Taille du CA, limite d’âge et durée des mandats des administrateurs | En reprise


Comme je l’ai déjà évoqué dans plusieurs autres billets, il faut réfléchir très sérieusement à la taille du CA, à la limite d’âge des administrateurs ainsi qu’à la durée de leurs mandats.

Eu égard à la taille du CA, on note que les membres de conseils de petite taille :

(1) sont plus engagés dans les affaires de l’entité

(2) sont plus portés à aller en profondeur dans l’analyse stratégique

(3) entretiennent des relations plus fréquentes et plus harmonieuses avec la direction

(4) ont plus de possibilités de communiquer entre eux

(5) exercent une surveillance plus étroite des activités de la direction

(6) sont plus décisifs, cohésif et impliqués.

 

Image associée

 

On constate également une tendance lourde en ce qui regarde le nombre de mandats des administrateurs de sociétés, mais que ce changement ne se fait pas sans heurt.

Plusieurs pensent que, malgré certains avantages évidents à avoir des administrateurs séniors sur les CA, cette situation est un frein à la diversité et au renouvellement des générations au sein des conseils d’administration. Je crois que les CA devraient se doter d’une politique de limite d’âge pour les administrateurs ainsi que d’une limite au cumul des mandats ?

Les conseils d’administration devraient se préoccuper de ces questions afin :

(1) d’accroître la diversité dans la composition du conseil

(2) de faciliter la nomination de femmes au sein des CA

(3) d’assurer une plus grande indépendance des membres du conseil

(4) d’assurer la relève et l’apport d’idées neuves sur la gouvernance et les stratégies

(5) d’éviter que des administrateurs peu engagés s’incrustent dans leurs postes.

À cet égard, voici certains extraits d’études qui présentent les changements au Canada en 2015 :

Cumul des mandats d’administrateur

« Dorénavant, un administrateur qui est chef de la direction est considéré comme cumulant trop de mandats s’il siège au conseil de plus d’une société ouverte en plus du conseil d’administration de la société qui l’emploie (auparavant, il fallait que ce soit plus de deux sociétés). Un administrateur qui n’est pas chef de la direction cumule trop de mandats lorsqu’il siège à plus de quatre conseils d’administration de sociétés ouvertes (auparavant, c’était plus de six sociétés) ».

Renouvellement des conseils d’administration

Les Autorités canadiennes en valeurs mobilières (ACVM) ont révélé que « seulement 19 % des émetteurs examinés avaient adopté une combinaison quelconque de limites à la durée des mandats et/ou de limite d’âge… Toutefois, la grande majorité des émetteurs ne se sont dotés d’aucun mécanisme officiel pour le renouvellement du conseil, à part leur processus d’évaluation des administrateurs ».

Notons que les émetteurs assujettis sont tenus de divulguer les limites à la durée du mandat des administrateurs ainsi que les mécanismes de renouvellement du conseil. S’ils ne se conforment pas, ils doivent en expliquer les raisons.

En France, par exemple, un administrateur qui a siégé à un conseil pendant plus de 12 ans n’est plus considéré comme étant indépendant. Au Royaume-Uni, le conseil doit déclarer publiquement pourquoi il croit qu’un administrateur qui a siégé plus de 9 ans est toujours considéré comme étant indépendant.

Beaucoup de conseils au Canada estiment que les limites de mandat servent un objectif, 56 % des sociétés du Canadian Spencer Stuart Board Index (CSSBI) indiquant qu’elles recourent volontairement à des limites d’âge et de mandat. Selon une récente étude de Korn Ferry International/Patrick O’Callaghan and Associates, les limites de mandat pour les entreprises canadiennes inscrites en bourse ayant été sondées oscillent entre sept et vingt ans, 53 % d’entre elles présentant une limite de mandat de 15 ans.

Voici quelques billets publiés sur mon blogue qui peuvent être utiles à un président de conseil aux prises avec ces questions délicates.

 

En rappel | Les C.A de petites tailles performent mieux !

Réflexions sur les limites d’âge des membres de conseil d’administration et sur la durée des mandats

Faut-il limiter le nombre de mandats des administrateurs ?

 

Également, j’ai joint le Rapport de Davies sur la gouvernance | Décembre 2015 au Canada en 2015.

Enfin, voici deux articles qui devraient alimenter vos réflexions sur le sujet.

Le premier, Company directors getting older – fewer age limits, a été publié par Andrew Frye et Jeff Green dans le San Francisco Chronicle. Le second, Board Tenure: The New Hot Governance Topic ?, a été publié par Broc Romanek sur le blogue de CorporateCounsel.net. Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, des extraits de ces deux références.

Company directors getting older – fewer age limits

 

Buffett’s influence

Berkshire’s willingness to retain directors in their ninth decades reflects Buffett’s influence on the firm and a national trend toward older boards. About 15 percent of directors at companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index are older than 69, compared with 9.8 percent in 2002, according to executive-compensation benchmarking firm Equilar. Proxy filings show 52 directors are age 80 or older.

« You can have great 85-year-olds and horrible 55-year-olds, » said Anne Sheehan, director of corporate governance for the $155 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System. « A lot of this depends on the 80-year-old, because I’d love to have Warren Buffett on any board. »

Boardroom age limits are less prevalent and set higher than they were five years ago, according to the latest report on director trends by executive recruitment company Spencer Stuart. Companies use age limits to promote turnover and assure investors that management is getting new ideas. Those goals may instead be achieved through term limits, Sheehan said.

« You have to refresh the board, whether it’s through term limits or through age limits, » said Charles Elson, director of the University of Delaware’s Center for Corporate Governance.

 

_______________________________________________________

Board Tenure: The New Hot Governance Topic ?

At a recent event, a member joked with me that his CEO was asked: « What was the average age of directors on his board? » – and the CEO answered: « Dead. » Based on recent stats, it appears that many directors are comfortable as turnover is quite low these days. This is reflected in Jim Kristie’s Directors & Boards piece entitled « Troubling Trend: Low Board Turnover. » As Jim points out, a director with a certain background might make sense for the company now – but might not ten years down the road as the circumstances change.

Perhaps even more important is the independence issue – is a director who sits on the board for several decades likely to still be independent after such a long tenure (see this WSJ article about the 40-year club)? Does it matter if management turns over during the director’s tenure? And if so, how much? These are issues that are being debated. What is your take?

As blogged by Davis Polk’s Ning Chiu, CII is considering policy changes linking director tenure with director independence, under which it would ask boards to consider a director’s years of service in determining director independence. According to the proposed policy, 26% of all Russell 3,000 directors have served more than 10 years and 14% have served more than 15 years. CII would not advocate for any specific tenure, unlike the European Commission, which advises that non-executive directors serve no more than 12 years. Note that under the UK’s « comply or explain » framework, companies need to disclose why a director continues to serve after being on the board nine years. I have heard that seven years is the bar in Russia.

How Does Low Board Turnover Impact Board Diversity?

Related to proper board composition is the issue of whether low board turnover is just one more factor that stifles board diversity. As well documented in numerous studies (see our « Board Diversity » Practice Area), gender diversity on boards has essentially flat-lined over the past decade – and actually has regressed in some areas. This is a real-world problem as it’s been proven that differing views on a board lead to greater corporate performance. To get boards back on track, I do think bold ideas need to be implemented – and plenty are out there, such as this one. I can’t believe that more investors haven’t been clamoring for greater diversity – but I do believe that day is near…

Bonne lecture !

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 30 juillet 2020


Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 23 juillet 2020


Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 16 juillet 2020


Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 9 juillet 2020


Comportements inadéquats d’un PDG lors des réunions du conseil d’administration


Voici un cas publié sur le site de Julie McLelland qui aborde une question de gouvernance relative aux comportements d’un PDG lors des réunions du conseil d’administration d’un OBNL.

Comme c’est souvent le cas, c’est un nouveau membre du CA qui a amorcé le questionnement sur la façon de se comporter du PDG lors des réunions.

Xuan, le nouvel administrateur, a constaté que le PDG voyageait souvent et qu’il n’y avait pas une politique de remboursement des frais le concernant.

Le fait d’aviser le président et de mettre cette question à l’ordre du jour a fait réagir fougueusement le PDG !

Xuan se demande comment il peut aider le président à trouver une issue à ce gâchis !

Le cas a d’abord été traduit en français en utilisant Google Chrome, puis, je l’ai édité et adapté. On y présente la situation de manière sommaire, puis trois experts se prononcent sur le cas.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

Comportements inadéquats d’un PDG lors des réunions du conseil d’administration

 

Xuan a rejoint le conseil d’administration d’un organisme à but non lucratif (OBNL). Lors de sa première réunion, il a été stupéfait de l’attitude et du comportement du PDG ; celui-ci a tenté de diriger la réunion en disant aux administrateurs quand ils pouvaient parler, quand ils en avaient suffisamment discuté, et quel devait être le résultat ou la décision. Xuan a parlé au président après la réunion et ils ont convenu que ce n’était pas acceptable.

Xuan a rejoint le comité d’audit. Le PDG n’a pas assisté à la réunion du comité alors qu’il avait été invité. Le personnel ne savait pas où se trouvait le PDG et a laissé entendre qu’il était peut-être en voyage, car il voyageait « beaucoup ». Encore une fois, Xuan a discuté de la question avec le président et a découvert que le PDG voyageait fréquemment, réservait son propre voyage et réclamait des dépenses, que le directeur financier lui remboursait.

Pour la prochaine réunion du conseil d’administration, Xuan a préparé un document recommandant une politique de voyage comprenant des autorisations avant les réservations et l’approbation des remboursements par le président. Les déplacements et les remboursements du chef de la direction devaient être approuvés par le président et déposés pour information à la prochaine réunion du conseil.

Le document sur la politique des frais de voyages n’était pas dans le dossier envoyé avant la réunion. La discussion n’était pas non plus à l’ordre du jour. Xuan a de nouveau avisé le président qui lui a dit qu’il soulèverait la question avec le PDG. Deux heures plus tard, le PDG envoyait un courriel au conseil d’administration disant qu’il « démissionnait avec effet immédiat ». Au cours des prochaines heures, les administrateurs se sont envoyé des courriels et ils ont convenu qu’ils souhaitaient accepter la démission.

Le président a répondu en acceptant poliment la démission et en demandant une réunion pour discuter des détails administratifs. Le PDG a répondu qu’il était revenu sur sa décision de démission, estimant que le conseil d’administration minait son autorité. Celui-ci voulait être réintégré ou licencié avec les « avantages appropriés ».

Xuan n’a aucune formation en RH ou en droit. Comment peut-il aider la présidence à trouver une bonne solution à ce gâchis ?

Iain’s Answer

Hi Xuan,

Whew. You’ve walked into a wild party. I wish I could say it was unprecedented, but it’s not.  I’ve known more than one CEO who thought their job was to run the board. Others try to manipulate the board more subtly for their own ends. It won’t do.

There is a clear line of responsibility, by which the board is responsible to the shareholders (or the members of a non-profit association) for the good governance of the organisation.  One of the ways the board undertakes that role is by appointing, monitoring, and if necessary replacing, a CEO. To travel at the organisation’s expense without accountability is pretty flagrant, and your paper proposing proper accountability around this issue is quite appropriate. It is inexcusable that your proposal was dropped from the board papers without discussion.

A resignation cannot be retracted except by mutual agreement, and in your case the board had already agreed to accept the CEO’s resignation, and through its Chair had communicated this. You want to support your Chair.  It’s time to help him lance the boil and move on.  You can be a witness and backup when the Chair tells the CEO that there is no going back, the resignation has been accepted, and any amounts legally due to him on termination will be paid out.  Make sure there is good legal advice on exactly what should be said and paid.

Hold firm against any further bluster. And over the next few months the organisation will need stabilising, it will need a reliable acting CEO, and the board will need to find and engage the next CEO.  That’s a time of tension and high workload for your Chair.

When it’s all done, put it behind you and turn to face the future. Good luck.

Iain Massey is CEO of South West Leaders and Upland Consulting, he is also Chairman of AICD’s South West Regional Committee and Chairman of the Board of Forrest Personnel. He is based near Bunbury, in the south west of Western Australia.

Julie’s Answer

Xuan does not need an HR background to recognise that something is horribly wrong between this board and its CEO. The whole board should provide CEO oversight and Xuan can expect help from his board colleagues. His (quite correct) instinct to use policies to control expenditure may have triggered this incident but he is not responsible; this is not just for him and the Chair to resolve.

This could get nasty and Xuan must ensure emotion does not cause anyone to say or do something unhelpful. First the board should delegate the matter to a committee. They should get copies of the CEO’s contract, last performance review, and a list of all travel taken in the last year or two with the costs, destinations, duration, and purpose of trip. If there was a travel policy or prior agreement about travel the board should also get that.

Concurrent with getting this information they should appoint a specialist employment lawyer. This is important, even if the board has HR skills, or if the company has a senior HR manager; they need impartial expert advice.

All my experience tells me that the board should part company with this CEO. It may be cheaper to accept retraction of the resignation and then terminate for cause. It may be less disruptive to accept resignation rather than an accusatorial termination. The lawyer will help plot the best course.

An interim CEO may be appointed while the board begins a search for a permanent solution. The board should consider getting training to raise their skills in CEO oversight.

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

Richard’s Answer


The CEO resigning is the best thing that happened to the not for profit. The Board should not entertain any reversal of the CEO’s resignation whatsoever.

The Board needs to act swiftly and decisively. A protracted affair has the potential to harm the reputation of the not for profit, demoralise staff and ultimately be very expensive.

Given that the CEO is making allegations and demands Xuan should recommend that the Chairman engage an employment lawyer to guide the board as to their legal position and what they should do next to minimise any potential harm.

At the same time, the Board should instruct the CFO to investigate the CEO’s travel and all other expenditure for at least a couple of financial years. Sounds like the CEO may have something to hide and could be in breach of their contractual and other fiduciary obligations. The findings must be shared with the employment lawyer.

Once this matter is resolved the Board must take a deep and hard look at itself and consider why they let the CEO behave so inappropriately for so long.  At the same time, the Board will need to revisit the NFP’s policies and procedures playbook to ensure that money and time being spent by all staff is directed exclusively to furthering the mission of the NFP.

Finally, the Board must give careful consideration as to the attributes of their next CEO and how the hiring process should be conducted (from defining the position through to background verification) so that mistakes of making a bad hire are not repeated.

Richard Sterling is a Director of AltoPartners Australia. He is based in Sydney, Australia.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 25 juin 2020


Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 4 juin 2020


Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 28 mai 2020


Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 21 mai 2020


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 21 mai 2020.

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

Bonne lecture !

 

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 7 mai 2020


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 7 mai 2020.

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

Bonne lecture !

 

Le recrutement d’administrateurs qualifiés au sein des CA d’OBNL | Un processus délicat !


Voici un cas publié sur le site de Julie McLelland qui aborde une question de gouvernance relative à la composition du conseil d’administration d’un OBNL.

Vance préside le conseil d’administration ; il a décidé d’exploiter les forces de son réseau de contacts et de s’impliquer personnellement dans le processus de recherche d’un nouvel administrateur.

Le processus de recherche conduit à la réception de deux excellentes candidatures, alors que l’on ne cherchait à pourvoir qu’un poste.

Vance se demande quelles considérations devraient orienter son action !

Le cas a d’abord été traduit en français en utilisant Google Chrome, puis, je l’ai édité et adapté. On y présente la situation de manière sommaire, puis trois experts se prononcent sur le cas.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

Le recrutement d’administrateurs qualifiés au sein des CA d’OBNL | Un processus délicat !

 

Vance préside le conseil d’administration d’une entreprise à but lucratif non lucratif (OBNL) qui aide les enfants défavorisés. Comme de nombreux présidents d’OBNL, il essaie de réunir un conseil de bénévoles passionnés axé sur les compétences. Au cours des 12 derniers mois, il a recouru à son réseau pour trouver un avocat avec les bonnes passions et les bonnes compétences. 

Il y a deux mois, une connaissance l’a présenté à quelqu’un qui avait l’air parfait. L’introduction a été faite et le « futur administrateur » était tout ce que Vance avait espéré. La conversation s’est déplacée vers les familles et Vance a appris que la personne était mariée à un autre avocat avec une formation très similaire ; ils s’étaient rencontrés au travail et, bien qu’ils soient maintenant dans différentes entreprises, ils pratiquaient toujours dans des domaines similaires.

Vance a parlé au conseil d’administration de sa rencontre avec leur nouveau collègue potentiel et ils ont convenu que le futur administrateur recevrait un dossier de candidature et qu’il serait invité à se présenter aux élections.
Il y a cinq jours, Vance a reçu deux candidatures pour le poste. Les deux conjoints veulent rejoindre le conseil d’administration.

Ainsi le conseil, qui n’avait aucune expertise juridique en son sein, se retrouve avec deux candidatures d’avocats qualifiés lesquels possédant exactement le profil souhaité. Il n’est cependant pas certain de vouloir les deux personnes, ni comment choisir l’une d’entre elles, s’il ne prend pas les deux.

Réponse de Robert

 

It is not unusual for Chairs to scour their networks for potential directors. As many as 65% of director roles in Australia are filled without going to a formal recruitment stage, so Vance’s dilemma is not uncommon. For Vance, his challenge comes in the form of practicing good leadership and ensuring good governance practices.

There are two levels of conflict for Vance to consider. Vance has a potential internal conflict of not wanting to hurt anyone which may impair his judgement. Vance also has a potential conflict of interest as he has met the directors individually outside of a formal nominations process and has formed a somewhat biased view, i.e. this is the perfect director to fill this position.
Working in the best interest of the organisation, I would advise Vance to immediately step back and hand over the process to an independent director or (nomination) committee to ensure proper process. He also needs to be clear that the final decision will be a joint one, not his alone.

Although the prospect of recruiting two highly sought-after directors to your non-profit board is tantalising, the board and/or committee should consult their skills matrix, review the role requirements, and decide if they actually need two lawyers. They should also consider broader factors such as relevance of past experience, diversity and interpersonal skills.
The board could also consider offering a position on a committee for the unsuccessful candidate with a view of nomination at the next intake.

In the worst case scenario having aligned directors, such as family members, can impair independence in discussion and decision making, create voting blocks and hamper processes if one director needs to be stood down. If both are appointed, I would advise the whole board to discuss and develop strategies to minimise these types of issues before they arise.

__________________________

Robert Crowe is Chairman of Connect Child and Family Services and Managing Director of Leading for Purpose. He is based in Sydney , Australia.

 

Réponse de Julie

 

There is no law against married couples being members of the same board. This is rarely covered in constitutions although some constitutions require directors to be independent of other directors and members of staff.

Directors must act independently of each other and never act as a unit. Having a voting block, even if only two, seriously reduces a board’s ability to reach informed consensus.

The board needs to access diverse skills and experiences to enrich debate and enhance decision-making. Two board members from the same generation, with similar professional backgrounds and skills, and living in the same geographic and socio-economic environment, inevitably reduces overall board diversity.

People aren’t lego-bricks. Feelings may be hurt if he declines one candidate. Vance could be in a situation where his board gets both or neither.

Vance needs to balance the undoubted value that these candidates offer against the next skills needed under his board’s succession plan. Can the board operate effectively without those skills? What will be the impact on the projected skills matrix for the next nine years?

Finally Vance needs to evaluate the board’s processes. Does the nomination pack suggest that completing the paperwork automatically leads to standing for election (or appointment to a casual vacancy)? Does the board want to include a nominations committee to get more strategic in targeting skills? How are conflicts of interest registered, declared and managed? Is the current process good enough to handle issues arising from a married couple both on the board? Can the chair manage discussions well enough?

If the systems and succession plan can cope Vance should cope also.

____________________________

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

Réponse de Keith

 

Having a married couple in any organization has its challenges and certainly this is no different on a Board of Directors.

It is advisable to always be sure to undergo an independent search process to insure that your organization is seeing the top talent the market has to offer, unbiassed consul on available candidates and a proven process for selection.

In this case, consider: why this family have a passion for this organization? what is reasoning for them both to apply? Posing these questions to them, you may find one of the spouses withdraws rather quickly when they speak to each other. Assuming they are of equal abilities and fit, this removes the dilemma. If they have solid reasoning it becomes trickier.

Having a married couple on a board would certainly create potential conflict of interest. On the other hand (as most married couples would attest to) they don’t always agree and could work in a constructive and absolutely independent manner. A major consideration also is the size, breadth and revenue of your NFP and are there major contracts awarded? If so, can they be in anyway influenced by the board? This being the case, it could be called into question if a contract is awarded where they have some personal gain. Even though this conflict is no different than on any board of directors, it could create a major issue.

If the board has two seats available don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. So long as their intentions are sound and their skills are relevant. This could provide your organization with a power couple fundraising/PR “dynamic duo”.

___________________________

Keith Labbett is Co-founder and Co-chair of The Canadian University Mens Rugby Championship and Managing Partner of  Osprey Executive Search. He is based in Toronto, Canada.

Top 10 de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance au 16 avril 2020


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 16 avril 2020.

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

Bonne lecture !

 

Le rôle du conseil d’administration face à la COVID-19 : Comment les administrateurs de sociétés devraient-ils agir?


Voici un article d’actualité en cette période de COVID-19 publié par la firme Langlois.

J’ai reproduit l’introduction de l’article.

Bonne lecture !

Le rôle du conseil d’administration face à la COVID-19 : comment les administrateurs de sociétés devraient-ils agir?

 

The role of the board of directors in to the context of COVID-19: how should corporate directors act? - Langlois lawyers

 

Depuis le début de la crise de santé publique et économique causée par la COVID-191, la tentation peut être grande pour les administrateurs de s’immiscer dans la gestion quotidienne de la société ou se substituer à la direction, surtout s’ils portent également le chapeau d’actionnaire. Or, c’est le comité de gestion de crise, souvent composé de dirigeants exécutifs, qui a la responsabilité de gérer la crise au quotidien. Néanmoins, les administrateurs ont eux aussi un rôle à jouer : ils ont le devoir de s’assurer de la bonne gouvernance de la société à court, moyen et long terme2.

Cette responsabilité s’accroît face à la crise et commande une réflexion pour les administrateurs de sociétés qui devront, d’une part, examiner attentivement la manière de gérer les risques actuels au sein de l’organisation ainsi que les risques collatéraux qui pourraient en découler et, d’autre part, prendre note des éléments à améliorer pour le futur.

Dans le cadre de cet article sur la gouvernance de sociétés en période de crise, nous nous penchons plus spécifiquement sur les réflexes de gouvernance à adopter dans le contexte actuel, tout en ne perdant pas de vue l’après COVID-19.

Gouvernance en temps de crise de Covid19 | Parties prenantes


Voici un article paru dans la Presse qui montre l’importance inéluctable des parties prenantes en cette période de crise liée au Covid19.

Bonne lecture !

Gouvernance  en temps de crise de Covid19 | Parties prenantes

 

La gouvernance plongée dans la crise de la COVID-19 | LesAffaires.com

Dix éléments majeurs à considérer par les administrateurs en temps de COVID-19


Voici dix éléments qui doivent être pris en considération au moment où toutes les entreprises sont préoccupées par la crise du COVID-19.

Cet article très poussé a été publié sur le forum du Harvard Law School of Corporate Governance hier.

Les juristes Holly J. Gregory et Claire Holland, de la firme Sidley Austin font un tour d’horizon exhaustif des principales considérations de gouvernance auxquelles les conseils d’administration risquent d’être confrontés durant cette période d’incertitude.

Je vous souhaite bonne lecture. Vos commentaires sont appréciés.

Ten Considerations for Boards of Directors

 

Boards and Crisis Infographic

 

The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents complex issues for corporations and their boards of directors to navigate. This briefing is intended to provide a high-level overview of the types of issues that boards of directors of both public and private companies may find relevant to focus on in the current environment.

Corporate management bears the day-to-day responsibility for managing the corporation’s response to the pandemic. The board’s role is one of oversight, which requires monitoring management activity, assessing whether management is taking appropriate action and providing additional guidance and direction to the extent that the board determines is prudent. Staying well-informed of developments within the corporation as well as the rapidly changing situation provides the foundation for board effectiveness.

We highlight below some key areas of focus for boards as this unprecedented public health crisis and its impact on the business and economic environment rapidly evolves.

 

1. Health and Safety

 

With management, set a tone at the top through communications and policies designed to protect employee wellbeing and act responsibly to slow the spread of COVID-19. Monitor management’s efforts to support containment of COVID-19 and thereby protect the personal health and safety of employees (and their families), customers, business partners and the public at large. Consider how to mitigate the economic impact of absences due to illness as well as closures of certain operations on employees.

 

2. Operational and Risk Oversight

 

Monitor management’s efforts to identify, prioritize and manage potentially significant risks to business operations, including through more regular updates from management between regularly scheduled board meetings. Depending on the nature of the risk impact, this may be a role for the audit or risk committee or may be more appropriately undertaken by the full board. Document the board’s consideration of, and decisions regarding, COVID-19-related matters in meeting minutes. Maintain a focus on oversight of compliance risks, especially at highly regulated companies. Watch for vulnerabilities caused by the outbreak that may increase the risk of a cybersecurity breach.

 

3. Business Continuity

 

Consider whether business continuity plans are in place appropriate to the potential risks of disruption identified, including through a discussion with management of relevant contingencies, and continually reassess the adequacy of the plans in light of developments. Key issues to consider include:

  • Employee/Talent Disruption. As more employees begin working remotely or are unable to work due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, continually assess what minimum staffing levels and remote work technology will be required to maintain operations. (Also, as noted above, consider how to mitigate the economic impact of absences due to illness as well as closures of certain operations on employees.)
  • Supply Chain and Production Disruption. Review with management the risks that a disruption in the supply chain will cause interruptions in operations and how to protect against such risks, including the availability of alternate sources of supply. Ask management to assess the risks that the company will have difficulty in fulfilling its contractual obligations and how management is preparing to address those risks, including through review of relevant provisions in customer contracts (e.g., force majeure, events of default and termination) to determine what recourse is available.
  • Financial Impact and Liquidity. Review with management the near-term and longer term financial impact (including the ability to meet obligations) of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related impact of the extreme volatility in the financial markets. Understand the assumptions underlying management’s assessment and discuss the likely outcome if those assumptions prove incorrect. Consider the need to seek additional financing or amend the terms of existing debt arrangements.
  • Internal Controls and Audit Function. Consider whether COVID-19 may have an impact on the functioning of internal controls and audit. For publicly-traded companies, remember that any material changes in internal control over financial reporting will require disclosure in the next periodic report.
  • Recent Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) guidance: In a March 4, 2020 press release, SEC Chair Jay Clayton urged companies to work with their audit committees and auditors to ensure that their financial reporting, auditing and review processes are sufficiently robust to enable them to meet their obligations under the federal securities laws in the current environment.
  • Key Person Risks and Emergency Succession Plans. Consider whether an up-to-date emergency succession plan is in place that identifies a person who can step in immediately as interim CEO in the event the CEO contracts COVID-19. Consider the need to implement similar plans for other key persons.
  • Incentives. Consider whether incentive plans need to be reworked in light of the circumstances, to ensure that appropriate behaviors are encouraged. Consider delaying setting incentive plan goals until the uncertainty has subsided or try to build in flexibility with respect to any goals set.
  • Board/Governance Continuity. Consider whether the board is appropriately positioned to provide guidance and oversight as the COVID-19 threat expands. Consider scheduling in advance special board meetings and/or information conference calls over the next three to four months, which can be cancelled if not needed. Decide whether to replace in-person meetings with conference calls to help limit the threat of contagion. Consider whether contingencies are in place if a board quorum is not available. Continue to meet regularly in executive session to discuss assessment of how management is managing the crisis.

 

4. Crisis Management

 

During this turbulent time, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders will look to boards to take swift and decisive action when necessary. Consider whether an up-to-date crisis management plan is in place and effective. A well-designed plan will assist the company to react appropriately, without either under- or over-reacting. Elements of an effective crisis management plan include:

  • Cross-Functional Team. Crisis response teams typically include key individuals from management, public relations, human resources, legal and finance. Identify these individuals now and begin meeting so that they are prepared to respond quickly as the crisis develops. The team should be in regular contact with the board (or a designated board member or committee) as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.
  • Quick and Decisive Deployment. The plan should include crisis response procedures, communications templates, checklists and manuals that can be readily adapted to a variety of situations for effective, time-critical and agile deployment. The crisis response team should be familiar with the elements of the plan and ready to implement it at a moment’s notice.
  • Contingency Plans. A crisis is inherently unpredictable. However, the company should endeavor to anticipate all potential crises to which it is vulnerable and develop contingency plans to deal with those crises to minimize on-the-fly decision-making.
  • Examples of scenarios to prepare for: What will our response be if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the company? How will we notify employees of a confirmed case and what privacy implications do we need to consider? What planning (e.g., IT training) is required if we need to mandate that our employees work remotely?
  • Thoughtful Communications. The board should oversee the company’s communication strategy. Clear communication and planning within the crisis response team will allow the company to communicate internally and externally in a calm and thoughtful manner, which will help build confidence during a volatile situation.

 

5. Oversight of Public Reporting and Disclosure for Publicly-Traded Companies

 

Companies must consider whether they are making sufficient public disclosures about the actual and expected impacts of COVID-19 on their business and financial condition. The level of disclosure required will depend on many factors, such as whether a company has significant operations in China or is in a highly affected industry (e.g., airlines and hospitality companies). In any event, boards should monitor to ensure that corporate disclosures are accurate and complete and reflect the changing circumstances.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and changing by the day, the SEC acknowledges that it is challenging to provide accurate information about the impact it could have on future operations.

Recent SEC guidance: “We recognize that [the current and potential effects of COVID-19] may be difficult to assess or predict with meaningful precision both generally and as an industry- or issuer-specific basis.” Statement by SEC Chairman Jay Clayton on January 30, 2020.

  • Earnings Guidance. Consider whether previously issued earnings guidance should be downgraded to reflect the actual or likely impact of COVID-19 and, if so, how to describe the reason for the revision. Due to the current unpredictability of COVID-19’s impact, consider withdrawing previously-issued earnings guidance altogether or refraining from issuing guidance in the near term.
  • Risk Factor Disclosure. Consider how the COVID-19 pandemic may require additions or revisions to risk factor disclosures.
  • Recent SEC guidance: “We also remind all companies to provide investors with insight regarding their assessment of, and plans for addressing, material risks to their business and operations resulting from the coronavirus to the fullest extent practicable to keep investors and markets informed of material developments.” SEC March 4, 2020 press release.
  • Potential topics for risk factor disclosure include:
      • Disruptions to business operations whether from travel restrictions, mandated quarantines or voluntary “social distancing” that affects employees, customers and suppliers, production delays, closures of manufacturing facilities, warehouses and logistics supply and distribution chains and staffing shortages
      • Uncertainty regarding global macroeconomic conditions, particularly the uncertainty related to the duration and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and related decreases in customer demand and spending
      • Credit and liquidity risk, loan defaults and covenant breaches
      • Inventory writedowns and impairment losses
      • Ensure that risk factor disclosure is consistent with the board’s conversations with management about material risks.
  • Recent SEC guidance: “One analytical tool to evaluate disclosure in this context is to consider how management discusses … risks with its board of directors. Obviously not all discussions between management and the board are appropriate for disclosure in public filings, but there should not be material gaps between how the board is briefed and how shareholders are informed.” Statement by SEC Director, Division of Corporation Finance William Hinman on March 15, 2019.
  • As always, risk factor disclosure should be specific to a company’s individual circumstances and avoid generic language. Finally, be careful not to describe a risk related to COVID-19 as hypothetical if it has actually occurred.
  • Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (MD&A). Consider whether the actual or likely impact of COVID-19 on a company’s business (including its supply chain), financial condition, liquidity, results of operations and/or prospects would be deemed material to an investment decision in the company’s securities and require disclosure. Consider whether the impact or potential impact of COVID-19 on the company is a “known trend or uncertainty” requiring disclosure in the MD&A of the next periodic report. Tailor any MD&A disclosures to the impact of COVID-19 on the company’s business in particular. Consider whether disclosures appropriately address the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on future results of operations.
  • Subsequent Events. A joint statement by SEC and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) leadership on February 19, 2020 specific to COVID-19 reporting considerations encouraged companies to consider the need to potentially disclose subsequent events in the notes to the financial statements in accordance with guidance included in Accounting Standards Codification 855, Subsequent Events.
  • Forward-Looking Statements. Consider whether the company’s forward-looking statement disclaimer language adequately protects the company for statements it makes regarding the expected impacts of COVID-19. It should be specific and consistent with updates made to the risk factors and other public disclosures.
  • Recent SEC guidance: “Companies providing forward-looking information in an effort to keep investors informed about material developments, including known trends or uncertainties regarding the coronavirus, can take steps to avail themselves of the safe harbor in Section 21E of the Exchange Act for this information.” SEC March 4, 2020 press release.
  • Updates. Consider whether prior disclosures should be revised to ensure they are accurate and complete. While there is no express duty to update a forward-looking statement, courts are divided as to whether a duty to update exists for a forward-looking statement that becomes inaccurate or misleading after the passage of time (from the perspective of claim under Exchange Act Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5).
  • Recent SEC guidance: “Depending on a company’s particular circumstances, it should consider whether it may need to revisit, refresh, or update previous disclosure to the extent that the information becomes materially inaccurate.” SEC March 4, 2020 press release.
  • Proxy Statements. Given the SEC’s emphasis on discussion of how boards oversee the management of material risks, consider expanding the proxy statement disclosure of board oversight of COVID-19-related risks where material to the business. 5Recent SEC guidance: “To the extent a matter presents a material risk to a company’s business, the company’s disclosure should discuss the nature of the board’s role in overseeing the management of that risk. The Commission last noted this in the context of cybersecurity, when it stated that disclosure about a company’s risk management program and how the board engages with the company on cybersecurity risk management allows investors to better assess how the board is discharging its risk oversight function. Parallels may be drawn to other areas where companies face emerging or uncertain risks, so companies may find this guidance useful when preparing disclosures about the ways in which the board manages risks, such as those related to sustainability or other matters.” Statement by SEC Director, Division of Corporation Finance William Hinman on March 15, 2019.
  • Also, consider cautioning stockholders that the annual meeting date and logistics are subject to change.
  • Current Reports. Consider the need to file a Form 8-K for material developments such as if the CEO or another key person or a significant portion of the workforce contracts COVID-19.
  • Conditional Filing Relief. Companies that anticipate filing delays due to COVID-19 should consider taking advantage of the SEC’s March 4, 2020 order granting an additional 45 days to meet Exchange Act reporting obligations for reports due between March 1 and April 30, 2020. See the Sidley Update available here for more details.

 

6. Compliance with Insider Trading Restrictions and Regulation FD for Publicly-Traded Companies

 

  • Insider Trading. Closely monitor and consider further restricting trading in company securities by insiders who may have access to material nonpublic information related to COVID-19 impacts (e.g., by requiring additional training, imposing blackout periods or enhancing preclearance procedures).
  • Recent SEC guidance: If a company “become[s] aware of a risk related to the coronavirus that would be material to its investors, it should refrain from engaging in securities transactions with the public and … take steps to prevent directors and officers (and other corporate insiders who are aware of these matters) from initiating such transactions until investors have been appropriately informed about the risk.” SEC March 4, 2020 press release.
  • Carefully consider whether the company should potentially buy back stock to take advantage of significantly depressed stock prices.
  • Regulation FD. Be mindful of Regulation FD requirements, particularly if sharing information related to the impact of COVID-19 with customers and other stakeholders.
  • Recent SEC guidance: “When companies do disclose material information related to the impacts of the coronavirus, they are reminded to take the necessary steps to avoid selective disclosures and to disseminate such information broadly.” SEC March 4, 2020 press release.

 

7. Annual Shareholder Meeting

 

With the Center for Disease Control recommending that gatherings of 50 or more persons be avoided to assist in containment of the virus, consider with management whether to hold a virtual-only shareholders meeting or a hybrid meeting that permits both in-person and online attendance. Public companies that are considering changing the date, time and/or location of an annual meeting, including a switch from an in-person meeting to a virtual or hybrid meeting, will need to review applicable requirements under state law, stock exchange rules and the company’s charter and bylaws. Companies that change the date, time and/or location of an annual meeting should comply with the March 13, 2020 guidance issued by the Staff of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance and the Division of Investment Management. See the Sidley Update available here for more details.

 

8. Shareholder Relations

 

Activism and Hostile Situations. Continue to ensure communication with, and stay attuned to the concerns of, significant shareholders, while monitoring for changes in stock ownership. Capital redemptions at small- and mid-sized funds may lead to fewer shareholder activism campaigns and proxy contests in the next several months. However, expect well-capitalized activists to exploit the enhanced vulnerability of target companies. The same applies to unsolicited takeovers bids by well-capitalized strategic buyers. If they have not already done so, boards should update or activate defense preparation plans, including by identifying special proxy fight counsel, reviewing structural defenses, putting a poison pill “on the shelf” and developing a “break the glass” communications plan.

 

9. Strategic Opportunities

 

Consider with management whether and if so where opportunities are likely to emerge that are aligned with the corporation’s strategy, for example, opportunities to fulfill an unmet need occasioned by the pandemic or opportunities for growth through distressed M&A.

 

10. Aftermath

 

Consider with management whether the changes in behavior occasioned by the pandemic will have any potential lasting effects, for example on employee and consumer behavior and expectations. Also, be prepared when the crisis abates to assess the corporation’s handling of the situation and identify “lessons learned” and actionable ideas for improvement.

Guide des administrateurs 2020 | Deloitte


Le document suivant, publié par Deloitte, est une lecture fortement recommandée pour tous les administrateurs, plus particulièrement pour ceux et celles qui sont des responsabilités liées à l’évaluation de la  performance financière de l’entreprise.

Pour chacun des sujets abordés dans le document, les auteurs présentent un ensemble de questions que les administrateurs pourraient poser :

« Pour que les administrateurs puissent remplir leurs obligations en matière de présentation de l’information financière, ils doivent compter sur l’appui de la direction et poser les bonnes questions.

Dans cette publication, nous proposons des questions que les administrateurs pourraient poser à la direction concernant leurs documents financiers annuels, afin que ceux-ci fassent l’objet d’une remise en question appropriée ».

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de cette publication en téléchargeant le guide ci-dessous.

Guide des administrateurs 2020

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "guide des administrateurs 2020 Deloitte"

 

Le dilemme d’un administrateur indépendant dans un cas de vol de données


Voici un cas publié sur le site de Julie McLelland qui aborde une situation où Trevor, un administrateur indépendant, croyait que le grand succès de l’entreprise était le reflet d’une solide gouvernance.

Trevor préside le comité d’audit et il se soucie de mettre en place de saines pratiques de gouvernance. Cependant, cette société cotée en bourse avait des failles en matière de gestion des risques numériques et de cybersécurité.

De plus, le seul administrateur indépendant n’a pas été informé qu’un vol de données très sensibles avait été fait et que des demandes de rançons avaient été effectuées.

L’organisation a d’abord nié que les informations subtilisées provenaient de leurs systèmes, avant d’admettre que les données avaient été fichées un an auparavant ! Les résultats furent dramatiques…

Trevor se demande comment il peut aider l’organisation à affronter la tempête !

Le cas a d’abord été traduit en français en utilisant Google Chrome, puis, je l’ai édité et adapté. On y présente la situation de manière sommaire puis trois experts se prononcent sur le cas.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

Le dilemme d’un administrateur indépendant dans un cas de vol de données

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trevor est administrateur d’une société cotée qui a été un «chouchou du marché». La société fournit des évaluations de crédit et une vérification des données. Les fondateurs ont tous deux une solide expérience dans le secteur et un solide réseau de contacts et à une liste de clients qui comprenait des gouvernements et des institutions financières.

Après l’entrée en bourse, il y a deux ans, la société a atteint ou dépassé les prévisions et Trevor est fier d’être le seul administrateur indépendant siégeant au conseil d’administration aux côtés des deux fondateurs et du PDG. Il préside le comité d’audit et, officieusement, il a été l’initiateur des processus de gouvernance et de sa documentation.

Les fondateurs sont restés très actifs dans l’entreprise et Trevor s’est parfois inquiété du fait que certaines décisions stratégiques n’avaient pas été portées à son attention avant la réunion du conseil d’administration. Comme l’expérience de Trevor est l’audit et l’assurance, il suppose qu’il n’aurait pas ajouté de valeur au-delà de la garantie d’un processus sain et de la tenue de registres.

Il y a trois semaines, tout a changé. Une grande partie des données de l’entreprise ont été subtilisées et transférées sur le « dark web ». Ce vol comprenait les données financières des personnes qui avaient été évaluées ainsi que des données d’identification tels que les numéros de dossier fiscal et les adresses résidentielles. Pire, la société a d’abord affirmé que les informations ne provenaient pas de leurs systèmes, puis a admis avoir reçu des demandes de rançon indiquant que les données avaient été fichées jusqu’à un an avant cette catastrophe.

Plusieurs clients ont fermé leur compte, les actionnaires sont consternés, le cours de l’action est en chute libre et la presse réclame plus d’informations.

Comment Trevor devrait-il aider l’entreprise à surmonter cette tempête ?

Pour prendre connaissance de ce cas, rendez-vous sur www.mclellan.com.au/newsletter.html et cliquez sur « lire le dernier numéro ».

Adam’s Answer

 

This is a critical time for Trevor legally and reputationally, it is also a time when being an independent director carries additional responsibility to the company, the shareholders, the staff and the customers.

All Directors and Executives can only have one response to a blackmail attempt.  That is to immediately report it to the police and not respond to the ransomware demands.  Secondly the company should have had a crisis management plan in place ready for such an eventuality.  In this day and age, no company should operate without a cybercrime contingency plan.

In this case it is unclear, but it appears that the authorities were not informed and that Trevor’s company was unprepared for a data breach or ransomware demands.

There are 2 scenarios open to Trevor:

1) If Trevor was not informed straight away of the ransom demands and the CEO and founding Executive Directors knew but did not brief him on the ransom issue and the company’s response, then his independent status has been compromised and he should resign.

2) If Trevor was informed and the whole Board was involved in the response, then Trevor must remain and help the company ride out the storm.   This will involve working with the police, the ASX and crisis management guidance from external suppliers – technical and PR. 

The rule to follow is full transparency and speedy action. 

Trevor should refer to the recent ransomware attack on Toll Logistics and their response which was exemplary.

Adam Salzer OAM is the Chair and Global Designer for Whitewater Transformations. His other board experience includes Australian Transformation and Turnaround Association (AusTTA), Asian Transformation and Turnaround Association (ATTA), Australian Deafness Council, Bell Shakespeare Company, and NSW Deaf Society. He is based in Sydney, Australia.

Julie’s Answer

 

This is a listed company; Trevor must ensure appropriate disclosure. A trading halt may give the company time to investigate, and respond to, the events and then give the market time to disseminate the information. His customer liaison at the stock exchange should assist with implementing a halt and issuing a brief statement saying what has happened and that the company will issue more information when it becomes available.

This will be a costly and distracting exercise that could derail the company from its current successful track.

Three of the four board members are executives. That doesn’t mean the fourth can rely on their efforts. Trevor must add value by asking intelligent questions that people involved in the operations will possibly not think to ask. This board must work as a team rather than a group of individuals who each contribute their own expertise and then come together to document decisions that were not made rigorously or jointly.

Trevor has now learnt that there is more to good governance than just having meetings and documenting processes. He needs to get involved and truly understand the business. If his fellow directors do not welcome this, he needs to consider whether they are taking him seriously or just using him as window-dressing. He should ensure that the whole board is never again left out of the information flow when something important happens (or even when it perhaps might happen).

He should also take the lead on procuring legal advice (they are going to need it), liaising with the regulators, and establishing crisis communications. Engaging a specialist communications firm may help.

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

Jinan’s Answer

 

I recommend three separate parallel streams of work for Trevor. 

1. Immediate public facing actions
Immediately apologize and state your commitment to your customers.  Hire a PR firm and have the most public facing person issue an apology. The person selected to issue the apology has to be selected carefully (cannot be the person responsible for leak, and has potential to become the new trusted CEO)

2. Tactical internal actions
Assess the damage and contain the incident.  Engage an incident response firm to assess how the breach happened, when it happened, what was stolen. Confirm that leak doors are closed. Select your IR firm carefully – the better reputed they are, the better you will look in litigation.
Conduct an immediate audit and investigation. You need to understand who knew, when and why this was buried for a year.
Take disciplinary action against anyone who was part of the breach. Post audit, either allow them to keep their equity or buy them out.

3. Strategic actions
Review and update your cybersecurity incident response process.  This includes your ransomware processes (e.g. will you pay, how you pay, etc.), and how you communicate incidents. 
Build cybersecurity awareness, behavior and culture up, down and across your company.  Ensure that everyone from the board down are educated, enabled and enthusiastic about their own and your company’s cyber-safety. This is a journey not a one-off miracle.
Extend cybersecurity engagement to your customers. Be proactive not only on the status of this incident, but also on how you are keeping their data safe.  Go a step further and offer them help in their own cyber-safety.
Create a forward thinking, business and risk-aligned cybersecurity strategy. Understand your current people, process and technology gaps which led to this decision and how you’ll fix them.
Elevate the role of cybersecurity leadership.  You will need a chief information security officer who is empowered to execute the strategy, and has a regular and independent seat at the board table. 

Jinan Budge is Principal Analyst Serving Security and Risk Professionals at Forrester and a former Director Cyber Security, Strategy and Governance at Transport for NSW. She is based in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

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


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

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

Bonne lecture !

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "top 10"

Huit constats qui reflètent la mouvance de la gouvernance des sociétés


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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonne lecture !

Corporate Purpose and Culture

 

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "culture organisationnelle"

 

BlackRock’s Annual Letter

 

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

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

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

Corporate Purpose

 

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

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

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

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

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

Corporate Culture

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion—A Sea Change?

 

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

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


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