many companies to consider and aspire to meet this new standard. Kotak implementation has triggered a significant wave of governance implications centered around improving transparency and financial reporting. The adoption of these governance reforms is staggered, with most companies striving to reach compliance between April 2019 and April 2020.

Board composition, leadership, and independence.

Boards will face enhanced disclosure rules regarding the skills and experience of directors, which has triggered many companies to engage in board composition assessments. Directors will also be limited in the number of boards they can serve on simultaneously: eight in 2019; seven in 2020. The top 1,000 listed companies in India will need to ensure they have a minimum of six directors on their boards by April 2019, with the next 1,000 having an additional year to comply. Among other changes are new criteria for independence determinations and changes to director compensation. Additionally, the CEO or managing director role and the chair role must be separated and cannot be held by the same person for the top 500 listed companies by market capitalization. This will significantly change board leadership and control in many companies where the role was held by the same person, and it will boost overall independence. To further drive board and director independence, the definition of independence was strengthened, and board interlocks will receive greater scrutiny.

Board diversity.

India continues to make improvements toward gender diversity five years after the Companies Act of 2013 and ongoing pressure from investors and policymakers. Nevertheless, institutional investors and proxy advisors are calling for more progress, as a quarter of women appointments are held by family members of the business owners (and are thus not independent). Starting in 2019, boards of the top 500 listed companies will need to ensure they have at least one independent woman director; by 2020, the top 1,000 listed companies will need to comply.

Board effectiveness.

The reforms also include a requirement for the implementation of an oversight process for succession planning and updating the board evaluation and director review process.

Investor expectations.

Governance stakeholders are eager to see how much progress Indian companies will make during the next 18 months, but many are not overly optimistic given the magnitude of change required in such a short period of time. Investors are setting their expectations accordingly and understand that regional governance norms will not transform overnight. While it is unclear exactly how the government and regulators will respond to noncompliance, companies and their boards are feeling anxious about the potential repercussions and penalties.

Japan

Continued focus on governance.

The Japanese government continues to be a driving force for corporate governance improvements. To make Japan more attractive to global investors, policymakers are increasingly focused on improving board accountability. Despite a trend toward more proactive investor stewardship, regulatory bodies including the Financial Services Agency continue to lead reforms, with several new comply-or-explain guidelines added to the Amended Corporate Governance Code that came into effect in 2018. These guidelines, such as minimum independence requirements, establishing an objective CEO succession and dismissal process, and the unloading of cross-shareholdings, are aimed at enhancing transparency.

Director independence.

Director independence has been a concern for investors, with outside directors taking only about 31 percent of board seats. Though some observers perceive a weakening of language in the code regarding independence, investors are unlikely to lower their expectations and standards. The amended code now calls for at least one-third of the board to be composed of outside directors (up from the quota requirement of two directors that existed previously). The change is intended to encourage transparency and accountability around the board’s decision-making process. Starting next year, ISS will adopt a similar approach to its Japanese governance policies, employing a one-third independence threshold as well.

Executive compensation.

Given recent scandals, institutional investors and regulators will continue to pay close attention to the structure of executive compensation. Performance-based compensation plans will be a major area of focus in 2019. More companies are introducing new types of equity-based compensation schemes, such as restricted stock, and are expected to follow the trend into next year. Board diversity. Over 50 percent of listed companies still have no women on their boards. To upgrade board quality and performance, investors will likely engage more forcefully on gender diversity, board composition and processes, board oversight duties and roles, and the board director evaluation process.

ESG.

In 2019, boards can expect more shareholder interest in sustainability metrics and strategy. Investors are keen to see enhanced disclosure that aids their understanding of value creation and the link to performance targets, as well as explanations concerning board monitoring.

Activist investing.

Activism continues to rise in Japan, and we expect that trend to continue. Activists are showing a willingness to demand a board seat and engage in proxy battles, and institutional investors are increasingly willing to support the activist recommendations.

Governance practices.

Investors also will be paying close attention to several other governance practices, such as the earlier disclosure of proxy materials and delivery in digital format, and protecting the interest of minority shareholders. The code further emphasizes succession planning by requiring companies to implement a fair and transparent process for the CEO’s removal and succession. As a result, more companies are introducing nominating committees and discussing

CEO succession.

Companies are also being urged to unload their cross-shareholdings (when a listed company owns stock of another company in the same listing) and adopt controls that will determine whether the ownership of such equity is appropriate. Such holdings are likely to be policed more by regulators due to the tendency of such holdings to insulate boards from external pressure, including takeover bids.

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*Jack “Rusty” O’Kelley, III is Global Leader of the Board Advisory & Effectiveness Practice, Anthony Goodman is a member of the Board Consulting and Effectiveness Practice, and Melissa Martin is a Board and CEO Advisory Group Specialist at Russell Reynolds Associates.at Russell Reynolds Associates. This post is based on a Russell Reynolds memorandum by Mr. O’Kelley, Mr. Goodman, and Ms. Martin.

 

Enquête de Deloitte sur la diversité des conseils d’administration ! En rappel


Il existe une solide unanimité sur l’importance d’accroître la diversité dans les conseils d’administration.

Mike Fucci, président du conseil de Deloitte, nous présente une excellente infographie* sur le sujet.

Voici un sommaire des thèmes traités dans son article, paru dans Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

(1) Perception de la diversité dans les conseils d’administration

Les CA sont d’accord avec la nécessité d’une grande diversité

Les leaders perçoivent clairement les bienfaits de la diversité

Cependant, il y a peu d’administrateurs qui voient le manque de diversité comme un problème majeur !

(2) Recrutement et pratiques d’évaluation

Les CA s’en remettent trop souvent aux critères traditionnels de sélection des administrateurs (grande expérience de management ou de PDG)

Environ la moitié des organisations qui ont des plans de relève n’ont pas de processus de recrutement comportant des habiletés liées à la diversité

Presque toutes les organisations sont conscientes que les politiques concernant la limitation du nombre de mandats et de l’âge sont nécessaires pour assurer le renouvellement du CA

Cependant, les pratiques utilisées semblent limiter la diversité

(3) Nouveau modèle de gouvernance — la mixtocratie

Atteindre un équilibre entre l’expérience souhaitée et la diversité requise

Nécessité de revoir la notion de risque

Faire la promotion du modèle de diversité

Revoir systématiquement la composition du conseil

Redynamiser la planification de la relève

Avoir des objectifs clairs de diversité

 

L’infographie présentée parle d’elle-même. Bonne lecture !

 

 

2017 Board Diversity Survey

 

 

 

Part 1. Perceptions of board diversity

 

The findings in this section show that the survey found nearly universal agreement on the need for diverse skill sets and perspectives on the board, and on the potential benefits of diversity.

 

Boards agree on the need for diversity

 

Note, however, that this finding does not reveal where diversity of skill sets and perspectives are needed. Thus, the skills and perspectives could be those of, say, financial or operating or information
technology executives. Such backgrounds would represent diversity of skills and perspectives, but not the demographic diversity that the term “diversity” usually implies.

Demographic diversity remains an essential goal in that gender and racial differences are key determinates of a person’s experiences, attitudes, frame of reference, and point of view.

As the next finding reveals, however, respondents do not see demographic diversity as enough.

 

Board members see diversity as going beyond basic demographics

 

Nine in ten respondents agree that gender and racial diversity alone does not produce the diversity required for an organization to be innovative or disruptive. This may be surprising, given that gender and racial differences are generally seen as contributing to diverse perspectives. Yet those contributions may be tempered if recruiting and selection methods skew toward candidates with the backgrounds and experiences of white males with executive experience.

More to the point, it would be unfortunate if a focus on diversity of skills and perspectives were to undermine or cloud the focus on gender and racial diversity. In fact, typical definitions of board diversity include a demographic component. Deloitte’s 2016 Board Practices Report found that 53 percent of large-cap and 45 percent of mid-cap organizations disclose gender data on their board’s diversity; the respective numbers for racial diversity are, far lower, however: 18 percent and 9 percent. [1]

So, the deeper questions may be these: How does the board go about defining diversity? Does its definition include gender and racial factors? Does it also include factors such as skills, experiences, and perspectives? Will the board’s practices enable it to achieve diversity along these various lines?

Before turning to practices, we consider the potential benefits of diversity.

 

Leaders overwhelmingly perceive benefits in diversity

 


Taken at face value, these answers indicate that boards believe in diversity, however they go about defining it, for business reasons and not just for its own sake or reasons of social responsibility.

 

…Yet relatively few see a lack of diversity as a top problem

 

The foregoing findings show that leaders believe that boards need greater diversity of skills and perspectives, that demographic diversity alone may not produce that diversity, and that diversity is seen as beneficial in managing innovation, disruption, and business performance. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, few respondents cited a lack of diversity as a top problem.

So, while 95 percent of respondents agree that their board needs to seek out more candidates with diverse skills and perspectives, far smaller percentages cite lack of diversity as among the top problems they face in candidate recruitment or selection.

Does this reflect contentment with current board composition and acceptance of the status quo?

Perhaps, or perhaps not.

However, we can say that many board recruitment and selection practices remain very traditional.

 

Part 2. Recruitment and evaluation practices

 

Board recruitment practices have arguably not kept pace with the desire and need for greater board diversity.

 

Boards still rely on traditional candidate criteria

 

In addition, 81 percent of respondents would expect multiple board members to see a candidate without executive experience as unqualified to serve on the board.

The low percentage of women candidates (16 percent) is striking, as is that of racial minorities (19 percent). However, that may be a logical outcome of a process favoring selecting candidates with board experience—who historically have tended to be white and male.

So, in the recruitment process, board members are often seeking people who tend to be like themselves—and like management. Such a process may help to reinforce a lack of diversity in perspectives and experiences, as well as (in most companies) in gender and race.

Relying on resumes, which reflect organizational and educational experience, helps to reinforce traditional patterns of board composition.

 

About half of organizations have processes focused on diverse skills and disruptive views

 

Given all their other responsibilities, many boards understandably rely on existing recruitment tools and processes. They use resumes, their networks, and executive recruiters—all of which tend to generate results very similar to past results.

However, our current disruptive environment likely calls for more creative approaches to reaching diverse candidates. Some organizations have taken steps to address these needs.

 

Our survey did not assess the nature or extent of the processes for recruiting candidates with diverse skills or perspectives, indicating an area for further investigation.

 

Policies affecting board refreshment

 

Policies, as well as processes, can affect board composition. Low turnover on boards can not only hinder movement toward greater diversity but also lead to myopic views of operations or impaired ability to oversee evolving strategies and risks.

While board members expressed agreement with term and age limits, the latter are far more common. Our separate 2016 Board Practices Report found that 81 percent of large-cap and 74 percent of mid-cap companies have age limits, but only 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively, have term limits. [2] This evidences a large gap between agreement with term limits as an idea and term limits as a practice.

 

Current practices tend to limit diversity

 

Deloitte’s 2016 Board Practices Report also found that 84 percent of large-cap and 90 percent of mid-cap organizations most often rely on current directors’ recommendations of candidates. [3] That same study found that 68 percent and 79 percent, respectively, use a recruiting firm when needed, and that 62 percent and 79 percent use a board skills matrix or similar tool.

Relying on current directors’ recommendations will generally produce candidates much like those directors. Recruiting firms can be valuable, but tend to adopt the client’s view of diversity. Tools such as board competency matrices generally do not account for an organization’s strategy, nor do they provide a very nuanced view of individual board members’ experiences and capabilities. In other words, bringing people with diverse skills, perspectives, and experiences to the board—as well as women and racial and ethnic minorities—requires more robust processes than those currently used by most boards.

 

Part 3. A path forward—The Mixtocracy Model

 

The term meritocracy describes organizational advancement based upon merit—talents and accomplishments—and aims to combat the nepotism and cronyism that traditionally permeated many businesses. However, too often meritocracy results in mirrortocracy in which all directors bring similar perspectives and approaches to governance, risk management, and other board responsibilities.

A board differs from a position, such as chief executive officer or chief financial officer, in that it is a collection of individuals. A board is a team and, like any other team, it requires people who can fulfill specific roles, contribute different skills and views, and work together to achieve certain goals.

Thus, a board can include nontraditional members who will be balanced out by more traditional ones. Many existing recruiting methods do too little to achieve true diversity. The prevalence of those criteria and methods can repeatedly send boards back to the same talent pool, even in the case of women and minority candidates. For example, Deloitte’s 2016 Board Diversity Census shows that female and black directors are far more likely than white male directors to hold multiple Fortune 500 board seats. [4]

Therefore, organizations should consider institutionalizing a succession planning and recruitment process that more closely aligns to their ideal board composition and diversity goals. Here are three ways to potentially do that:

 Look beyond “the tried and true.” Even when boards account for gender and race, current practices may tend to source candidates with similar views. Succession plans should create seats for those who are truly different, for example someone with no board experience but a strong cybersecurity background or someone who more closely mirrors the customer base.

Take a truly analytical approach. Developing the optimal mix on the board calls for considering risks, opportunities, and markets, as well as customers, employees, and other stakeholders. A data-driven analytics tool that assesses management’s strategies, the board’s needs, and desired director attributes can help define the optimal mix in light of those factors.

Use more sophisticated criteria. Look beyond resumes and check-the-box approaches to recruiting women, minorities, and those with the right title. Surface-level diversity will not necessarily generate varying perspectives and innovative responses to disruption. Deep inquiry into a candidate’s outlook, experience, and fit can take the board beyond standard criteria, while prompting the board to more fully consider women and minority candidates—that is, to not see them mainly as women and minority candidates.

To construct and maintain a board that can meet evolving governance, advisory, and risk oversight needs, leaders should also consider the following steps.

 

Rethink risk

 

Digitalization continues to disrupt the business landscape. The ability to not only respond to disruption, but to proactively disrupt, has commonly become a must. Yet boards have historically focused on loss prevention rather than value creation. Every board should ask itself who best can help in ascertaining that management is taking the right risks to innovate and win in the marketplace. The more diversity of thought, perspectives, experiences, and skills a board collectively possesses, the better it can oversee moves into riskier territory in an informed and useful way—and to assist management in making bold decisions that are likely to pay off.

 

Elevate diversity

 

Current definitions of board diversity tend to focus on at-birth traits, such as gender and race. While such diversity is essential, it may promote a check-the-box approach to gender and racial diversity. Boards that include those traits and also enrich them by considering differences gained through employment paths, industry experiences, educational, artistic, and cultural endeavors, international living, and government, military, and other service will more likely achieve a true mix of perspectives
and capabilities.

They may also develop a more holistic vision of gender and racial diversity. After all, woman and minority board members do not want to be “women and minority board members”—they want to be board members. In other words, this approach should aim to generate a fuller view of candidates and board members, as well as more diversity of skills and perspectives and gender and race.

 

Retool board composition

 

Current tools for achieving an optimal mix of directors can generally be classified as simplistic, generic, and outdated. They often help in organizing information, but provide little to no support in identifying strategic needs and aligning a board’s skills, perspectives, and experiences with those needs.

Successful board composition typically demands analysis of data on organizational strategies, customer demographics, industry disruption, and market trends to identify gaps and opportunities. A board should consider not only individual member’s profiles but also assess the board as one working body to ascertain that complementary characteristics and capabilities are in place or can be put in place.

A tool to support this analysis should be the initial input into the succession planning and recruitment process. It should also be used in ongoing assessments to help ensure that the board equals a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

 

Revitalize succession planning

 

The process of filling an open board position may be seen as similar to that for recruiting C-suite candidates. But that would ignore the fact that the board is a collection of individuals rather than a single role. An approach geared to creating a mixtocracy can strengthen the board by combining individual differences in a deliberate manner. Differing gender and ethnic backgrounds as well as skills, perspectives, and experiences can make for more rigorous, far-reaching, and thought-provoking discussions, inquiries, and challenges. This can enable the board to provide a more effective counterbalance to management as well as better support in areas such as innovation, disruption, and assessments of strategies, decisions, and underlying assumptions.

In plans for board succession, the uniqueness of thought an individual will bring to the table can be as important as his or her more ostensible characteristics and accomplishments.

 

Toward greater board diversity

 

Given its responsibility to provide guidance on strategy, oversight of risk, governance of practices, and protection of shareholders’ interests, the board arguably has a greater need for diversity than the C-suite, where diversity also enriches management. The path forward remains long, but it is becoming increasing clear as boards continue to work toward achieving greater diversity on multiple fronts.

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Endnotes

1 2016 Boards Practices Report – A transparent look at the work of the board. Tenth edition, 2017, Society for Corporate Governance and Deloitte Development LLC.(go back)

2 ibid.(go back)

3 ibid.(go back)

4 Missing Pieces Report: The 2016 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards, 2017, Deloitte Development LLC.(go back)


*The 2017 board diversity survey was conducted in spring 2017 among 300 board members and C-suite executives at U.S. companies with at least $50 million in annual revenue and at least 1,000 employees. Conducted by Wakefield Research via an email invitation and online questionnaire, the survey sought to ascertain respondents’ perspectives on board diversity and their organizations’ criteria and practices for recruiting and selecting board members. The margin of error for this study is +/- 5.7 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.