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 !

 

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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.

 

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.

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?

Faut-il rémunérer les administrateurs d’OBNL ? Une étude de cas


Voici un cas publié sur le site de Julie Garland McLellan qui expose un problème très réel dans la plupart des OBNL. Comment la présidente du CA doit-elle agir afin de respecter les politiques de rémunération en vigueur dans son organisme ?

La situation décrite dans ce cas se déroule dans une organisation à but non lucratif (OBNL) qui vient de recruter un nouvel administrateur, sur recommandation du Ministère de l’Éducation, qui provient d’une communauté autochtone bénéficiaire des bourses de l’organisation.

Dans ce cas, le nouvel administrateur a accepté de siéger au conseil sans rémunération et sans remboursement de dépenses. C’est la politique de l’organisme qui s’applique à tous les autres administrateurs.

À la première réunion du CA, celui-ci insiste pour se faire rembourser ses frais de voyage et il demande une rémunération de 1 000 $ par réunion. Devant un refus, il avise le ministère de son insatisfaction.

Comment Victoria, la présidente du conseil, doit-elle agir afin de dénouer cette impasse ?

Le cas présente la situation de manière assez explicite ; puis, trois experts se prononcent sur le dilemme que vit Victoria.

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 !

Faut-il rémunérer les administrateurs d’OBNL ? | Un cas particulier

 

 

Victoria chairs the board of a not-for-profit organisation that offers scholarships at leading boarding schools for children in secondary education from disadvantaged backgrounds and living in regional, rural and remote communities. Many of the beneficiaries are from indigenous peoples and her board was delighted when the Minister for Education offered to help them source a new director. The Minister suggested a high profile and well-connected leader from a beneficiary community. It seemed just what they needed.

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « rémunération OBNL »

The new director met Victoria for a coffee and said that he was delighted to be joining her board as his people had great need for quality education. He had some good insights about sourcing grant funds to supplement their current bequests and donations. He then met some other directors, and all agreed that he would be a perfect addition to the board. A letter of appointment was sent and a consent form was received.

At his first board meeting the new director asked for the company to pay his travel and accommodation in attending the meeting and also for a sitting fee of one thousand dollars. He said this was a legitimate expectation and that he was paid for his service on other boards. The letter of appointment clearly stated that directors were unremunerated and attended meetings at their own cost. Now he has complained to the Minister that he hasn’t been paid and a staffer has called to ask why not.

How can Victoria resolve this difference between the expectations of the board and its new director?

Attention aux huis clos du CA | en rappel


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

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

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

Ainsi, le huis clos :

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

(2) doit comporter une limite de temps

(3) doit être piloté par le PCA

(4) doit comporter un suivi systématique et

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

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

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

 

registre-conseils-d-administration

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you using in-camera meetings ?

Le comité exécutif et le conseil d’administration


Voici une discussion très intéressante paru sur le groupe de discussion LinkedIn Board of Directors Society, et initiée par Jean-François Denaultconcernant la nécessité de faire appel à un comité exécutif.

Je vous invite à lire les commentaires présentés sur le fil de discussion du groupe afin de vous former une opinion.

Personnellement, je crois que le comité exécutif est beaucoup trop souvent impliqué dans des activités de nature managériale.

Dans plusieurs cas, le CA pourrait s’en passer et reprendre l’initiative !

Qu’en pensez-vous ?

____________________________________________________

 

La situation exposée par  est la suivante (en anglais) :

I’m looking for feedback for a situation I encountered.
I am a board member for a non-profit. Some of us learned of an issue, and we brought it up at the last meeting for an update.
We were told that it was being handled by the Executive Committee, and would not be brought up in board meetings.
It is my understanding that the executive committee’s role is not to take issues upon themselves, but to act in interim of board meetings. It should not be discussing issues independently from the board.
Am I correct in thinking this? Should all issues be brought up to the board, or can the executive committee handle situations that it qualifies as « sensitive »?

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « comité exécutif »

 

The Role of the Executive Committee versus the main board of directors

 

Alan Kershaw

Chair of Regulatory Board

Depends whether it’s an operational matter I guess – e.g. a staffing issue below CEO/Director level. If it’s a matter of policy or strategy, or impacts on them, then the Board is entitled to be kept informed, surely, and to consider the matter itself.

 

John Dinner

John T,  Dinner Board Governance Services

Helping boards improve their performance and contributionI’ll respond a bit more broadly, Jean-François. While I am not opposed to the use of executive committees, a red flag often goes up when I conduct a governance review for clients and review their EC mandate and practices. There is a slippery slope where such committees find themselves assuming more accountability for the board’s work over time. Two classes of directors often form unintentionally as a result. Your situation is an example where the executive committee has usurped the board’s final authority. While I don’t recommend one approach, my inclination is to suggest that boards try to function without an executive committee because of the frequency that situations similar to the one you describe arise at boards where such committees play an active role. There are pros and cons, of course, for having these committees, but I believe the associated risk often warrants reconsideration of their real value and need.

 

Chuck Molina

Chief Technology Officer at DHI

I currently sit on the EC and have been in that role with other boards. Although I can see the EC working on projects as a subset of the board we Always go back to the full board and disclose those projects and will take items to the full board for approval. The board as a whole is accountable for decisions! There has to be transparency on the board! I found this article for you. http://www.help4nonprofits.com/BrainTeaser/BrainTeaser-Role_of_Executive_Committee.htm , which concurs to John’s comment. If used correctly the EC or a subset of the board can work on board issues more efficiently then venting through the full board, but they should always go back to the Full board for consideration or approval.  

 

Dave Chapman

CHM and CEO of NorthPoint ERM

I have experienced couple of EB’s and unless the company is in deep financial or legal trouble for the most part the took away from the main board and in the whole worked ok but not great. If the board has over 10 to 15 board members it is almost a requirement but the board them is there for optics more than or effective and efficient decision making

Experienced CEO & Board member of Domestic and European companies.

I think Mr. Dinner, Mr. Molina, and Mr. Chapman summed it up beautifully:
– You cannot have two classes of Directors
– You have to have transparency and every Board member is entitled to the same information
– A Board of 10-15 members is inefficient and may need committees, but that does not change the fact that all Board members are entitled to have input into anything that the Board decides as a body.
– An Executive Committee is a sub-committee of the entire Board, not an independent body with extraordinary powers.

 

Al Errington

Entrepreneur & Governance Advocate

I agree with John, executive committees tend to be a slippery slope to bad governance. The board of directors has the responsibility of direction and oversight of the business or organization. If anything goes substantially wrong, the board of directors will also be accountable, legally. The rules of thumb for any and all committees is
– Committees must always be accountable to the board of directors, not the other way around.
– Committees must always have limits defined by the board of directors on authority and responsibility, and should have limits on duration.
– Committees should always have a specific reason to exist and that reason should be to support the board of directors in addressing it’s responsibilities. 

 

Emerson Galfo

Consulting CFO/COO / Board Member/Advisor

Judging from the responses, we need to clearly define the context of what an Executive Committee is. Every organization can have it’s own function/view of what an Executive Committee is.

From my experience, an Executive Committee is under the CEO and reflects a group of trusted C-level executives that influence his decisions. I have had NO experience with Executive Boards other than the usual specific Board Committees dealing with specific realms of the organization.

So coming from this perspective, the Executive Committee is two steps down from the organizational pecking order and should be treated or viewed in that context.. 

 

Terry Tormey

President & CEO at Prevention Pharmaceuticals Inc.

I concur with Mr. James Clouser (above).
They should be avoided except in matters involving a performance question regarding C-Level Executive Board member, where a replacement may be sought.

 

John Baily

Board of Directors at RLI Corp

James hit the nail on the head. Executive committees are a throwback to times when we didn’t have the communication tools we do now. They no longer have a reason for their existence. All directors, weather on a not for profit or a corporate board have equal responsibilities and legal exposures. There is no room or reason for a board within a board in today’s world.

 

Chinyere Nze

Chief Executive Officer

My experience is; Board members have the last say in all policy issues- especially when it concerns operational matter. But in this case, where there is Executive Committee, what it sounds like is that, the organization in question has not clearly identified, nor delineated the roles of each body- which seem to have brought up the issue of ‘conflict’ in final decision- making. Often Executive Committees are created to act as a buffer or interim to the Board, this may sometime cause some over-lapping in executive decision-making.

My suggestion is for the organization to assess and evaluate its current hierarchy- clearly identify & define roles-benefits for creating and having both bodies, and how specific policies/ protocol would benefit the organization. In other words, the CEO needs to define the goals or benefits of having just a Board or having both bodies, and to avoid role conflict or over-lap, which may lead to confusion, as it seems to have been the case here. 

 

STEPHEN KOSMALSKI

CEO / PRESIDENT/BOARD OF DIRECTORS /PRIVATE EQUITY OPERATING PARTNER known for returning growth to stagnant businesses

The critical consideration for all board members is ‘ fiduciary accountability’ of all bod members. With that exposure , all bod members should be aware of key issues . 

 

Thomas Brattle « Toby » Gannett

President and CEO at BCR Managment

I think for large organizations, that executive committees still have an important role as many board members have a great deal going on and operational matters may come up from time to time that need to be handled in a judicial manner. While I think that the Executive committee has an important, at times critical role for a BOD, it is also critical that trust is built between the executive Committee and the BOD. This is only done when the executive committee is transparent, and pushes as many decisions that it can to the full board. If the committee does not have time to bring a matter to the full BOD, then they must convey to the BOD the circumstances why and reasoning for their decision. It is the executive committees responsibility to build that trust with the BOD and work hard to maintain it. All strategic decisions must be made by the full BOD. It sounds like you either have a communication failure, governance issue, or need work with your policies and procedures or a combination of issues.

 

Cinq questionnements qui préoccupent les nouveaux administrateurs de sociétés | SpencerStuart


Aujourd’hui, je reviens sur un texte vraiment très important de SpencerStuart qui propose des conseils aux nouveaux administrateurs qui acceptent de siéger à des conseils d’administration, peu importe le type d’organisation.

Les conseils prodigués par les auteurs George AndersonTessa BamfordJason BaumgartenKevin A. Jurd, afin d’accélérer l’efficacité des nouveaux administrateurs peuvent se résumer essentiellement à cinq grandes préoccupations :

  1. Comment puis-je savoir si je choisis le bon CA ? Quels devoirs dois-je accomplir avant d’accepter une offre ?
  2. Comment dois-je me préparer pour ma première réunion du conseil ?
  3. Quels comportements en matière de prises de parole dois-je adopter lors de cette première rencontre ?
  4. Quelles sont les stratégies à adopter pour avoir un impact et une plus-value sur le CA et sur l’entreprise ?
  5. Si j’expérimente une grande préoccupation, comment montrer mon désaccord ou soulever une question délicate ?

 

À l’heure où environ le tiers des postes d’administrateurs sont occupés par de nouvelles recrues, il est crucial de bien explorer les occasions qui se présentent, car un engagement comme administrateur peut nous occuper plus de 20 jours par année, pour une période de neuf ans !

Je vous invite donc à lire attentivement ce document si vous êtes dans votre première année d’un mandat qui pourrait être assez long.

Bonne lecture !

 

The Five Most Common New Director Questions

 

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No matter how experienced they are as leaders or how much previous boardroom exposure they have had, most first-time directors will admit to having some trepidation before their first board meeting: What will the first board meeting be like? Should I say anything at all in my first meeting? Am I prepared?

Helping these directors quickly acclimate matters because, depending on the country, first-timers can represent a sizable share of the new director population in a given year. One-third of newly appointed S&P 500 directors in the U.S., for example, are serving on their first corporate board, as are about 30 percent of new U.K. non-executive directors. Given the escalating demands on boards, new directors must be prepared to quickly contribute.

In working with first-time board directors around the world and the chairmen and lead independent directors of the boards they join, we have found that their questions and concerns about board experience typically fall into the five following areas:

  1. How do I know what’s the right board to join? Should I say yes to the first board invitation?
  2. What do I need to do to prepare for my first board?
  3. How much should I speak up during the early board meetings?
  4. How can I have an impact for the board and company?
  5. What if I have concerns? How do I disagree or raise questions when I’m new?

To explore these first-time director questions in more detail, we spoke with directors around the world who shared what they learned from their first board experience and offered observations that boards can use to enhance their new director onboarding programs.

 

(1) Selecting the right opportunity

 

Most directors would describe their first non-executive board role as a major professional milestone, a terrific growth opportunity and something they are very glad they did, even though it represented a significant commitment. Given the demands of board service — 20-30 days a year up to nine or more years — it pays to carefully weigh the pros and cons of a given opportunity. The key question, say directors, is whether it is mutually beneficial — one that the prospective director finds engaging and useful as a growth opportunity and that adds a valuable perspective to the board. As one director put it, “You need something that will bind you to the job, because it is a lot of time.” Ask yourself, “Is this a business that I will still be interested in, say, in six to nine years’ time?”

Other considerations may be who else is on the board — especially the opportunity to work with a good chair and gain exposure to experienced executives from other industries — the strength and diversity of the management team, and how well the board and management team work together, which in part reflects how much the CEO values the board’s contribution. “I asked the CEO, ‘Do you like having a board?’ And he very honestly said, ‘Mostly.’ If he’d said to me, ‘I think they’re marvelous all the time,’ I’d know he was lying because that’s just not how executives think,” recalls one director.

When considering whether you can balance board service with other commitments, particularly if you have a full-time executive role, understand that you will likely underestimate how much time it will take, especially early on. “It took much more time than I thought would be required initially to get up to speed — to understand the business, strategies, key issues and opportunities,” one director told us. If you have to travel to meetings, plan on that adding a day or two to the board meeting commitment. You also should allow time for work related to committee assignments and, depending on your expertise, you may be tapped to mentor someone on the executive team, work on issues outside of board meetings or respond to unexpected demands related to a crisis or deal. “It can be hard to budget for that, and it can happen at the worst time. But you can’t shake off your responsibilities at the time when you’re needed most, when there’s an activist or stakeholder issue, a significant transition or a succession planning issue that you have to work through.”

Conversely, don’t immediately take yourself out of the running for a very valuable opportunity. “If I thought too much about the time commitment, there is a chance I would have turned it down, which would have been a terrible thing,” one director told us. Equally do your research; it’s amazing the sorts of businesses that initially might seem not right for you but on further research are really interesting and worth pursuing.

 

(2) Preparing for the first board meeting

 

As part of your due diligence, you will already have read published information about the company, and it goes without saying that new directors will have received a wealth of material as part of the onboarding process and in advance of the first meeting. What many don’t appreciate before they’ve done it is just how much pre-reading material there can be, and the amount of time it can take to thoroughly digest it.

Many first-time directors have presented to their own company’s board of directors, but these encounters provide just a narrow glimpse of the board’s responsibilities. For this reason, some first-time directors find it helpful to attend a formal director education program providing a deep dive into corporate governance, including the board’s fiduciary responsibilities and areas such as NED liability, reporting to shareholders and reporting on sustainability. “They expect you to have an understanding of governance when you come in. They’re happy to answer questions, but they’re not going to know what you don’t know. If you don’t even know what you don’t know, then you don’t know to ask,” said one director.

Most formal onboarding programs encourage new directors to meet with key members of management, and many will schedule site visits to key operations. “It was really helpful to spend quality time with each of the CEO’s main direct reports so that I could get a sense of their top priorities and how they think about running their businesses. Without that little additional context from some of these executives in the organization, you’re really operating in a bubble.”

One-on-one meetings with as many of other directors as possible before the first board meeting can provide a sense of the priorities of the board, and the dynamics among directors and between management and the board. When these meetings are not an explicit part of the onboarding process, it can feel awkward to reach out to other board members, but directors say arranging a breakfast or dinner meeting or even a coffee with other directors, starting with committee chairs, is well worth it. “Everybody is busy, but the time you take to meet people upfront definitely pays dividends in the long run because you get context you wouldn’t have gotten any other way. You can’t replace seeing someone’s facial expression or their gestures while they’re talking about a certain topic. You’ll see how much something worries them. How emphatic they’re being. You’ll see their brow wrinkle when you dig deeper into certain issues.”

What else did new directors find most helpful in preparing for their first board meetings?

The key performance indicators (KPIs) and lead indicators for the company. “What do I have to keep my eye on? Every other question ends up stemming from those KPIs.”

A glossary of company and industry-specific jargon and acronyms. “Many companies overlook this, but it’s a real impediment to being productive in your first couple of meetings.”

Meeting with as many members of the executive committee or senior management team as possible.

Understand how the board views sector and company risk. How does management assess, present and articulate risk? Are assumptions discussed and challenged clearly and freely?

A detailed overview of the operations, operational challenges and underlying infrastructure. “You can think you know how an airline runs, but when you walk through the operation center and see hundreds of people managing thousands of flights in the air at the same time around the world, you begin to understand the complexity of the business.”

A holistic view of the board calendar and activities — not just what the next board meeting is about, but the key processes of the board over the course of 12 months of board meetings. “When you’re new, you might wonder why the board isn’t talking about the compensation implication of a decision, as an example, but everyone else knows that’s because the next meeting is the one when the board does the comp review.”

A detailed explanation of how the finances are organized, including a complete listing of accounts in an accounting system. “Everybody’s chart of accounts is different. Depending on how it’s drawn, you can get a very different look at P&L.”

 

Spotlight: Director induction best practices

 

Most boards have a formal induction program, which typically includes the following:

Presentations from management on the business model, profitability and performance

A review of the previous 12 months’ board papers and minutes to provide context on the current issues

Meetings with key business executives and functional leaders, including finance, marketing, IT, HR, etc.

Site visits providing new directors a better sense of how the business works and an opportunity to meet people on the ground

Meetings with external advisers such as accountants, bankers, brokers and others

Explanation of regulatory and governance issues

Attendance at an investor day

Mentoring: First-time directors, especially, tell us they appreciate having a mentor during the first six to 12 months on the board. An informal mentor program pairs a new director with a more experienced director who can provide perspective on boardroom activities and dynamics or help with meeting preparation, explain aspects of board papers, and debrief and act as a sounding board between meetings.

What new directors can do: Don’t be afraid to ask for the process to be tailored to your needs if you want to explore certain areas of the business in greater depth.

(3) Participating in early meetings

 

First-time directors tend to assume that they should say little during their first few meetings, while they observe and get to know the board and its dynamics. The directors we spoke with recommend a more balanced approach: listen more than talk, but be willing to participate in the discussion, especially in your area of expertise. “You’re there for a reason. You’re there because they thought you could add value.” New directors appreciate getting feedback from the board chair or lead director about their contribution level — so, if it’s not given, directors should ask for it. “After the first meeting, the lead director said, ‘I’m glad you spoke up a couple times. Do that more. We brought you here to get your point of view so feel free to speak up.’ It was great to hear that. You never want to hear it the other way, where you spoke up too much or took up too much air time.”

Nothing is more valuable for getting a sense of the board dynamics and directors’ expectations for how you should behave in those early meetings than one-on-one discussions with individual board members. “I wanted to get to know them a little bit personally before meetings where more-involved or controversial topics would be discussed so that we at least have met and have a little bit of an understanding of one another.”

New directors also appreciate when the board chair or lead independent director is proactive in making sure that the multiple voices are heard in board discussions. “Even when the board composition is diverse along many dimensions, your work isn’t done. You still have to actively work to avoid conforming your behaviors and opinions and to hear diverse viewpoints. That’s a constant work in progress.”

 

(4) Having an impact

 

“How do I have impact?” It’s a question that is top of mind for most new directors, especially those who were brought on the board because of their expertise in areas such as digital technology, product development, risk management or go-to-market experience. Depending on the size of the company and experience of the management team, a new director’s involvement outside the boardroom could include interviewing candidates for key roles, mentoring senior leaders, advising on specific topics or making useful introductions. “Engagement has to be on the terms that work for the executive team,” advised one of the directors we interviewed.

New directors with specialized expertise also play a role in educating other directors. “You don’t want a situation where the rest of the board sits back while all the questions flow to one person. Over time, all directors want to learn how to ask challenging questions in these areas. I find that other directors ask me questions like: ‘Why did you ask that? Why did you put the question in this way? What were you looking for? There seems to be something in the response to that question that troubles you, so let’s peel that apart a little bit.’”

First-time directors can find it challenging to know if they are having a positive impact on the board — and that the board is positively contributing to the business — because of the lack of regular feedback. “I would like a little more focus on making performance feedback a continuous process, particularly for the first six to 12 months. Following every meeting, there should be opportunities to point to out what’s working well and what could work differently, even if it’s just a 10- or 15-minute conversation to reinforce and correct the issues that didn’t go well in context.” So it is important to ask the chairman for feedback.

 

(5) Raising questions

 

By definition, a new director lacks perspective on the board’s history — the sacred cows, the topics that have been debated ad nauseam already and other important context. This makes knowing when to raise questions or to push for more information all the more difficult. “Fresh eyes are good, but one of the worst things you can do is walk into the board and hone in on topics that aren’t going to be productive, that the board has already hashed to death.” That is why it is important to have read the board minutes, if not papers, for the previous year or so, so you can understand some of the key issues and debates.

Getting a read from other directors about the board’s priorities can provide important context, as can using meeting breaks to follow up on your questions. “You’re not going to know everything going in. Expect that you’ve got a lot of holes. When I have big questions, I’ll grab a board member who I know will have the context and say, ‘Hey, I noticed this,’ or ‘I had a question on this,’ or ‘I’m sure there’s context here that I don’t know about,’ and just let them talk.”

When a director does have questions or concerns that go deeper, the delivery is important. “Asking questions, even when you know what the answer is, rather than making declarative statements is a good general approach. Other directors will be receptive to your questions if you communicate that you’re trying to get to the heart of important issues and facilitate discussion that needs to happen to gain consensus on direction.” How you frame questions also is important: Ask, “How are you thinking about …?” rather than trying to be too prescriptive and asking, “Have you considered …?”

 

Conclusion

 

Most new directors truly value their first board assignment, despite the time demands and steep learning curve. First-time directors are most likely to enjoy the experience when they conduct careful research and due diligence before accepting a board invitation, prepare thoroughly for board meetings and have the confidence to be themselves in the boardroom.

______________________________________________________________

Participating Directors :

Stewart Butel, former managing director of Wesfarmers Resources and independent director for DUET Company Limited
Amy L. Chang, CEO and founder of Accompany and non-executive director of Cisco, The Procter & Gamble Company and Splunk
Sue Clark, managing director of SABMiller Europe and non-executive director of Britvic
Greg Couttas, former Deloitte audit partner and non-executive director of Virtus Health
Tom Killalea, former Amazon vice president and independent director of Capital One, Carbon Black and MongoDB
George Mattson, former managing director of the Global Industrials Group for Goldman Sachs and independent director of Delta Air Lines
Admiral (Ret.) Gary Roughead, former chief of Naval Operations and independent director of Northrop Grumman Corporation
Michelle Somerville, former KPMG audit partner and independent director of The GPT Group and Challenger
Sybella Stanley, director of corporate finance at RELX and non-executive director at Tate & Lyle and Merchants Trust
Jane Thompson, former senior vice president of Match.com and independent director of Michael Kors
Gene Tilbrook, chair of The GPT Group Nomination and Remuneration Committee
Trae Vassallo, co-founder and managing director of Defy Partners and non-executive director of Telstra Corporation

Quand les opinions d’un président de compagnie deviennent-elles un sujet de préoccupation pour le CA ? | Un cas pratique


Voici un cas publié, sur le site de Julie Garland McLellan, qui met l’accent sur une problématique particulière pouvant ébranler la réputation d’une entreprise.

Quand une déclaration d’un président sur les médias sociaux (notamment Facebook) constitue-t-elle une entorse à la saine gestion d’une entreprise ? Comment un président peut-il faire connaître son point de vue sur une politique gouvernementale sans affecter la réputation de l’entreprise ?

Qui est responsable de proposer une stratégie pour réparer les pots cassés. Dans ce cas, à mon avis, le président du conseil est appelé à intervenir pour éviter les débordements sur la place publique et résorber une crise potentielle de réputation, le président sortant Finneas a également un rôle important à jouer.

Le cas est bref, mais présente la situation de manière assez explicite ; puis, trois experts se prononcent sur le dilemme que vit le président du conseil.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

 

Risques associés aux communications publiques des CEO sur les réseaux sociaux | un cas pratique

 

 

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Finneas chairs a medium-sized listed company board. He has been with the company through a very successful CEO transition and is enjoying the challenge of helping the new CEO to hone his leadership of the company.

The CEO has proved a good choice and the staff are settled and productive. Recently the government announced a new policy that will most likely increase the cost of doing business and decrease export competitiveness.

The CEO is rightly concerned. He has already made some personal statements opposing the policy – calling it ‘Stupid and short-sighted industrial vandalism’ – on his Facebook page. Fortunately, the CEO keeps his Facebook account mainly for friends and family so Finneas felt the comments hadn’t attracted much attention.

At his most recent meeting with the CEO, Finneas heard that a journalist had seen the comments and called the CEO asking if he would be prepared to participate in an interview. The CEO is excited at the opportunity to stimulate public debate about the issue. Finneas is more concerned that the CEO will cause people to think poorly of himself, as a harsh critic, and of the company. There are a couple of days before the scheduled interview.

How should Finneas proceed?

Voir les réponses de trois experts de la gouvernance | http://www.mclellan.com.au/archive/dilemma_201811.html

Manuel de saine gouvernance au Canada


Voici un excellent rapport produit par L’Alliance canadienne pour la mixité et la bonne gouvernance que je vous invite vivement à consulter.

L’Alliance « est un regroupement inédit d’organisations sans but lucratif de premier plan, axé sur la recherche, la promotion et l’information dans les domaines de la gouvernance et de la mixité ».

Les membres de l’Alliance sont les suivants :

Les initiatives de l’Alliance consistent en la publication de deux documents qui constituent en quelque sorte des jalons et des consensus sur les principes de saine gouvernance au Canada.
La première partie du rapport porte sur la mixité dans les conseils d’administration.
Tout porte à croire que les organisations dotées de conseils d’administration et d’équipe de haute direction où les deux sexes sont représentés de façon équilibrée sont plus susceptibles que les autres d’obtenir de solides résultats financiers à long terme et de bénéficier d’une culture organisationnelle plus positive et inspirante. Elles donnent l’exemple et signalent clairement que la diversité de pensée et d’expérience leur tient à cœur.
Cette première partie brosse un portrait de la situation de la mixité au Canada. On y traite des points suivants :
– Le contexte et les obstacles courants
– L’analyse de rentabilité
– Les conditions essentielles de la mixité dans les conseils d’administration
Dans la deuxième partie, les auteurs ont constitué une trousse pour les conseils d’administration.
On y aborde les sujets suivants, en présentant de nombreux outils pratiques utiles à tous les CA :
1. Processus d’évaluation officiel des conseils d’administration
2. Limites liées aux mandats et à l’âge
3. Matrice de compétences des conseils d’administration
4. Politique sur la diversité des genres
5. Recrutement des membres du conseil

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L’Alliance canadienne pour la mixité et la bonne gouvernance

 

Les auteurs espèrent que ce « manuel stimulera la réflexion et apportera des outils pratiques pour la prise de mesures qui se traduiront par un meilleur équilibre hommes-femmes dans les conseils d’administration ».

Bonne lecture !

Les enjeux de la diffusion des informations stratégiques sur les réseaux sociaux


Ce matin un article de Alissa Amico*, paru sur le forum de Harvard Law School, a attiré mon attention parce que c’est sur un sujet qui fait couler beaucoup d’encre dans le domaine la gouvernance des entreprises publiques (cotées en bourse).

En effet, quels sont les moyens appropriés de diffusion et de divulgation des informations à l’ère des médias sociaux ? L’auteure fait le tour de la question en rappelant qu’il existe encore beaucoup d’ambiguïté dans l’acceptation des nouveaux outils de communication.

On le sait, la SEC a réagi promptement aux annonces de Elon Musk, PDG et Chairman de Telsa, faites par le biais de Twitter qui ont été jugées trompeuses et qui ne respectaient pas le principe d’une diffusion de l’information à la portée de tous les actionnaires.

L’auteure rappelle que l’Autorité des Marchés Financiers français a pris une position ferme à ce propos en exigeant que les entreprises divulguent leurs réseaux sociaux privilégiés de communication sur leur site Internet.

La conclusion de l’article est révélatrice de grands changements à l’égard de la diffusion d’information stratégique.

The ultimate twist of irony is of course that the SEC, investigating Tesla and its CEO, is part of the same government whose President’s tweeting activity has been far from uncontroversial. Both Mr. Musk’s and Mr. Trump’s use of Twitter highlight that—whether we like it or not—social media may soon be the most consulted sort of media. Its impact, in both corporate or political circles, needs hence to be considered by policymakers seriously. It is clear that every boat—whether corporate or political—needs a captain responsible for setting the course and communicating it to the lighthouse to avoid collisions and confusion at sea. Yet, captains are not pirates, and in the era of social media, regulators need to devise new rules of the game to avoid investor collusion and collision.

Qu’en pensez-vous ?

Bonne lecture !

 

On Elon Musk, Donald Trump, and Corporate Governance

 

 

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SEC sues Tesla CEO Elon Musk for ‘misleading’ tweet »- ABC News

 

There was something Trumpian in Elon Musk’s tweet about taking Tesla private. “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured”, he boldly and succinctly announced on August 7, claiming that the necessary capital has been confirmed from the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi sovereign fund that is seeking to become the region’s largest according to the ambitions of its government, including through the much-debated public offering of Saudi Aramco.

Like in a Mexican soap opera, news about the PIF raising fresh capital through the transfer of its 70% stake in SABIC, the Saudi $100 billion petrochemicals giant and the largest listed company in the Kingdom to Saudi Aramco, as well its talks with Tesla’s rival Lucid followed shortly, immediately highlighting the perils of instant communication. As it turns out, tweeting 280-character messages is straightforward, explaining them takes a little more character and significantly more characters.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has reacted promptly, issuing a subpoena to Tesla to probe into the accuracy of its communication to investors. Elon Musk is unfortunately not the first CEO to pay for taking to Twitter. Nestle’s attempt at humor on Twitter, which likened a massacre of Mexican students to its candy bar, resulted in calls for boycott, ultimately forcing the company to erase the message and apologize. Even the CEO of Twitter itself, Jack Dorsey, has had to apologize for one of his personal tweets, which unlike Tesla and Nestle cases, had nothing to do with his company.

Indeed, the emergence of new communication channels has occurred at a faster pace than regulation on how these should be employed by companies has emerged, whilst over-excited executives have taken to social media in attempt to build hype around their companies. In the world where the number of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook followers counts more than the number of public investors, social media has the potential of becoming the main channel for communication in the corporate world.

Although this phenomenon has gone largely unnoticed, its implications need to be considered in a wider context that is beyond this immediate Bermuda Triangle involving Mr. Musk, the PIF and Tesla. In fact, this episode raises two important and distinct questions: first, who should be able to speak on behalf of public shareholding companies in order to ensure the accuracy of communication, and second, how should this communication be made such that it reaches its ultimate target, the investor community.

In developed markets such as the United States, where Tesla is incorporated, disclosure by public companies is subject to a myriad of regulations including Rule 10b-5—first issued 70 years ago—which prohibits the release or omission of material information, resulting in fraud or deceit. It is also subject to a more recent Fair Disclosure Regulation which essentially forbids companies from releasing non-public material information to third parties, effectively stamping out the practice of selective disclosure by companies to specific investors.

These regulations provide the colorful context behind the SEC’s investigation into Mr. Musk’s unfortunate tweet, allowing the regulator to question whether he had misled investors: that is, whether funding for taking Tesla private has indeed been “secured”. Another issue—and one not raised in the media—is whether Twitter can effectively be considered as an appropriate means of communication to the investor community. In the United States, where 70% of public share ownership today is in the hands of institutional investors, this is a moot point.

Indeed, the SEC has officially allowed listed companies to use social media in 2013, prompted by an investigation into a Facebook post by the Netflix CEO Reed Hastings about the company passing a billion hours watched for the first time. The SEC did not penalize him and decided that henceforth social media could be used for communicating corporate announcements as long as investors are warned that this would be the case.

In the context of emerging markets however, this position would be potentially quite dangerous. In Saudi Arabia for example, home to the PIF—Tesla’s alleged buyer—trading in the stock market is 90% retail, whereas its underlying ownership is largely institutional. Communicating company news via social media presupposes that all investors have equal access to it, which may not necessarily be the case in retail marketplaces. Regulators in emerging markets, where guidelines on the use of social media for corporate announcements are generally lacking, would do well to address this before executives take to Twitter and Facebook.

They would need to keep in mind however, that habits of emerging market investors may not have shifted fast enough to be comfortable in the world of Twitter. In Egypt for example, the officially recognised channel for publishing financial results remains the country’s newspapers. Expecting investors to run from conventional—not to say outdated—means of communication, to judiciously tracking social media announcements appears overly ambitious.

Using social media as a means of communicating material corporate news raises another non-semantic point which is equally important to address in both emerging and developed markets. It is not only tweets of CEOs like Elon Musk that have the potential to affect share prices and investor perceptions. If CFOs, CROs, CIOs, COOs and other C-suite members take to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other platforms to offer their interpretation of company developments, the potential impact on investors could be quite disheartening.

Just like the CEO’s or the CFO’s ability to write a cheque is circumscribed by internal controls and board oversight of material transactions related to mergers and acquisitions for instance, their ability to speak on behalf of their companies should be addressed by policies including specific approval processes. This would effectively limit the possibility of senior executives or board members using their iPhone as a Megaphone, instead requiring rigorous processes to be introduced such that social media announcements are coherent with other disclosure channels and indeed with corporate strategy.

From a governance perspective, further thought should be given to centralizing the communication function within companies in the hands of the Head of Investor Relations or equivalent. Indeed, given the value of information in our era of fast-paced communication powered by social media and fast-paced stock exchanges powered by algorithmic and high-frequency trading, the role of a Chief Communication Officer may be justified in large publicly listed companies, just as the role of a Chief Risk Officer reporting to the board has been introduced in many large organisations following the financial crisis.

While forcing companies in a straightjacket of yet more corporate governance rules on how they should handle their corporate communications may be unwise, some thought about legal distinctions and limits between what is considered personal and corporate announcements appears warranted. Investors may need to be told that unless corporate announcements come from official company channels—which personal Twitter accounts are not—their interpretation of tweets by excited executives are to be made at their own peril, not subject to usual investor protections.

Likewise, publicly-traded companies need to inform the investor community of what constitutes their official communication channels and ensure that financial and non-financial information announced through these is pre-approved, synchronized and not in conflict with existing regulations. Some regulators such as the French securities regulator, Authorité des Marches Financiers, has done so almost 5 years ago, recommending that companies specify their social media accounts on their website as well as establish a charter addressing how executives and staff are to use their personal social media accounts.

The ultimate twist of irony is of course that the SEC, investigating Tesla and its CEO, is part of the same government whose President’s tweeting activity has been far from uncontroversial. Both Mr. Musk’s and Mr. Trump’s use of Twitter highlight that—whether we like it or not—social media may soon be the most consulted sort of media. Its impact, in both corporate or political circles, needs hence to be considered by policymakers seriously. It is clear that every boat—whether corporate or political—needs a captain responsible for setting the course and communicating it to the lighthouse to avoid collisions and confusion at sea. Yet, captains are not pirates, and in the era of social media, regulators need to devise new rules of the game to avoid investor collusion and collision.

 


*Alissa Amico is the Managing Director of GOVERN. This post is based on a GOVERN memorandum by Ms. Amico.

L’indépendance des administrateurs, c’est bien ; mais, des administrateurs qui sont impérativement crédibles et légitimes, c’est mieux !


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

L’indépendance des administrateurs est une condition importante, mais d’autres considérations doivent nécessairement être prises en compte, notamment la légitimité et la crédibilité du conseil d’administration.

Comme l’auteur le mentionne, il faut parfois faire des arbitrages afin de se doter d’un conseil d’administration efficace.

J’ai reproduit, ci-dessous, le sommaire exécutif du document. Pour plus de détails sur ce document de 40 pages, 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.

 

D’indépendant à légitime et crédible : le défi des conseils d’administration

 

 

L’indépendance de la plupart des membres de conseils d’administration est maintenant un fait accompli. Bien qu’ayant contribué à un certain assainissement de la gouvernance des sociétés, force est de constater que cette sacro-sainte indépendance, dont certains ont fait la pierre angulaire, voire, la pierre philosophale de la «bonne» gouvernance, n’a pas donné tous les résultats escomptés.

Déjà en 2008, au moment de publier une première prise de position sur le thème de l’indépendance, l’IGOPP argumentait que ce qui faisait défaut à trop de conseils, ce n’était pas leur indépendance mais la légitimité et la crédibilité de leurs membres. Le fait qu’un administrateur n’ait pas d’intérêts personnels contraires aux intérêts de la société, son indépendance, devait être vu comme une condition nécessaire mais non suffisante au statut d’administrateur légitime.

Les évènements depuis lors, en particulier la crise financière de 2008, ont donné raison à cette prise de position et ont suscité de nouveaux enjeux de légitimité, comme la diversité des conseils, la représentation au conseil de parties prenantes autres que les actionnaires, le droit, contingent à la durée de détention des actions, de mettre en nomination des candidats pour le conseil, les limites d’âge et de durée des mandats comme administrateur.

Quant à la crédibilité d’un conseil, l’IGOPP proposait en 2008 que celle-ci devait s’appuyer sur «une expérience et une expertise pertinentes aux enjeux et aux défis avec lesquels l’organisation doit composer» ainsi que sur une connaissance fine «du modèle d’affaires de l’entreprise, de ses moteurs de création de valeurs économique et sociale» (Allaire, 2008). Pour l’IGOPP, la crédibilité du conseil suppose également l’intégrité et la confiance réciproque entre les membres du conseil et la direction. Donc, celle-ci devenait si importante qu’il serait acceptable, voire nécessaire, de suspendre l’exigence d’indépendance pour certains membres si c’était le prix à payer pour relever la crédibilité du conseil.

Depuis 2008

Profondément perturbés par la crise financière, les sociétés, les agences de règlementation et tous les observateurs de la gouvernance durent admettre que l’indépendance des membres du conseil et leur expérience de gestion dans des secteurs d’activités sans similarité avec l’entreprise à gouverner étaient nettement insuffisants. Ceux-ci devaient également posséder des compétences et une expérience à la mesure des enjeux et défis précis de la société qu’ils sont appelés à gouverner.Résultats de recherche d'images pour « indépendance des administrateurs »

Graduellement, pour la sélection des membres de conseil, on s’est préoccupé de leur expérience et connaissance spécifiques au type d’organisation qu’ils sont appelés à gouverner ainsi que de leur intégrité et leur fiabilité. Ainsi, l’évolution du monde de la gouvernance depuis 2008 a conforté la position de l’IGOPP et lui a donné un caractère prescient.

Toutefois, certains ont constaté que cette crédibilité pouvait être parfois difficile à concilier avec l’indépendance. En effet, si la crédibilité d’un candidat provient d’une longue expérience à œuvrer dans l’industrie à laquelle appartient la société-cible, il est bien possible que pour cette raison cette personne ne satisfasse pas à tous les desiderata d’une indépendance immaculée.

La prise de position de 2018 de l’IGOPP offre des précisions et des solutions aux nouveaux enjeux apparus depuis 2008.

Ainsi, l’IGOPP propose un net changement dans les démarches d’évaluation des conseils, dans les critères de sélection des nouveaux membres ainsi que pour l’établissement du profil de compétences recherchées.

La démarche d’évaluation du conseil

L’évaluation du conseil constitue le premier pilier d’une nécessaire réforme de la gouvernance. Cette évaluation doit répondre aux questions suivantes : le conseil est-il légitime par la façon dont les membres ont été mis en nomination? Par qui furent-ils élus ou nommés?

L‘IGOPP estime qu’une recherche de légitimité relevée et élargie pour un conseil deviendra un enjeu à plus ou moins brève échéance. Même dans le contexte juridique actuel, il est possible de s’interroger sur la qualité des démarches de mise en nomination et d’élection ainsi que du sens à donner aux variations dans le support électif reçu par les différents membres d’un conseil.

Puis, le conseil est-il crédible? L’IGOPP propose une évaluation des connaissances et de l’expérience spécifiques au type d’industries dans lequel œuvre la société que le conseil est appelé à gouverner. Il est important que la plupart des membres du conseil (tous?) possèdent des connaissances économique et financière pertinentes à ce secteur d’activités.

Un conseil d’administration n’est crédible que dans la mesure où une grande partie de ses membres peuvent soutenir un échange avec la direction sur ces aspects de performance et sur les multiples facteurs qui exercent une influence dynamique sur cette performance. Ce type de questionnement suppose, de la part du conseil, une fine et systémique compréhension du modèle d’affaires de la société.

Les critères de sélection de nouveaux membres:

Le président du conseil et le comité de gouvernance doivent s’équiper d’une grille de sélection à la mesure des enjeux actuels. Ainsi, plus de la moitié des membres doivent être indépendants et le conseil doit se préoccuper de la diversité de sa composition. Idéalement, le conseil devrait rechercher des nouveaux membres qui sont indépendants, ajoutent à la diversité du conseil et sont crédibles selon le sens donné à ce terme dans ce texte.

Toutefois, il pourra arriver qu’un conseil doive faire des arbitrages, des compromis entre ces trois qualités souhaitables pour un nouveau membre du conseil.

Si une personne par ailleurs dotée de qualités attrayantes pour le conseil ne possédait pas une expérience qui en fasse un membre crédible dès son arrivée, il faut s’assurer préalablement que celle-ci dispose du temps nécessaire, possède la formation et la rigueur intellectuelle essentielles pour acquérir en un temps raisonnable, un bon niveau de crédibilité; il est essentiel qu’un programme fait sur mesure soit mis en place pour relever rapidement la crédibilité de ce nouveau membre du conseil

Le profil d’expertise recherché:

Cette prise de position propose que le profil établi pour la recherche de nouveaux candidats pour le conseil débute par l’identification de secteurs d’activités proches de celui dans lequel œuvre la société en termes de cycle d’investissement, d’horizon temporel de gestion, de technologie, de marchés desservis (industriels, consommateurs, international), de facteurs de succès et de stratégie (leadership de coûts, différenciation/segmentation, envergure de produits).

Des dirigeants ayant une expérience de tels secteurs apprivoiseront plus rapidement les aspects essentiels d’une société œuvrant dans un secteur s’en rapprochant. Cette façon de procéder permet de concilier «indépendance» et «crédibilité».

Puis, si l’éventail des expertises au conseil indique une carence, disons, en termes de «finance», la recherche ne doit pas se limiter à identifier une personne qui fut une chef de la direction financière, mais bien une personne dont l’expérience en finance fut acquise dans le type de secteurs d’activités identifiés plus tôt. La gestion financière, des ressources humaines, des risques ou de la technologie d’information sont sans commune mesure selon que l’entreprise en est une de commerce au détail ou une minière ou une banque ou une entreprise du secteur aéronautique.

Conclusion

Notre prise de position de 2008 conserve toute sa pertinence. En fait les évènements survenus depuis 2008 appuient et confortent nos propositions d’alors. Si, à l’époque, nous étions une voix dans le désert, notre propos est maintenant sur la place publique, appuyé par des études empiriques et repris par tous ceux qui ont un peu réfléchi aux dilemmes de la gouvernance contemporaine.

Cette révision de notre prise de position de 2008 y ajoute des clarifications, aborde des enjeux devenus inévitables et veut rappeler à tous les conseils d’administration que:

«Si c’est par sa légitimité qu’un conseil acquiert le droit et l’autorité d’imposer ses volontés à la direction, c’est par sa crédibilité qu’un conseil devient créateur de valeur pour toutes les parties prenantes d’une organisation.» (Allaire, 2008).


*Ce document a été préparé et rédigé par Yvan Allaire, Ph. D. (MIT), MSRC, président exécutif, IGOPP

Conséquences à la non-divulgation d’une cyberattaque majeure


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bonne lecture !

 

Failure to Disclose a Cybersecurity Breach

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « yahoo data breach »

 

 

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

Background

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

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

The Settlement

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

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

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

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

Takeaways

There are several important takeaways from the settlement:

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________

Endnotes

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

2Idat ¶ 15.(go back)

3Idat ¶¶ 2, 16.(go back)

4Id.(go back)

5Idat ¶ 15.(go back)

6Idat ¶¶ 22-23.(go back)

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

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

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

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

_______________________________________________________________________

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

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


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

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

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

Ainsi, le huis clos :

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

(2) doit comporter une limite de temps

(3) doit être piloté par le président du conseil

(4) doit comporter un suivi systématique, et

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

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

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

 

registre-conseils-d-administration

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you using in-camera meetings ?

Comment présenter ses arguments lors d’une AGA dont les membres sont considérés comme réfractaires à une position du conseil ? | Un cas de communication


Aujourd’hui, je partage avec vous un cas publié sur le site de Julie Garland McLellan qui demande beaucoup d’analyse, de stratégie et de jugement.

Dans ce cas, Xandra, la présidente du comité d’audit d’une petite association professionnelle, propose une solution courageuse afin de mettre un terme au déclin du membership de l’organisation : une diminution des frais de cotisation en échange d’une hausse des frais de service et des frais associés à la formation.

La proposition a été jugée inéquitable par les membres, qui ont soulevé leur grande désapprobation, en la condamnant sur les réseaux sociaux.

Plusieurs membres insistent pour que cette décision soit mise au vote lors de l’AGA, et que le PDG soit démis de ses fonctions.

Étant donné que les règlements internes de l’organisation ne permettent pas aux membres de voter sur ces questions en assemblée générale (puisque c’est une prérogative du CA), le président du conseil demande à Xandra de préparer une défense pour le rejet de la requête.

Xandra est cependant consciente que la stratégie de communication arrêtée devra faire l’objet d’une analyse judicieuse afin de ne pas mettre la survie de l’organisation en danger.

Comment la responsable doit-elle procéder pour présenter une argumentation convaincante ?

La situation est exposée de manière assez synthétique ; puis, trois experts se prononcent sur le dilemme que vit Xandra.

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

Bonne lecture !

 

Communication des propositions du conseil lors des AGA réfractaires

 

 

This month our case study investigates the options for a board to respond to shareholders who know that they want something but don’t quite know how to get it. I hope you enjoy thinking about the governance and strategic implications of this dilemma:

Xandra chairs the audit committee of a small professional association. She has a strong working relationship with the chair and CEO who are implementing a strategic reform based on ‘user pays services’ to redress a fall in membership numbers and hence revenue. The strategy bravely introduced a reduced membership fee compensated by charges for advisory services and an increase in the cost of member events and education.

Some members felt that this was unfair as they used more services than others and would now pay a higher total amount each year. They have voiced their concerns through the company’s Facebook page and in an ‘open’ letter addressed to the board. In the letter they have said that they want to put a motion to the next AGM asking for a vote on the new pricing strategy and for the CEO to be dismissed. They copied the letter to a journalist in a national paper. The journalist has not contacted the company for comment or published the letter.

The CEO has checked the bylaws and the open letter does not meet the technical requirements for requisitioning a motion (indeed the authors seem to have confused their right to requisition an EGM with the right of members to speak at the AGM and ask questions of the board and auditor).

As the only person qualified in directorship on the association board, the Chair has asked Xandra « how can we push back against this request? »

Xandra is not sure that it is wise to rebuff a clear request for engagement with the members on an issue that is important for the survival of their association. She agrees that putting a motion to a members’ meeting could be dangerous. She also agrees that the matter needs to be handled sensitively and away from emotive online fora where passions are running unexpectedly high

How should she advise her chair?

Rôle du conseil d’administration en cas de gestion de crises | Les défis de Facebook


Voici un article qui met en garde les structures de gouvernance telles que Facebook.

L’article publié sur le site de Directors&Boards par Eve Tahmincioglu soulève plusieurs questions fondamentales :

(1) L’actionnariat à vote multiple conduit-il à une structure de gouvernance convenable et acceptable ?

(2) Pourquoi le principe de gouvernance stipulant une action, un vote, est-il bafoué dans le cas de plusieurs entreprises de la Silicone Valley ?

(3) Quel est le véritable pouvoir d’un conseil d’administration où les fondateurs sont majoritaires par le jeu des actions à classe multiple ?

(4) Doit-on réglementer pour rétablir la position de suprématie du conseil d’administration dirigé par des administrateurs indépendants ?

(5) Dans une situation de gestion de crise comme celle qui confronte Facebook, quel est le rôle d’un administrateur indépendant, président de conseil ?

(6) Les médias cherchent à connaître la position du PDG sans se questionner sur les responsabilités des administrateurs. Est-ce normal en gestion de crise ?

Je vous invite à lire l’article ci-dessous et à exprimer vos idées sur les principes de bonne gouvernance appliqués aux entreprises publiques contrôlées par les fondateurs.

Bonne lecture !

 

Facebook Confronts Its Biggest Challenge: But where’s the “high-powered” board?

 

 

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Facebook is arguably facing one of the toughest challenges the company has ever faced. But the slow and tepid response from leadership, including the boards of directors, concerns governance experts.

The scandal involving data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica allegedly led to 50 million Facebook users’ private information being compromised but a public accounting from Facebook’s CEO and chairman Mark Zuckerberg has been slow coming.

Could this be a governance breakdown?

“This high-powered board needs to engage more strongly,” says Steve Odland, CEO of the Committee for Economic Development and a board member for General Mills, Inc. and Analogic Corporation. Facebook’s board includes Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings; Susan D. Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of The Gates Foundation; the former chairman of American Express Kenneth I. Chenault; and PayPal cofounder Peter A. Thiel, among others.

Odland points out that Facebook has two powerful and well-known executives, Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who have been publicly out there on every subject, but largely absent on this one.

While Zuckerberg released a written statement late today on his Facebook page, he didn’t talk directly to the public, or take media questions. He is reportedly planning to appear on CNN tonight.

It was a long time coming for many.

“They need to get out and publicly talk about this quickly,” Odland maintains. “They didn’t have to have all the answers. But this vacuum of communications gets filled by others, and that’s not good for the company.”

Indeed, politicians, the Federal Trade Commission and European politicians are stepping in, he says, “and that could threaten the whole platform.”

Typically, he adds, it comes back to management to engage and use the board, but “I don’t think Zuckerberg is all that experienced in that regard. This is where the board needs to help him.”

But how much power does the board have?

Charles Elson, director of the University of Delaware’s Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance, sees the dual-class ownership structure of Facebook that gives the majority of voting power to Zuckerberg and thus undermines shareholders and the board’s power.

“It’s his board because of the dual-class stock. There is nothing [directors] can do; neither can the shareholders and a lawsuit would yield really nothing,” he explains.

Elson has been warning against such structures for some time, including in a piece for this publication on Snap’s dual-class IPO.

He and his coauthor Craig K. Ferrere wrote:

Increasingly, company founders have been opting to shore up control by creating stock ownership structures that undercut shareholder voting power, where only a decade ago almost all chose the standard and accepted one-share, one-vote model.

Now the Snap Inc. initial public offering (IPO) takes it even further with the first-ever solely non-voting stock model. It’s a stock ownership structure that further undercuts shareholder influence, undermines corporate governance and will likely shift the burden of investment grievances to the courts.

By offering stock in the company with no shareholder vote at all, Snap — the company behind the popular mobile-messaging app Snapchat that’s all about giving a voice to the many — has acknowledged that public voting power at companies with a hierarchy of stock ownership classes is only a fiction. And it begs the question: Why does Snap even need a board?

But some critics have waved Elson’s assertions away because so many tech companies, including Facebook, have been doing well by investors.

Alas, Facebook’s shares have tanked as a result of the Cambridge Analytica revelations, and it’s unclear what’s happening among the leaders at Facebook to deal with the crisis.

Facebook’s board, advises Odland, needs to get involved and help create privacy policies and if those are violated, they need to follow up.

“This is a relatively young company in a relatively young industry that has grown to be a powerhouse and incredibly important,” he explains.  Given that, he says, there are “new forms of risk management this board needs to tackle.”

La lettre de BlackRock plaide pour une prise en compte des facteurs de risque environnementaux, sociaux, de gouvernance (ESG)


Aujourd’hui, je fais une première expérience de publication d’un billet en gouvernance parue sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, le 6 février 2018.

En effet, j’édite la traduction en français d’un article publié par Abe M. Friedman*, CEO de la firme CamberView. Cette publication constitue, à mon avis, un moment décisif dans la conception de la gouvernance telle que vue par un investisseur avisé.

Comme plusieurs lecteurs sont particulièrement intéressés par les contenus en français, j’ai utilisé l’outil de traduction de Google pour faire ressortir les implications de la lettre annuelle aux PDG de Larry Fink, PDG de BlackRock.

Vous comprendrez que la traduction est perfectible, mais je crois qu’elle est compréhensible avec un minimum d’édition.

Je vous invite également à lire la dernière mise à jour des recommandations de BlackRock en vue des votes aux assemblées annuelles : Updated BlackRock Proxy Voting Guidelines

Bonne lecture !

 

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Le mardi 16 janvier, Larry Fink, PDG de BlackRock, a publié sa lettre annuelle aux PDG décrivant une vision audacieuse liant la prospérité des entreprises à leur capacité à fournir de solides performances financières tout en contribuant positivement à la société. Intitulée « A Sense of Purpose », cette lettre souligne l’approche de plus en plus active de BlackRock en matière d’engagement actionnarial ; elle constitue son opinion selon laquelle les conseils d’administration jouent un rôle central dans la direction stratégique à long terme des sociétés ainsi que dans la prise en compte des facteurs de risque environnementaux, sociaux, de gouvernance (ESG) et de création de valeur à long terme.

La lettre est un autre signal d’un changement fondamental dans la pensée des gestionnaires d’actifs traditionnels sur des sujets que certains ont toujours considérés comme non économiques. Alors que la pression monte sur les grands gestionnaires d’actifs sur la façon dont ils « supervisent » les « portefeuilles » de leurs entreprises, ces questions sociales et environnementales sont de plus en plus considérées comme essentielles à la création de valeur et à la durabilité à long terme. La position d’avant-garde sur la responsabilité d’entreprise prise dans la lettre est un indicateur de la manière dont les attentes changeantes des propriétaires d’actifs sont intégrées dans le comportement des gestionnaires d’actifs. Pour les entreprises, ce changement a créé un nouvel ensemble d’attentes, et le potentiel d’un examen plus approfondi de la part des investisseurs qui pourraient continuer à croître dans les années à venir.

 

Thèmes clés — ESG, engagement des actionnaires, administrateurs et activisme

 

La lettre de cette année réitère un certain nombre de thèmes tirés des communications des années précédentes et explique comment BlackRock s’attend à ce que les sociétés améliorent la valeur à long terme pour les actionnaires.

 

ESG et importance de la diversité du conseil d’administration dans la création de valeur à long terme

 

La lettre de Fink souligne la conviction de BlackRock que la gestion des questions ESG est essentielle à une croissance durable. De l’avis de BlackRock, exercer la surveillance de ces défis ainsi que d’autres défis émergents à la création de valeur à long terme relève de la compétence du conseil, qui, selon M. Fink, devrait inclure une diversité de genres, d’ethnies, d’expériences et de façons de penser. Les entreprises devraient s’attendre à ce que BlackRock (et, avec le temps, d’autres grands investisseurs institutionnels) investisse plus de temps pour comprendre la gestion des risques des entreprises liée à leur impact plus large sur les communautés, la société et l’environnement. Cela signifie probablement un soutien croissant aux propositions d’actionnaires sur ces sujets et une pression accrue sur les conseils pour qu’ils démontrent qu’ils s’adressent sérieusement à ces questions.

 

Engagement des actionnaires

 

Citant le besoin d’être des « agents actifs et engagés pour le compte des clients investis avec BlackRock », la lettre appelle à un nouveau modèle d’engagement des actionnaires qui comprend des communications pendant toute l’année sur les moyens d’améliorer la valeur à long terme. Alors que M. Fink note que BlackRock a engagé des ressources importantes pour améliorer ses propres efforts d’intendance des investissements au cours des dernières années, il écrit que « la croissance de l’indexation exige que nous prenions maintenant cette fonction à un nouveau niveau. » BlackRock a l’intention de doubler la taille de ses équipes de supervision.

 

Le rôle du conseil dans la communication et la supervision de la stratégie d’entreprise pour la croissance à long terme

 

Revenant sur un thème commun des communications précédentes, la lettre de cette année souligne l’importance du conseil pour aider les entreprises à définir un cadre stratégique pour la création de valeur à long terme. Bien que le nombre moyen d’heures consacrées par les membres du conseil à leur rôle ait augmenté au cours des dernières années, M. Fink continue d’élever la barre, soulignant que les administrateurs, dont les compétences et l’expérience proviennent uniquement de réunions sporadiques, ne remplissent pas leur devoir envers les actionnaires. La lettre de cette année contient une liste de questions que les sociétés (c.-à-d. les conseils d’administration et la direction) devraient poser pour s’assurer qu’elles sont en mesure de maintenir leur rendement à long terme. Ces questions comprennent explicitement l’impact sociétal des entreprises et les importants changements structurels (tels que les conditions économiques, l’automation et les changements climatiques) qui influencent le potentiel de croissance.

 

S’engager sur l’activisme

 

Fink écrit qu’une « raison centrale de la montée de l’activisme — et des luttes intempestives par procuration — est que les entreprises n’ont pas été assez explicites sur leurs stratégies à long terme. » Il souligne, à titre d’exemple, la réforme fiscale récemment adoptée et son potentiel d’augmentation des flux de trésorerie après impôt, comme un moyen pour les activistes de cibler les entreprises qui ne communiquent pas efficacement leur stratégie à long terme. M. Fink encourage les entreprises à s’engager avec les investisseurs et autres parties prenantes au début du processus lorsque ceux-ci offrent « des idées précieuses — plus souvent que certains détracteurs ne le suggèrent », une observation cohérente avec le soutien sélectif de BlackRock aux activistes dans les luttes par procuration.

 

Recommandations aux émetteurs

 

Cette lettre représente une évolution significative de l’opinion publique de BlackRock sur la responsabilité des entreprises et des conseils d’administration de gérer activement les impacts sociétaux de leurs activités au bénéfice de toutes les parties prenantes. M. Fink affirme que l’objectif des propriétaires d’actifs est non seulement d’améliorer leurs rendements d’investissement, mais aussi de voir le secteur privé relever les défis sociaux qui assureront la « prospérité et la sécurité » de leurs concitoyens.

BlackRock n’est pas le seul à faire ce changement philosophique. Les derniers mois ont fourni des exemples de la façon dont cette nouvelle dynamique façonne les décisions de vote et d’investissement. L’été dernier, des résolutions sur la divulgation des risques climatiques ont été adoptées pour la première fois dans de grandes entreprises énergétiques. En novembre, State Street Global Advisors a révélé qu’elle avait voté contre les administrateurs de 400 entreprises qui, selon elle, n’avaient pas fait d’efforts pour accroître la diversité au sein du conseil. Plus tôt ce mois-ci, JANA Partners et CalSTRS se sont associés pour mener une campagne d’activisme sur la question de savoir si Apple permet aux parents de protéger leurs enfants en utilisant la technologie et JANA a également créé un fonds pour cibler d’autres entreprises.

Afin de répondre aux questions soulevées dans la lettre de M. Fink, les sociétés ouvertes devraient envisager :

Construire une pratique de l’engagement continu tout au long de l’année sur la gouvernance et la durabilité avec leurs meilleurs investisseurs afin de rester en contrôle de l’activisme et d’être au-devant des investisseurs face à un défi.

Expliquer le processus du conseil dans le développement de la stratégie à long terme, dans le rôle de supervision de l’entreprise ainsi que dans les discussions avec les investisseurs.

Présenter les investisseurs à une variété de membres de l’équipe de direction et, à l’occasion, à un ou plusieurs membres du conseil d’administration pour établir des relations et faire confiance, au fil du temps, à tous les dirigeants de l’entreprise.

Décrire comment les administrateurs cultivent la connaissance de l’entreprise en dehors des réunions formelles du conseil d’administration, afin de remplir leur mandat de protection des intérêts à long terme des investisseurs.


*Abe M. Friedman est Chief Executive Officer de CamberView Partners, LLC. Ce billet est basé sur une publication de CamberView par M. Friedman, Krystal Gaboury BerriniChristopher A. Wightman, et Rob Zivnuska. La recherche connexe du Programme sur la gouvernance d’entreprise inclut des résolutions sur la responsabilité sociale  par Scott Hirst (discutées sur le forum  ici).