Un nouveau paradigme consensuel en gouvernance


 

Voici un article de Martin Lipton et de William Savitt, associés de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, qui se spécialise dans les questions se rapportant à la gouvernance des organisations.

Les auteurs  montrent clairement la grande convergence  des principes de gouvernance eu égard à la considération des parties prenantes dans l’exercice du leadership et de la mission des entreprises publiques.

L’article montre clairement qu’il est maintenant temps d’officialiser un nouveau paradigme en gouvernance, à la suite de l’adoption de mesures concrètes de la part :

    • The UK Stewardship Code 2020,
    • The UK Financial Reporting Council
    • The World Economic Forum
    • The Statement of the Purpose of a Corporation adopted by the Business Roundtable

Le Code de la Grande-Bretagne stipule que les entreprises publiques doivent s’assurer de considérer le point de vue de toutes les parties prenantes, notamment des employés. Notons cependant que ces mesures sont sujettes au fameux Comply and Explain si familier à l’approche britannique ! On propose de suivre l’une des voies suivantes afin d’actualiser cette règle de gouvernance :

    1. Un administrateur nommé par les employés ;
    2. La mise sur pied d’un groupe de travail formel ;
    3. La nomination d’un membre de la direction au conseil d’administration qui représente le point de vue des employés.

Je vous invite à lire ce bref article et à consulter le texte It’s Time to Adopt The New Paradigm.

Bonne lecture !

The New Paradigm

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « The New Paradigm in governance »

 

With the adoption this week of The UK Stewardship Code 2020, to accompany The UK Corporate Governance Code 2018, the UK Financial Reporting Council has promulgated corporate governance, stewardship and engagement principles closely paralleling The New Paradigm issued by the World Economic Forum in 2016.

While the FRC codes are “comply and explain,” they fundamentally commit companies and asset managers and asset owners to sustainable long-term investment. As stated by the FRC:

The new Code sets high expectations of those investing money on behalf of UK savers and pensioners. In particular, the new Code establishes a clear benchmark for stewardship as the responsible allocation, management and oversight of capital to create long-term value for clients and beneficiaries leading to sustainable benefits for the economy, the environment and society (emphasis added).

There is a strong focus on the activities and outcomes of stewardship, not just policy statements. There are new expectations about how investment and stewardship is integrated, including environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues ….

The FRC Corporate Governance Code builds on the stakeholder governance provisions of Sec. 172 of the UK Company Law 2006 by requiring a company’s annual report to describe how the interest of all stakeholders have been considered. Of special interest is the Code’s provision with respect to employees:

For engagement with the workforce, one or a combination of the following methods should be used:

  • a director appointed from the workforce;
  • a formal workforce advisory panel;
  • a designated non-executive director.

If the board has not chosen one or more of these methods, it should explain what alternative arrangements are in place and why it considers that they are effective.

In broad outline, the FRC codes would fit very well in implementation of the World Economic Forum’s The New Paradigm: A Roadmap for an Implicit Corporate Governance Partnership Between Corporations and Investors to Achieve Sustainable Long-Term Investment and Growth.

The Statement of the Purpose of a Corporation adopted by the Business Roundtable in August of this year is likewise consistent with the FRC codes and The New Paradigm. Each of these initiatives recognizes that private-sector action is necessary to create a corporate governance regime suited to the challenges of the twenty-first century. And each recognizes that such action is possible within the structure of prevailing corporate law. The convergence of the FRC codes, the BRT statement of purpose, the 2016 BRT Principles of Corporate Governance, and the New Paradigm strongly suggest that the time is right for the BRT and the Investor Stewardship Group (which has similar principles) to create a joint version of The New Paradigm that could be adopted universally. See, It’s Time to Adopt The New Paradigm (discussed on the Forum here).

Prix Fidéide | Saine gouvernance


Je me fais le porte-parole du Collège des administrateurs de sociétés (CAS) pour vous sensibiliser au lancement d’un Prix Fidéide visant à reconnaître et encourager les meilleures pratiques en gouvernance : le Fidéide Saine gouvernance.

Le CAS s’associe à nouveau à la Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Québec (CCIQ) pour la sélection des candidats à ce prix Fidéide.

J’ai donc décidé, à la suite d’une demande de Chantale Coulombe, présidente du Collège des administrateurs de sociétés, d’aider à susciter des candidatures pour ce prestigieux prix en gouvernance. Le prix sera présenté en collaboration avec le cabinet d’avocats Jolicoeur Lacasse.

Voici donc le communiqué que la direction du Collège souhaite partager avec les abonnés de mon blogue.

 

 

Fidéide Saine gouvernance

 

Les critères

Au nombre des critères pour se mériter ce prix, l’entreprise doit avoir en place un comité consultatif ou un conseil d’administration et elle doit s’être distinguée en ayant adopté une ou des pratiques de gouvernance reconnue(s) au cours des trois dernières années que ce soit en lien notamment avec :

(i) la gestion de risque

(ii) les mesures de la performance financière et non financière

(iii) l’implantation de sous-comités

(iv) la parité

(v) les dossiers de ressources humaines

(vi) la relève au sein du CA et\ou au sein de la direction de l’organisation

(vii) le développement durable

(viii) les technologies ou

(iv) la responsabilité sociale.

 

Retour sur le Fidéide Saine Gouvernance 2019

Connus et reconnus dans la grande région de la Capitale-Nationale et de Chaudière-Appalaches, les Fidéides visent à récompenser des entreprises qui se sont démarquées pour des performances exceptionnelles. L’an dernier, pour la toute première fois, la Chambre ajoutait la catégorie Saine gouvernance et c’est la Coopérative des consommateurs de Lorette – Convivio IGA qui a eu l’honneur de décrocher ce premier Fidéide. Deux autres finalistes prestigieux avaient retenu l’attention du jury en 2019, soit : l’Administration portuaire de Québec et le Réseau de transport de la capitale (RTC).

 

Une occasion de reconnaître et d’encourager la saine gouvernance

À titre d’administrateur de sociétés, vous connaissez sans aucun doute des organisations qui mériteraient une telle distinction. Aussi, je vous invite fortement à les inciter à poser leur candidature au plus tard le 5 novembre.

En mettant les projecteurs sur les meilleures pratiques adoptées par ces entreprises, c’est toute la gouvernance des sociétés qui en profitera.

 

Informations et dépôt des candidatures

 

Pour plus de détails, visitez la page Fidéide Saine gouvernance 2020 sur le site du Collège ou encore, rendez-vous sur la page désignée sur le site de la Chambre.

 

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


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

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

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

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

Bonne lecture !

 

Spotlight on Boards

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Spotlight on Boards »

 

 

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

 

Afin de satisfaire ces attentes, les entreprises publiques doivent :

 

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

_________________________________________________________

Martin Lipton* is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton and is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Bonne lecture !

 

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

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

 

OECD (2019), OECD Corporate Governance Factbook 2019

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « OECD Corporate Governance Factbook 2019 »

 

The corporate and market landscape

 

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

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

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

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

 

The corporate governance framework

 

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

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

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

 

The rights and equitable treatment of shareholders and key ownership functions

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The corporate board of directors

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mechanisms for flexibility and proportionality in corporate governance

 

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

The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Les administrateurs sont de plus en plus surchargés par la documentation pour les réunions du CA


L’article publié par Mazars montre bien les efforts que les conseils d’administration doivent faire afin de bien jouer leur rôle de fiduciaire.

Les activités de gouvernance deviennent si complexes, avec l’addition de comités spéciaux, qu’il devient essentiel que les administrateurs reçoivent une information de qualité, sur une période de temps raisonnable.

L’article présente la problématique liée à une surabondance d’informations qui menace de plus en plus l’efficacité des CA.

Comment s’assurer que les administrateurs reçoivent l’information stratégique pertinente à leur travail de supervision et que la direction ne prend pas l’habitude de les enterrer dans une mer de documents ?

« An increased focus on risk and compliance for financial services firms has led to a rise in committees, reporting and key performance indicators. But boards must ensure that short-term targets do not hamper long-term strategic vision ».

Bonne lecture !

 

How information overload can threaten board effectiveness

 

documents, business papers, board packs, board papers

Photo: Shutterstock

 

The composition of boards, their agenda and processes for decision-making are critical to ensuring boards discharge their responsibilities. But the quality of their decision-making is critically dependent on the quality of the information they receive and process.

In 2017, the US Federal Reserve acknowledged that boards of financial services companies can be “overwhelmed by the quantity and complexity of information they receive”, and published guidance on supervisory expectations for boards of directors.

The fear is that the proliferation of different committees consumes management and board time to such an extent that they are taken away from the running of the business. This situation is only likely to become more intense as the pace of technological change continues and the regulatory environment continues to evolve.

An increased focus on risk and compliance has led to a proliferation of board committees.

The regulatory burden is significant, and the creation of a global systemically important financial institution (G-SIFI) through a nexus of local and global regulations presents a particular management challenge. There is a group-level need to ensure overseas subsidiaries are effectively managed and operating within group control.

This confluence of factors threatens information overload and places great importance on the ability of management teams to optimise their time to streamline board practices and ensure effective decision-making, without diluting central control.

 

Practical steps

 

There are some practical steps that management teams and boards can take to optimise their effectiveness, such as compressing the number of days on which committees meet. It is essential to circulate materials in good time ahead of meetings to ensure effective discussion and decision-making. Digestible and clear information is essential for effective accountability.

Just as financial services firms have cut back the number of people sitting on their boards, thereby improving dialogue and decision-making, so they should be equally rigorous in cutting back on lengthy reporting.

“The information conveyed to the board needs to be focused,” says Michael Tripp, head of financial services at Mazars. “There needs to be a hierarchy of what is important. More than ever there needs to be clarity on where decisions are taken.”

An increased focus on risk and compliance has led to a proliferation of board committees. The main board should ensure a qualitative approach to governance, so there is a strong level of interaction with, and between, the various committees, says Tripp.

Boards and management teams should also be clear about what can be delegated, and boards should avoid practices that just represent box-ticking exercises that are no longer relevant to the way they operate.

They must also contend with changing accounting regimes, from GAAP to Solvency II and now IFRS 17, which is due to come into force in 2021. The implementation of IFRS 17, where relevant, will create disruption in the insurance industry and could prompt a fundamental redesign of the actuarial process.

Such is the breadth of stakeholders in today’s financial services industry that management teams risk being over-burdened with unnecessary targets and key performance indicators.

The new rules will require a step change in the way insurers disclose information to make them more comparable with other industries. This will increase the burden of information for boards and management teams, and has implications for governance processes.

“Boards need to have the right level of expertise and training to understand how IFRS 17 affects their business,” says Tripp.

 

Opportunities

 

The change will also present opportunities. Any redesign of the actuarial process could present an opportunity to introduce or increase automation, thereby increasing the capacity to focus on providing timely business insight. Boards should be aware of the technological opportunities that such changes bring.

Such is the breadth of stakeholders in today’s financial services industry that management teams risk being over-burdened with unnecessary targets and key performance indicators. Tier-one capital targets and leverage ratio targets must be met to satisfy regulators, so it is important that teams are not constrained by too many targets that stifle their ability to grow and run their businesses. Excessive targets put pressure on management teams to deliver quarter-to-quarter, and may may hamper long-term strategic vision and best practice.

“Key performance indicators are an important way to measure performance and strategic progress and inform decision-making,” says Tripp. “But it’s important to narrow the focus to a number of meaningful KPIs that enable 360-degree evaluation, holding the executive team accountable.”

The financial crisis proved that global financial institutions were too big to fail. A decade on, the industry has become safer but more complex, raising the question of whether it is too difficult to manage.

Robust governance and a breadth of board expertise which reflects strong technical expertise, as well as borrowing from the insights and experiences of other industries, will be more important than ever.

_____________________________________________________________

This article is an excerpt from the Special Report – Future-Proofing Financial Services You can read the full report here

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

Dix sujets « hots » pour les administrateurs en 2019


Voici dix thèmes « chauds » qui devraient préoccuper les administrateurs en 2019.

Ils ont été identifiés par Kerry BerchemChristine LaFollette, et Frank Reddick, associés de la firme Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Le billet est paru aujourd’hui sur le forum du Harvard Law School.

Bonne lecture ! Quels sont vos points de vue à ce sujet ?

 

Top 10 Topics for Directors in 2019

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld »

 

1. Corporate Culture

The corporate culture of a company starts at the top, with the board of directors, and directors should be attuned not only to the company’s business, but also to its people and values across the company. Ongoing and thoughtful efforts to understand the company’s culture and address any issues will help the board prepare for possible crises, reduce potential liability and facilitate appropriate responses internally and externally.

2. Board Diversity

As advocates and studies continue to highlight the business case for diversity, public companies are facing increasing pressure from corporate governance groups, investors, regulators and other stakeholders to improve gender and other diversity on the board. As a recent McKinsey report highlights, many successful companies regard inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage and, specifically, as a key enabler of growth.

3. #MeToo Movement

A responsible board should anticipate the possibility that allegations of sexual harassment may arise against a C-suite or other senior executive. The board should set the right tone from the top to create a respectful culture at the company and have a plan in place before these incidents occur. In that way, the board is able to quickly and appropriately respond to any such allegations. Any such response plan should include conducting an investigation, proper communications with the affected parties and the implementation of any necessary remedial steps.

4. Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) concerns remained a hot-button issue in 2018. Social issues were at the forefront this year, ranging from gun violence, to immigration reform, to human trafficking, to calls for greater accountability and action from the private sector on issues such as climate change. This reflects a trend that likely foretells continued and increased focus on environmental, social and governance issues, including from regulatory authorities.

5. Corporate Strategy

Strategic planning should continue to be a high priority for boards in 2019, with a focus on the individual and combined impacts of the U.S. and global economies, geopolitical and regulatory uncertainties, and mergers and acquisitions activity on their industries and companies. Boards should consider maximizing synergies from recent acquisitions or reviewing their companies’ existing portfolios for potential divestitures.

6. Sanctions

During the second year of the Trump administration, U.S. sanctions expanded significantly to include new restrictions that target transactions with Iran, Russia and Venezuela. Additionally, the U.S. government has expanded its use of secondary sanctions to penalize non-U.S. companies that engage in proscribed activities involving sanctioned persons and countries. To avoid sanctions-related risks, boards should understand how these evolving rules apply to the business activities of their companies and management teams.

7. Shareholder Activism

There has been an overall increase in activism campaigns in 2018 regarding both the number of companies targeted and the number of board seats won by these campaigns. This year has also seen an uptick in traditionally passive and institutional investors playing an active role in encouraging company engagement with activists, advocating for change themselves and formulating express policies for handling activist campaigns.

8. Cybersecurity

With threats of nation-states infiltrating supply chains, and landmark laws being passed, cybersecurity and privacy are critical aspects of director oversight. Directors must focus on internal controls to guard against cyber-threats (including accounting, cybersecurity and insider trading) and expand diligence of third-party suppliers. Integrating both privacy and security by design will be critical to minimizing ongoing risk of cybersecurity breaches and state and federal enforcement.

9. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

A year has passed since President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) into law, and there will be plenty of potential actions and new faces on the tax landscape in 2019. Both the Senate Finance Committee and the Ways and Means Committee will have new chairs, and Treasury regulations implementing the TCJA will be finalized. President Trump will continue to make middle-class tax cuts a priority heading into next year. Perennial issues, such as transportation, retirement savings and health care, will likely make an appearance, and legislation improving the tax reform bill could be on the table depending on the outcome of the Treasury regulations.

10. SEC Regulation and Enforcement

To encourage public security ownership, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has adopted and proposed significant revisions to update and simplify disclosure requirements for public companies. It has taken steps to enhance the board’s role in evaluating whether to include shareholder proposals in a company’s proxy statement. It has also solicited comments on the possible reform of proxy advisor regulation, following increasing and competing calls from corporations, investor advocates and congressional leaders to revise these regulations. Boards and companies should monitor developments in this area, as well as possible changes in congressional and administration emphasis following the 2018 midterm elections.

Bonus: Midterm Elections

The 2018 midterm elections are officially over. Americans across the country cast their ballots for candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate in what was widely perceived to be a referendum on President Trump’s first two years in office. With Democrats taking control of the House, and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate, a return to divided government will bring new challenges for effective governance. Compromise and bipartisanship will be tested by what is expected to be an aggressive oversight push from House Democrats. However, areas where there may be possible compromise include federal data privacy standards, infrastructure development, criminal justice reform and pharmaceutical drug pricing initiatives.

The complete publication is available here.

Éléments susceptibles d’influer sur les décisions relatives à la gouvernance des grandes entreprises en 2019


L’article ci-dessous brosse un portrait de ce qui attend les grandes entreprises en 2019. Le billet de Holly J. Gregory, associé de la firme Sidley Austin, a été publié sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum aujourd’hui.

Quelles sont les variables susceptibles d’influer sur les décisions relatives à la gouvernance ainsi que sur les relations avec les actionnaires ?

L’auteur fait ressortir les éléments critiques suivants :

  1. Le maintien des caractéristiques du rôle du conseil et des devoirs des administrateurs;
  2. L’examen approfondi de la primauté des actionnaires et de leur influence;
  3. La réforme du vote par procuration et la réglementation des conseillers en vote;
  4. La poursuite de la convergence des idées sur les pratiques de gouvernance d’entreprise;
  5. Un accent encore plus affirmé sur les questions environnementales, sociales et de gouvernance (ESG);
  6. Une demande continue d’engagement des actionnaires et d’attention envers les investisseurs activistes.

 

Bonne lecture !

 

Looking Ahead: Key Trends in Corporate Governance

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « trend en gouvernance »

Board’s Role and Director Duties Remain Durable

 

While the corporate governance environment is always changing, board responsibilities and the fiduciary duties of directors under state corporate law have proven remarkably durable. Directors must:

Manage or direct the affairs of the company and cannot abdicate that responsibility by deferring to shareholder pressure.

Act with due care, without conflict, in good faith, and in the company’s best interest.

Delegate and oversee management of the company (for example, by selecting the CEO, monitoring the CEO’s performance, and planning for succession), and oversee strategy and risk management.

Ensuring that the day-to-day management of the company is in the right hands, providing management with forward-looking strategic guidance, and monitoring management’s efforts to identify and manage risk, including risks that pose an existential threat, remain at the heart of the board’s role. To accomplish this, boards need to understand and address disruptive risks. Boards should be mindful that adequate time is reserved on the agenda for these matters, with less focus on formal management presentations and more focus on the problems and concerns management is grappling with.

The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Blue Ribbon Commission recently provided guidance on oversight of risks that pose an existential threat (NACD, Adaptive Governance: Board Oversight of Disruptive Risks (Oct. 2018), available at nacdonline.org). The Commission recommends that boards prioritize certain actions, including:

Understanding and addressing disruptive risks “in the context of the [company’s] specific circumstances, strategic assumptions, and objectives.”

Allocating oversight of disruptive risks between and among the full board and its committees, and clarifying the allocation of responsibilities in committee charters.

Recognizing that enterprise risk management processes may not capture disruptive risks.

Evaluating board culture regularly for “openness to sharing
concerns, potential problems, or bad news; response to mistakes; and acceptance of nontraditional points of view.”

Assessing “leadership abilities in an environment of disruptive risks” in CEO selection and evaluation processes.

Aligning the company’s “talent strategy” with “the skills and structure needed to navigate disruptive risks.”

Refraining from automatically re-nominating directors as a “default decision.”

Treating board diversity as “a strategic imperative, not a compliance issue.”

Requiring continuing learning of all directors, and assessing that factor in the board’s evaluation process.

Ensuring risk reports provide “forward-looking information about changing business conditions and potential risks in a format that enables productive dialogue and decision making.”

Holding a substantive discussion, at least annually, of the company’s vulnerability to disruptive risks, “using approaches such as scenario planning, simulation exercises, and stress testing to inform these discussions.”

Shareholder Primacy and Shareholder Influence Under Scrutiny

 

While it is prudent for directors to listen to and engage with shareholders and understand their interests, directors must apply their own business judgment and determine what course is in the best interests of the company. This means that they cannot merely succumb to pressures from activist investors and other shareholders (see, for example, In re PLX Tech., Inc. Stockholders Litig., 2018 WL 5018535, at *45 (Oct. 16, 2018) (an activist “succeeded in influencing the directors to favor a sale when they otherwise would have decided to remain independent” and the incumbent directors improperly deferred to the activist and allowed him “to take control of the sale process when it mattered most”)).

However, shareholders have gained considerable power relative to boards over the last 20 years, making it difficult to resolve shareholder pressures that conflict with director viewpoints regarding the best course for the company. The forces that have strengthened shareholder influence include:

Concentration of shareholding in the hands of powerful institutional investors (with institutions owning 70% of US public company shares in 2018).

The activation of institutional investors regarding proxy voting (with institutional voting participation at 91% compared to retail shareholder participation at 28%).

The rise of proxy advisory firms that serve to coordinate proxy voting.

The dismantling of classic corporate defenses, such as classified boards and poison pills.

The rise in shareholder engagement and negotiation (or “private ordering”) of governance processes. (Broadridge, 2018 Proxy Season Review (Oct. 2, 2018), available at broadridge.com.)

While there is no sign that shareholder influence will dissipate, recent legislative developments suggest that shareholder primacy (the premise that a company is run for the benefit of its shareholders in the first instance) is under some pressure. For example, in August 2018, US Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed the Accountable Capitalism Act, which among other things would require directors of US companies with $1 billion or more in annual revenues to obtain a charter as a “United States Corporation” and consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders, including employees, customers, and communities, in their decision-making, in addition to the interests of shareholders. (S. 3348, 115th Cong. § 5(c)(1)(B) (2017–2018); for more information, search Looking Ahead: Key Trends in Corporate Governance on Practical Law.)

In addition, there are increasing calls for the responsible use of power by large institutional investors, which have a considerable and growing influence on the companies in which they invest. The underlying concern is the responsible use of significant economic power, given the substantial impact on society that large institutional investors and companies have. For example, in January 2018, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote to the CEOs of BlackRock portfolio companies that “society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges. … To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate” (Annual Letter to CEOs from Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO, BlackRock, available at blackrock.com).

This broader view of a company’s purpose recognizes that, while social interests and shareholder interests are often viewed as in tension, outside of a short-term perspective social interests and shareholder interests tend to align. For pension funds and many other institutional investors, the interests of their beneficiaries are aligned with the successful performance of healthy companies over a period of years.

Given the size of institutional investors’ portfolios, they face challenges in applying their influence on a company-specific basis. While some of the largest institutional investors are investing in the human resources and technology needed to make informed voting decisions on a case-by-case, company-specific basis, with respect to a large number of companies in their portfolios, many institutional investors still apply set policies on a one-size-fits-all basis, without nuanced analysis of the circumstances, in voting their shares. Institutional investors should assess whether they:

Are well positioned to vote their shares on an informed basis.

Have designed screens that consider company performance and other factors that may support a change from standard policy, if relying on the application of pre-set policies.

When institutional investors turn to proxy advisory firms to make voting decisions, they should evaluate how the proxy advisor is positioned to make sophisticated and nuanced case-by-case determinations, and whether resource constraints require the proxy advisor to rely heavily on the use of set policies (see below Convergence of Ideas on Corporate Governance Practices Continues).

In January 2017, a group of institutional investors launched the Investor Stewardship Group (ISG) and issued Stewardship Principles and Corporate Governance Principles that took effect on January 1, 2018 (available at isgframework.org). The Stewardship Principles set forth a stewardship framework for institutional investors that includes the following principles:

Principle A: Institutional investors are accountable to those whose money they invest.

Principle B: Institutional investors should demonstrate how they evaluate corporate governance factors with respect to the companies in which they invest.

Principle C: Institutional investors should disclose, in general terms, how they manage potential conflicts of interest that may arise in their proxy voting and engagement activities.

Principle D: Institutional investors are responsible for proxy voting decisions and should monitor the relevant activities and policies of third parties that advise them on those decisions.

Principle E: Institutional investors should address and attempt to resolve differences with companies in a constructive and pragmatic manner.

Principle F: Institutional investors should work together, where appropriate, to encourage the adoption and implementation of the Corporate Governance Principles and Stewardship Principles.

Reform of Proxy Voting and Regulation of Proxy Advisors Under Consideration

 

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) staff recently held a roundtable to assess whether the SEC should update its rules governing proxy voting mechanics and the shareholder proposal process, and strengthen the regulation of proxy advisory firms. These issues have been under consideration since the SEC solicited public comment on the proxy system in 2010. (SEC, November 15, 2018: Roundtable on the Proxy Process, available at sec.gov; Concept Release on the U.S. Proxy System, 75 Fed. Reg. 42982-01, 2010 WL 2851569 (July 22, 2010).)

Topics discussed at the roundtable included:

Proxy voting mechanics and technology. Panelists agreed that the current proxy voting system needs to be modernized and simplified, for example, by:

implementing a vote confirmation process so that shareholders may verify, before the vote deadline, that voting instructions were followed and their votes were counted;

using technology to encourage wider participation and reduce costs and delays in the voting process;

studying why retail shareholder participation has fallen and whether more direct communication channels would improve information flow and participation; and

mandating use of universal proxy cards in proxy contests.

The shareholder proposal process. Some panelists asserted that the current shareholder proposal process functions well, while others identified areas for reform, including:

revisiting the ownership thresholds and holding period required to submit a shareholder proposal (currently, the lesser of $2,000 or 1%, and one year);

increasing resubmission thresholds to address reappearance of a proposal even though a majority of shareholders voted it down year after year;

providing more SEC guidance on no-action decisions and rationales;

requiring proxy disclosure of the name of the shareholder proponent (and its proxy, if any) and its level of holdings; and

requiring disclosure of preliminary vote tallies.

The role and regulation of proxy advisory firms. While no significant consensus emerged regarding whether proxy advisory firms should be subject to further SEC regulation, areas under discussion included:

improving accuracy of proxy advisor reports and affording all companies opportunities to review and verify information in advance of publication; and

improving procedures to monitor and manage, and enhancing disclosure of, conflicts of interest.

The Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act

 

The Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act, H.R. 4015, would require proxy advisory firms to register with the SEC, which would require:

Sufficient staffing to provide voting recommendations based on current and accurate information.

The establishment of procedures to permit companies reasonable time to review and provide meaningful comment on draft proxy advisory firm recommendations, including the opportunity to present (in person or telephonically) to the person responsible for the recommendation.

The employment of an ombudsman to receive and timely resolve complaints about the accuracy of voting information used in making recommendations.

Policies and procedures to manage conflicts of interest.

Disclosure of procedures and methodologies used in developing proxy recommendations and analyses.

Designation of a compliance officer responsible for administering the required policies and procedures.

Annual reporting to the SEC on the proxy advisory firm’s recommendations, including the number of companies that are also consulting division clients, as well as the number of proxy advisory firm staff who reviewed and made recommendations.

The bill would also direct the SEC staff to withdraw two no-action letters issued by the SEC in 2004, which the fact sheet suggests “have led to overreliance on proxy advisory firm recommendations.” (The SEC rescinded those two no-action letters in September 2018.)

The bill is supported by both Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange, as well as leading business groups and the Society for Corporate Governance. It is opposed by the Council of Institutional Investors, the Consumer Federation of America, and many public pension fund managers.

(See, for example, Nelson Griggs, Nasdaq, U.S. House of Representatives Passes Proxy Advisory Firm Reform Legislation (Dec. 16, 2017), available at nasdaq.com; Council of Institutional Investors, CII Urges Members to Contact Congressional Reps, Opposing Proxy Advisors Bill (Jan. 13, 2018), available at cii.org.) The bill is unlikely to be passed into law before the current congressional term ends, but may be reintroduced during the following congressional term.

It remains to be seen whether the SEC will incorporate input from the roundtable into future rulemaking or new SEC staff guidance or practice. The SEC is more likely to focus on proxy reform as a priority than on regulation of proxy advisory firms absent pressure from Congress.

Two bills seeking SEC regulation of proxy advisory firms were introduced in the 115th Congress:

The Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act, H.R. 4015. In June 2018, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing on this bill, which was sent by the House of Representatives to the Senate in December 2017 for consideration. (See Box, The Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act.)

The Corporate Governance Fairness Act, S. 3614. In November 2018, this bill was introduced in the Senate to amend the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act) to expressly require proxy advisory firms to register as investment advisers under the Advisers Act, thereby subjecting them to enhanced fiduciary duties and SEC oversight, including regular SEC staff examinations into their conflict of interest policies and programs, and whether they knowingly have made false statements to clients or have omitted to state material facts that would be necessary to make statements to clients not misleading.

Both bills would subject proxy advisory firms to SEC regulation, and focus on policies and procedures regarding conflicts of interest and accuracy. H.R. 4015 goes further by mandating
maintenance of certain staffing levels and annual reporting relating to recommendations. Neither bill is likely to be passed into law by the end of the current session of Congress.

 

Convergence of Ideas on Corporate Governance Practices Continues

 

Proxy advisory firms are often criticized for imposing a one-size-fits-all view of corporate governance on public companies in the US. However, the divide is narrowing between what investors and their proxy advisors, on the one hand, and corporate directors and CEOs, on the other hand, think are good corporate governance practices.

Recently, a high-profile group of senior executives from major public companies and institutional investors issued the Commonsense Principles 2.0 to revise corporate governance principles that the group published in 2016 (available at governanceprinciples.org). The Commonsense Principles 2.0 describe corporate governance practices that have become widely accepted among leading companies and their institutional investors, including in previously controversial areas such as majority voting in uncontested director elections and proxy access. A majority of S&P 500 companies already practice most of the recommendations, and many of the recommendations are requirements for publicly traded companies under SEC regulations or stock exchange listing rules. For example, the Commonsense Principles 2.0 provide that:

One-year terms for directors are generally preferable, but if a board is classified, the reason for that structure should be explained.

The independent directors should decide whether to have combined or separate chair and CEO roles based on the circumstances. If they combine the chair and CEO roles, they should designate a strong lead independent director. In any event, the reasons for combining or separating the roles should be explained clearly.

A director who fails to receive a majority of votes in uncontested elections should resign and the board should accept the resignation or explain to shareholders why it is not accepted.

These recommendations are in line with evolving practices.

The Commonsense Principles 2.0 address some recommendations to institutional investors and asset managers, and call on them to use their influence transparently and responsibly. Among other things, they urge asset managers to disclose their proxy voting guidelines and reliance on proxy advisory firms, and be satisfied that the information that they are relying on is accurate and relevant.

Notably, the Commonsense Principles 2.0 reflect the convergence of viewpoints through agreement among a coalition of high-profile leaders of well-known public companies, institutional investors, and one activist hedge fund. Signatories include Mary Barra of General Motors, Ed Breen of DowDupont, Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Larry Fink of BlackRock, Bill McNabb of Vanguard, Ronald O’Hanley of State Street, and Jeff Ubben of ValueAct Capital. The Council of Institutional Investors and the Business Roundtable have expressed support for or endorsed the Commonsense Principles 2.0.

 

Shifting Focus of Private Ordering to ESG Issues

 

The convergence of views among corporate leaders and large institutional investors on corporate governance practices reflects to a significant degree the success shareholders have had in influencing corporate governance reforms through engagement with boards, or private ordering. Shareholders are continuing to engage companies and press for reforms in the areas of shareholder rights and board composition and quality, but they are also increasing their focus on ESG issues, such as climate change, diversity, and board effectiveness, and the impact of ESG issues on companies’ financial performance. ESG is no longer a fringe issue of interest only to special issue investors. Mainstream institutional investors are recognizing that attention to ESG and corporate social responsibility impacts portfolio company financial performance.

The rising interest in ESG among investors is apparent in the sharp rise in US-domiciled assets under management using ESG strategies ($12.0 trillion at the start of 2018, up 38% since 2016 and an 18-fold increase since 1995, as reported by the US SIF Foundation), increasing support for shareholder proposals relating to ESG issues, as well as in the focus of engagement efforts. According to Broadridge, institutional investor support for social and environmental proposals increased from 19% in 2014 to 29% in 2018 (Broadridge, 2018 Proxy Season Review (Oct. 2, 2018), available at broadridge.com).

 

Continuing Demand for Shareholder Engagement and Attention to Activist Investors

 

In this era of enhanced shareholder influence, directors need to be especially attuned to the interests and concerns of significant shareholders, while continuing to apply their own judgment about the best interests of the company. This requires active outreach and engagement with the company’s core shareholders and, in particular, the persons responsible for voting proxies and setting the governance policies that often drive voting decisions. Caution, balance, and effective communication are also necessary to ensure that director judgment is not replaced with shareholder appeasement.

In the first half of 2018, record numbers of hedge fund activist campaigns were launched, backed by record levels of capital. Activist investors are having greater success in negotiating board seats and in winning seats in contested elections. The general level of vote support for directors is falling. For example, 416 directors failed to receive majority shareholder support in the 2018 proxy season (an 11% increase over 2017) and 1,408 directors failed to attain at least 70% shareholder support (a 14% increase over 2017) (Broadridge, 2018 Proxy Season Review (Oct. 2, 2018), available at broadridge.com).

Understanding key shareholders’ interests and developing relationships with long-term shareholders can help position the company to address calls by activist investors for short-term actions that may impair long-term value. However, boards also should view the input they receive from activist investors as valuable, because it could help identify potential areas of vulnerability. Moreover, establishing an open and positive dialogue with activist investors, and engaging with them in meaningful discussions, can assist boards in avoiding a public shareholder activist campaign in the future. This requires:

Identifying the company’s key shareholders and the issues about which they care the most.

Objectively assessing strategy and performance from the perspective of an activist investor, including proactively identifying areas in which the company may be subject to activism.

Monitoring corporate governance benchmarks and trends in shareholder activism to keep abreast of “hot topic” issues.

Comparing the company’s corporate governance practices to evolving best practice.

Attending to potential vulnerabilities in board composition. Activist investors scrutinize the tenure, age, demographics, and experience of each director. They will target directors whose expertise is arguably outdated, who have poor track records as officers or directors of other companies, or who have served on the board for long tenures. They will also look for gaps in the expertise needed by the board given the current dynamic business environment, and for a lack of gender or ethnic diversity. Boards should monitor developments in these areas (see, for example, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS), 2019 ISS Americas Policy Updates (Nov. 19, 2018), available at issgovernance.com (announcing that, beginning in 2020, ISS will oppose the nominating committee chair at Russell 3000 or S&P 1500 companies when there are no women on the board); 2018 Cal. Legis. Serv. ch. 954 (S.B. 826) (to be codified at Cal. Corp. Code §§ 301.3, 2115.5) (mandating gender quotas for boards of US public companies that are headquartered in California)).

Addressing potential vulnerabilities in CEO compensation, including disparity with respect to peer companies and other named executive officers. Activist investors could claim that this signals a culture in which too much deference is given to the CEO and there is a lack of team emphasis in the compensation of management.

Reviewing structural defenses with the assistance of seasoned proxy fight and corporate governance counsel. Many companies have not reviewed their charter and bylaws recently, and in a proxy contest the language of many bylaw provisions can take on a different meaning. Boards should be aware that proxy advisory firm ISS recently announced that it will generally oppose management proposals to ratify a company’s existing charter or bylaw provisions, unless the provisions align with best practice (2019 ISS Americas Policy Updates, at 11).

Effectively communicating long-term plans with respect to strategy and performance pressures, defending past performance, and addressing calls for an exploration of strategic alternatives.

Preparing a response plan for engaging with activist investors to ensure that the board and management convey a measured and unified position.

Guide des pratiques exemplaires en matière de gestion des risques | Les responsabilités des administrateurs


Les administrateurs de sociétés doivent apporter une attention spéciale à la gestion des risques telle qu’elle est mise en œuvre par les dirigeants des entreprises.

Les préoccupations des fiduciaires pour la gestion des risques, quoique fondamentales, sont relativement récentes, et les administrateurs ne savent souvent pas comment aborder cette question.

L’article présenté, ci-dessous, est le fruit d’une recherche de Martin Lipton, fondateur de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, spécialisée dans les fusions et acquisitions ainsi que dans les affaires de gouvernance.

L’auteur et ses collaborateurs ont produit un guide des pratiques exemplaires en matière de gestion des risques. Cet article de fond s’adresse aux administrateurs et touche aux éléments-clés de la gestion des risques :

(1) la distinction entre la supervision des risques et la gestion des risques ;

(2) les leçons que l’on doit tirer de la supervision des risques à Wells Fargo ;

(3) l’importance accordée par les investisseurs institutionnels aux questions des risques ;

(4) « tone at the top » et culture organisationnelle ;

(5) les devoirs fiduciaires, les contraintes réglementaires et les meilleures pratiques ;

(6) quelques recommandations spécifiques pour améliorer la supervision des risques ;

(7) les programmes de conformité juridiques ;

(8) les considérations touchant les questions de cybersécurité ;

(9) quelques facettes se rapportant aux risques environnementaux, sociaux et de gouvernance ;

(10) l’anticipation des risques futurs.

 

Voici donc l’introduction de l’article. Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de l’article au complet.

Bonne lecture !

 

Risk Management and the Board of Directors

 

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Overview

The past year has seen continued evolution in the political, legal and economic arenas as technological change accelerates. Innovation, new business models, dealmaking and rapidly evolving technologies are transforming competitive and industry landscapes and impacting companies’ strategic plans and prospects for sustainable, long-term value creation. Tax reform has created new opportunities and challenges for companies too. Meanwhile, the severe consequences that can flow from misconduct within an organization serve as a reminder that corporate operations are fraught with risk. Social and environmental issues, including heightened focus on income inequality and economic disparities, scrutiny of sexual misconduct issues and evolving views on climate change and natural disasters, have taken on a new salience in the public sphere, requiring companies to exercise utmost care to address legitimate issues and avoid public relations crises and liability.

Corporate risk taking and the monitoring of corporate risk remain prominently top of mind for boards of directors, investors, legislators and the media. Major institutional shareholders and proxy advisory firms increasingly evaluate risk oversight matters when considering withhold votes in uncontested director elections and routinely engage companies on risk-related topics. This focus on risk management has also led to increased scrutiny of compensation arrangements throughout the organization that have the potential for incentivizing excessive risk taking. Risk management is no longer simply a business and operational responsibility of management. It has also become a governance issue that is squarely within the oversight responsibility of the board. This post highlights a number of issues that have remained critical over the years and provides an update to reflect emerging and recent developments. Key topics addressed in this post include:

the distinction between risk oversight and risk management;

a lesson from Wells Fargo on risk oversight;

the strong institutional investor focus on risk matters;

tone at the top and corporate culture;

fiduciary duties, legal and regulatory frameworks and third-party guidance on best practices;

specific recommendations for improving risk oversight;

legal compliance programs;

special considerations regarding cybersecurity matters;

special considerations pertaining to environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks; and

anticipating future risks.

Enjeux clés concernant les membres des comités d’audit | En rappel


Le récent rapport de KPMG sur les grandes tendances en audit présente sept défis que les membres des CA, notamment les membres des comités d’audit, doivent considérer afin de bien s’acquitter de leurs responsabilités dans la gouvernance des sociétés.

Le rapport a été rédigé par des professionnels en audit de la firme KPMG ainsi que par le Conference Board du Canada.

Les sept défis abordés dans le rapport sont les suivants :

– talent et capital humain ;

– technologie et cybersécurité ;

– perturbation des modèles d’affaires ;

– paysage réglementaire en évolution ;

– incertitude politique et économique ;

– évolution des attentes en matière de présentation de l’information ;

– environnement et changements climatiques.

Je vous invite à consulter le rapport complet ci-dessous pour de plus amples informations sur chaque enjeu.

Bonne lecture !

 

Tendances en audit

 

 

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Alors que l’innovation technologique et la cybersécurité continuent d’avoir un impact croissant sur le monde des finances et des affaires à l’échelle mondiale, tant les comités d’audit que les chefs des finances reconnaissent le besoin de compter sur des talents de haut calibre pour contribuer à affronter ces défis et à en tirer parti.

Le rôle du comité d’audit est de s’assurer que l’organisation dispose des bonnes personnes possédant l’expérience et les connaissances requises, tant au niveau de la gestion et des opérations qu’au sein même de sa constitution. Il ne s’agit que de l’un des nombreux défis à avoir fait surface dans le cadre de ce troisième numéro du rapport Tendances en audit.

Les comités d’audit d’aujourd’hui ont la responsabilité d’aider les organisations à s’orienter parmi les nombreux enjeux et défis plus complexes que jamais auxquels ils font face, tout en remplissant leur mandat traditionnel de conformité et de présentation de l’information. Alors que les comités d’audit sont pleinement conscients de cette nécessité, notre rapport indique que les comités d’audit et les chefs des finances se demandent dans quelle mesure leur organisation est bien positionnée pour faire face à la gamme complète des tendances actuelles et émergentes.

Pour mettre en lumière cette préoccupation et d’autres enjeux clés, le rapport Tendances en audit se penche sur les sept défis qui suivent :

  1. talent et capital humain;
  2. technologie et cybersécurité;
  3. perturbation des modèles d’affaires;
  4. paysage réglementaire en évolution;
  5. incertitude politique et économique;
  6. évolution des attentes en matière de présentation de l’information;
  7. environnement et changements climatiques.

Au fil de l’évolution des mandats et des responsabilités, ce rapport se révélera être une ressource précieuse pour l’ensemble des parties prenantes en audit.

Les particularités de 4 types de conseils d’administration | En reprise


Assez régulièrement, je donne la parole à Johanne Bouchard* qui agit à titre d’auteure invitée sur mon blogue en gouvernance.L’auteure a une solide expérience d’interventions de consultation auprès de conseils d’administration de sociétés américaines et d’accompagnements auprès de hauts dirigeants de sociétés publiques.
Dans ce billet, elle expose, d’une manière simple, les principales différences entre les catégories de conseils d’administration.J’ajouterais à cette typologie les conseils d’administration de sociétés d’État qui jouent un rôle très important dans l’économie.
Bien que le mode de fonctionnement de ces derniers s’apparente à la gouvernance des OBNL, il y a des particularités notables dont le processus de nomination des administrateurs par l’actionnaire unique : l’État !Je vous invite à prendre également connaissance du bilan que dresse Yvan Allaire, président de l’IGOPP, de la modernisation de la gouvernance des sociétés d’État du Québec. Le document fait bien ressortir les particularités de la gouvernance : La gouvernance des sociétés d’État : bilan et suggestions.
Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

Les particularités de 4 types de conseils d’administration

par

Johanne Bouchard

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Il y a quatre types de conseils d’administration : (1) consultatif, (2) d’organismes à but non lucratif, (3) d’entreprises privées et (4) de sociétés publiques (cotées en bourse).

Chaque type est unique quant à son but, à ses rôles et responsabilités, aux partenaires qu’il sert, aux bénéfices et à la valeur qu’il devrait apporter et aux compétences qu’il requiert pour arriver à une composition optimale — et chacun d’eux offre ses propres rétributions.

Les quatre types de conseils d’administration exigent un leadership vigoureux, quelle que soit leur taille ou leur objectif. Tous requièrent une description claire des responsabilités et des attentes afin d’être efficaces, et tous doivent avoir un cadre clair pour soutenir le mieux possible l’organisation qu’ils servent et pour savoir comment et quand interagir avec le leader de l’entreprise et son management. L’efficacité d’un conseil va bien au-delà des murs de la salle dans laquelle il se rencontre. Tous affectent, à leur façon (à petite ou à grande échelle), nos communautés ainsi que la manière dont nous créons un héritage dont nous pouvons nous enorgueillir.

Selon mon expérience, les gens sous-estiment souvent l’importance d’adopter une approche stratégique en ce qui a trait à la création, au maintien, au renouvellement et à la dissolution des conseils d’administration. Pour quelque conseil qui soit, la clé est d’être préparé et de réfléchir attentivement à la manière d’atteindre la meilleure composition possible. C’est du travail — mais un travail qui doit être fait.

Il n’est pas rare que les conseils consultatifs, les conseils d’administration d’organismes à but non lucratif ou de famille ou encore les conseils d’administration d’entreprises en démarrage créent leur structure sans l’avis d’un conseiller juridique. Indépendamment du budget ou des fonds disponibles, il est sage de nommer un conseiller juridique de confiance qui peut vous guider ou vous confirmer que vous appliquez une gouvernance d’entreprise appropriée. Obtenir l’aide d’un professionnel n’est pas nécessairement coûteux, mais les conséquences de ne pas le faire peuvent l’être. Vous ne pouvez vous permettre d’être informel lorsqu’il s’agit de la composition du conseil d’administration, que ce soit pendant le processus de sa composition, de son maintien, de son élargissement, de son renouvellement ou de sa dissolution.

Conseils d’administration/Conseils consultatifs

Certains de mes collègues croient que les conseils consultatifs ne devraient pas être appelés « conseils d’administration », puisqu’ils ne sont pas gouvernés avec la même rigueur que le sont les trois autres types de conseils. Même si vous préférez les nommer « conseils » au lieu de « conseils d’administration », ils doivent tout de même être analysés. Plutôt que les administrateurs, des conseillers sont recrutés pour les conseils consultatifs, et contrairement aux trois autres types de conseils d’administration, les conseils consultatifs n’ont pas de devoirs fiduciaires.

Les conseils consultatifs peuvent exister pour fournir leur expertise dans le but de compléter n’importe quel des trois autres types de conseils, ou compléter l’équipe de direction, ou n’importe quelles fonctions et divisions de l’entreprise, ou pour compléter les équipes de groupes de travail particuliers, etc. Selon moi, les conseils consultatifs devraient être l’une des plus grandes priorités pour les entreprises en démarrage et pour de nouvelles initiatives qui sont mises à l’essai ou pionnières au sein d’une entreprise. Lorsque bien structurés et bien dirigés, ils peuvent également augmenter de façon importante l’impact et le résultat atteints dans un organisme à but non lucratif.

Si vous vous joignez à un conseil consultatif, soyez clair sur votre rôle et sur ce qu’on attend de vous. Sachez dès le départ si votre contribution est bénévole ou rémunérée. Ne faites pas de promesses irréalistes à cause de votre enthousiasme à y contribuer. Si vous ne savez pas comment conseiller ou agir comme mentor, ce n’est pas le bon conseil d’administration pour vous.

Conseils d’administration d’organismes à but non lucratif

Les conseils d’administration d’organismes à but non lucratif servent une entreprise de type 501(c)(3) (aux États-Unis), laquelle est une entreprise qui n’est pas et ne peut pas être structurée ou exploitée au bénéfice d’intérêts privés. Essentiellement, les administrateurs de ces conseils d’administration s’engagent envers une cause, offrent de leur temps et on leur demande souvent de faire un don philanthropique.

Le fait d’avoir beaucoup d’expérience dans des conseils consultatifs peut constituer une progression naturelle pour joindre un conseil d’administration d’organisme à but non lucratif, mais le fait de joindre un conseil d’administration d’organisme à but non lucratif ne requiert pas que vous ayez de l’expérience dans des conseils consultatifs ou dans d’autres types de conseils d’administration. Servir au sein du conseil d’administration d’un organisme à but non lucratif peut vous être très utile pour joindre un conseil d’administration privé ou public, selon votre rôle, votre contribution et le leadership que vous y exercez. Si vous aimez les activités d’organisations de nature sociale et si vous n’êtes pas allergique à l’activité de collecte de fonds, c’est le type de conseil d’administration à considérer.

Conseils d’administration d’entreprises privées

Les conseils d’administration privés ne se limitent pas aux petites entreprises. Il y a beaucoup d’entreprises, de tailles moyennes et grandes, qui sont privées, et plusieurs entreprises familiales le sont aussi.

Se joindre à un conseil d’administration d’une entreprise en démarrage peut être très excitant, assez intense et souvent épuisant. La croissance constitue l’objectif numéro un des entreprises en démarrage. Les investisseurs la souhaite grande et rapide… Dans ces circonstances, il est important d’être à l’aise avec la turbulence, connaître ses limites et travailler sous pression.

Les présidents de conseils d’administration privés ont plus de latitude en ce qui a trait à leur implication auprès du chef de la direction et de son équipe de direction dans la recherche de la croissance de l’entreprise. De plus, le fait de se joindre à un conseil d’administration privé peut représenter un bel avantage financier, du fait que la rémunération n’est pas nécessairement limitée à un versement d’argent, et qu’elle pourrait/peut vraisemblablement inclure (ou ne constituer que cela) des actions ou des options d’achat d’actions. Les conseils d’administration d’entreprises privées sont un bon tremplin pour accéder à un conseil d’administration d’entreprises cotées en bourse.

Les conseils d’administration n’exigent pas les mêmes engagements légaux et ne comportent pas les niveaux de risques qui sont inhérents aux conseils d’administration d’entreprises cotées. Cela peut être une bonne progression pour acquérir de l’expérience sur la gouvernance afin de pouvoir obtenir un siège au conseil d’administration d’une entreprise publique (ou de finir par siéger à un conseil d’administration d’entreprise publique si la stratégie de retrait de l’entreprise est une première offre publique durant la période où vous servez au conseil). Vous pouvez alors être exposé à une fusion/acquisition d’un côté comme de l’autre.

Si vous aimez travailler avec des investisseurs institutionnels, des investisseurs à capital de risque ou y être exposé, c’est un excellent type de conseil d’administration auquel se joindre, puisque l’un de vos rôles pourrait être d’aider un chef de direction dynamique et à l’esprit d’initiative à rassembler des fonds.

Conseils d’administration d’entreprises publiques (cotées en bourse)

Les conseils d’administration d’entreprises cotées sont de loin les conseils d’administration les plus réglementés. Servir à ces conseils est intense et prend beaucoup de temps. Depuis la mise en place de la Loi Sarbanes-Oxley aux États-Unis, les rôles des administrateurs de conseils d’administration publics/corporatifs sont plus sérieux que jamais, et l’accent est fortement orienté vers la conquête de l’indépendance. Bien que la rémunération du service au sein d’un conseil d’administration public soit attirante, un administrateur doit s’engager à donner du temps pour la préparation des rencontres, pour prendre part aux comités qui se rencontrent entre les réunions régulières du conseil d’administration et pour assister à toutes ces rencontres.

Alors que votre expérience et vos compétences sont très importantes lorsque vous sollicitez un siège au sein de ce type de conseil d’administration, vous devrez aussi être très au fait des règles de gouvernance et de la réglementation. Vous devez être préparés à régler des crises qui requièrent la diligence du conseil d’administration lorsqu’elles se présentent. Les administrateurs de conseils d’administration publics ont des responsabilités fiduciaires envers les actionnaires, lesquelles comportent le risque de responsabilité, spécialement si la surveillance des risques par les administrateurs n’est pas une priorité pour eux.

Les conseils d’administration de sociétés publiques sont un excellent endroit pour avoir un impact important sur les entreprises et sur ses dirigeants.


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

Pour en connaître plus sur le site de Johanne Bouchard

En reprise | Quelle est la raison d’être d’une entreprise ? Comment opère la gouvernance ?


Quelle est la raison d’être d’une entreprise sur le plan juridique ? À qui doit-elle rendre des comptes ?

Une entreprise est-elle au service exclusif de ses actionnaires ou doit-elle obligatoirement considérer les intérêts de ses parties prenantes (stakeholders) avant de prendre des décisions de nature stratégiques ?

On conviendra que ces questions ont fréquemment été abordées dans ces pages. Cependant, la réalité de la conduite des organisations semble toujours refléter le modèle de la primauté des actionnaires, mieux connu maintenant sous l’appellation « démocratie de l’actionnariat ».

L’article de Martin Lipton* fait le point sur l’évolution de la reconnaissance des parties prenantes au cours des quelque dix dernières années.

Je crois que les personnes intéressées par les questions de gouvernance (notamment les administrateurs de sociétés) doivent être informées des enjeux qui concernent leurs responsabilités fiduciaires.

Bonne lecture. ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

The Purpose of the Corporation

 

 

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Whether the purpose of the corporation is to generate profits for its shareholders or to operate in the interests of all of its stakeholders has been actively debated since 1932, when it was the subject of dueling law review articles by Columbia law professor Adolf Berle (shareholders) and Harvard law professor Merrick Dodd (stakeholders).

Following “Chicago School” economics professor Milton Friedman’s famous (some might say infamous) 1970 New York Times article announcing ex cathedra that the social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, shareholder primacy was widely viewed as the purpose and basis for the governance of a corporation. My 1979 article, Takeover Bids in the Target’s Boardroom, arguing that the board of directors of a corporation that was the target of a takeover bid had the right, if not the duty, to consider the interests of all stakeholders in deciding whether to accept or reject the bid, was widely derided and rejected by the Chicago School economists and law professors who embraced Chicago School economics. Despite the 1985 decision of the Supreme Court of Delaware citing my article in holding that a board of directors could take into account stakeholder interests, and over 30 states enacting constituency (stakeholder) statutes, shareholder primacy continued to dominate academic, economic, financial and legal thinking—often disguised as “shareholder democracy.”

While the debate continued and stakeholder governance gained adherents in the new millennium, shareholder primacy continued to dominate. Only since the 2008 financial crisis and resulting recession has there been significant recognition that shareholder primacy has been a major driver of short-termism, encourages activist attacks on corporations, reduces R&D expenditures, depresses wages and reduces long-term sustainable investments—indeed, it promotes inequality and strikes at the very heart of our society. In the past five years, the necessity for changes has been recognized by significant academic, business, financial and investor reports and opinions. An example is the 2017 paper I and a Wachtell Lipton team prepared for the World Economic Forum, The New Paradigm: A Roadmap for an Implicit Corporate Governance Partnership Between Corporations and Investors to Achieve Sustainable Long-Term Investment and Growth, which quotes or cites many of the others.

This year we are seeing important new support for counterbalancing shareholder primacy and promoting long-term sustainable investment. Among the many prominent examples is the January 2018 annual letter from Larry Fink, Chairman of BlackRock, to CEOs:

Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings, and, in the process, sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation, and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth. It will remain exposed to activist campaigns that articulate a clearer goal, even if that goal serves only the shortest and narrowest of objectives. And ultimately, that company will provide subpar returns to the investors who depend on it to finance their retirement, home purchases, or higher education.

This was followed in March by the report of a commission appointed by the French Government recommending amendment to the French Civil Code to add, “The company shall be managed in its own interest, considering the social and environmental consequences of its activity,” following the existing, “All companies shall have a lawful purpose and be incorporated in the common interest of the shareholders.” The draft amendment is intended to establish the principle that each company should pursue its own interest—namely, the continuity of its operation, sustainability through investment, collective creation and innovation. The report notes that this amendment integrates corporate and social responsibility considerations into corporate governance and goes on to state that each company has a purpose not reducible to profit and needs to be aware of its purpose. The report recommends an amendment to the French Commercial Code for the purpose of entrusting the boards of directors to define a company’s purpose in order to guide the company’s strategy, taking into account its social and environmental consequences.

Also in March, the European Commission in its Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growthproposed both corporate governance and investor stewardship requirements:

Subject to the outcome of its impact assessment, the Commission will table a legislative proposal to clarify institutional investors’ and asset managers’ duties in relation to sustainability considerations by Q2 2018. The proposal will aim to (i) explicitly require institutional investors and asset managers to integrate sustainability considerations in the investment decision-making process and (ii) increase transparency, towards end-investors on how they integrate such sustainability factors in their investment decisions in particular as concerns their exposure to sustainability risks.

Further, the Commission proposes a number of other laws or regulations designed to promote ESG, CSR and sustainable long-term investment.

In addition to these examples, there are similar policy statements by major investors and similar efforts at legislation to modulate or eliminate shareholder primacy in Great Britain and the United States. While it is not certain that any legislation will soon be enacted, it is clear that the problems have been identified, support is growing to find a way to address them and if implicit stakeholder governance does not take hold, legislation will ensue to assure it.

_____________________________________

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

Mesures à prendre en matière de contrôle interne afin d’éviter les fraudes de cybersécurité


Voici un article qui met l’accent sur les mesures à prendre en matière de contrôle interne afin d’éviter les fraudes de cybersécurité.

Les auteurs, Keith Higgins*et Marvin Tagabanis exposent les résultats de leurs recherches dans un billet publié sur le site de  Havard Law School Forum.

Les fraudes dont il est question concernent neuf entreprises qui ont été la cible des arnaques par l’utilisation de courriels.

The nine defrauded companies lost a total of nearly $100 million as a result of the email scams. The companies operated in different business sectors including technology, machinery, real estate, energy, financial, and consumer goods, which the Report suggests “reflect[s] the reality that every type of business is a potential target of cyber-related fraud.” The Report also highlighted the significant economic harm posed by “business email compromises” more broadly, which, based on FBI estimates, has caused over $5 billion in losses since 2013, with an additional $675 million in adjusted losses in 2017—the highest estimated out-of-pocket losses from any class of cyber-facilitated crime during this period.

Les auteurs notent que les escroqueries par le biais des courriels étaient principalement de deux types :

(1) Courriels envoyés par de faux dirigeants ;

(2) Courriels envoyés par de faux vendeurs.

Les auteurs présentent les implications du contrôle interne pour minimiser ces fraudes.

Bonne lecture !

 

Implementing Internal Controls in Cyberspace—Old Wine, New Skins

 

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On October 16, 2018, the SEC issued a Section 21(a) investigative report (the “Report”), [1]cautioning public companies to consider cyber threats when designing and implementing internal accounting controls. The Report arose out of an investigation focused on the internal accounting controls of nine public companies that were victims of “business email compromises” in which perpetrators posed as company executives or vendors and used emails to dupe company personnel into sending large sums to bank accounts controlled by the perpetrators. In the investigation, the SEC considered whether the companies had complied with the internal accounting controls provisions of the federal securities laws. Although the Report is in lieu of an enforcement action against any of the issuers, the SEC issued the Report to draw attention to the prevalence of these cyber-related scams and as a reminder that all public companies should consider cyber-related threats when devising and maintaining a system of internal accounting controls.

The nine defrauded companies lost a total of nearly $100 million as a result of the email scams. The companies operated in different business sectors including technology, machinery, real estate, energy, financial, and consumer goods, which the Report suggests “reflect[s] the reality that every type of business is a potential target of cyber-related fraud.” The Report also highlighted the significant economic harm posed by “business email compromises” more broadly, which, based on FBI estimates, has caused over $5 billion in losses since 2013, with an additional $675 million in adjusted losses in 2017—the highest estimated out-of-pocket losses from any class of cyber-facilitated crime during this period.

Two types of email scams were employed against the nine companies: (i) emails from fake executives, and (ii) emails from fake vendors.

Emails from Fake Executives. In the first type of scam, perpetrators emailed company finance personnel using spoofed email domains and addresses of an executive (typically the CEO) so that it appeared as if the email were legitimate. The spoofed email directed the employees to work with a purported outside attorney identified in the email, who then directed them to wire large payments to foreign bank accounts controlled by the perpetrators. Common elements among each of these schemes included: (1) the transactions or “deals” were time-sensitive and confidential; (2) the requested funds needed to be sent to foreign banks and beneficiaries in connection with foreign deals or acquisitions; and (3) the spoofed emails typically were sent to midlevel personnel, who were not generally responsible or involved in the deals and rarely communicated with the executives being spoofed.

Emails from Fake Vendors. The second type of scam was more technologically sophisticated than the spoofed executive emails because the schemes typically involved the perpetrators hacking into the email accounts of the companies’ foreign vendors. The perpetrators then requested that the vendors’ banking information be changed so that a company’s payments on outstanding invoices for legitimate transactions were sent to foreign accounts controlled by the perpetrators rather than the real vendors. The Report noted that some spoofed vendor email scams went undetected for an extended period of time because vendors often afforded companies months before considering a payment delinquent.

Considerations for Public Companies

In the Report, the SEC advises public companies to “pay particular attention to the obligations imposed by Section 13(b)(2)(B) to devise and maintain internal accounting controls that reasonably safeguard company and, ultimately, investor assets from cyber-related frauds.” Finance and accounting personnel at public companies should be aware that the above-described cyber-related scams exist, and these types of scams should be considered when implementing internal accounting controls.

Although the “cyber” aspect of these scams helps to make them a topic du jour, fake invoices are certainly no recent invention, nor are vendor requests to direct payments to a new address something that is unique to the email era. If the result of the Report is to cause companies to liberally insert “cyber” references into their internal controls, and little more, it will not have accomplished its objective. SEC Enforcement staff observed that the cyber-related frauds succeeded, at least in part, because the responsible personnel at the companies did not sufficiently understand the company’s existing controls or did not recognize indications in the emailed instructions that those communications lacked reliability. For example, in one matter, the accounting employee who received the spoofed email did not follow the company’s dual-authorization requirement for wire payments, directing unqualified subordinates to sign-off on the wires. In another case, the accounting employee misinterpreted the company’s authorization matrix as giving him approval authority at a level reserved for the CFO.

Scams will always be with us, and the Report recognizes that the effectiveness of internal accounting control systems largely depends on having trained personnel to implement, maintain, and follow such controls. Public companies should also consider the following points raised by the actions taken by the defrauded companies following the cyber-related scams:

Review and enhance payment authorization procedures, verification requirements for vendor information changes, account reconciliation procedures and outgoing payment notification processes, particularly to foreign jurisdictions.

Evaluate whether finance and accounting personnel are adequately trained on relevant cyber-related threats and provide additional training on any new policies and procedures implemented as a result of the above step.

The Report confirms that the SEC remains focused on cybersecurity matters and companies should continue to be vigilant against cyber threats. While the SEC stated that it was “not suggesting that every issuer that is the victim of a cyber-related scam is . . . in violation of the internal accounting controls requirements of the federal securities laws,” the Report also noted that “[h]aving internal accounting control systems that factor in such cyber-related threats, and related human vulnerabilities, may be vital to maintaining a sufficient accounting control environment and safeguarding assets.”

_________________________________________________

Endnotes

1Report of Investigation Pursuant to Section 21(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Regarding Certain Cyber-Related Frauds Perpetrated Against Public Companies and Related Internal Accounting Controls Requirements, Exchange Act Release No. 84429 (Oct. 16, 2018) (available here).(go back)

*Keith Higgins is chair of the securities and governance practice and Marvin Tagaban is an associate at Ropes & Gray LLP. This post is based on their Ropes & Gray memorandum.

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


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

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

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

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

The CFO and the Audit Committee: Building an Effective Relationship

 

 

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

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

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

 

Common Expectations Audit Committee Have of CFOs

 

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

 

(1) No Surprises: 

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

 

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

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

(3) Confidence in finance organization talent: 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

(5) Insightful forecasting and earnings guidance: 

 

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

 

(6) Effective risk management: 

 

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

 

(7) Clear and concise stakeholder communications: 

 

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

 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonne lecture !

 

A Fresh Look at Board Committees

 

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

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

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

 

Findings

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Our perspective

 

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

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

 

A closer look at the big banks

 

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

Questions for the board to consider

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________________________________________

Endnotes

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

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

________________________________________________________________

*Steve W. Klemash is Americas Leader, Kellie C. Huennekens is Associate Director, and Jamie Smith is Associate Director, at the EY Center for Board Matters. This post is based on their EY publication.

La gouvernance des grandes institutions bancaires européennes au cours des dix années qui ont suivi la crise financière des 2008


Voici un article publié par Lisa Andersson*, directrice de la recherche à Aktis et Stilpon Nestor, paru sur le site du Forum de Harvard Law School, qui brosse un portrait de l’évolution de la gouvernance des grandes institutions bancaires européennes au cours des dix années qui ont suivi la crise financière des 2008.

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de ce document illustré d’infographies très éclairantes. J’ai reproduit, ci-dessous, l’introduction à l’article.

Si vous avez un intérêt pour la gouvernance dans le milieu bancaire, cet article est pour vous.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

Governance of the 25 Largest European Banks a Decade After the Crisis

 

 

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This summer marked the 10-year anniversary of the start of the global financial crisis. Over the 18 months following August 2007, several bank collapses in the United States, Germany and Britain, culminating with the demise of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 shook the financial system to its core. The interconnectivity of the world’s financial system meant that the repercussions would be felt globally, and on a monumental scale. The US Department of the Treasury has estimated that total household wealth would lose some $19.2 trillion following a publicly-funded government bailout program. Over the last decade governments, regulators, banks and their investors have revamped the financial system and its supervision in order to recover the public subsidy and prevent a similar crash from happening again.

In Europe, politicians and regulators at both the national and European level abandoned the path of deregulation and dramatically increased regulatory requirements and the scope of prudential supervision with an unparalleled focus on governance. The Capital Requirements Directive IV (CRD IV) and the ensuing European Banking Authority (EBA) and European Central Bank (ECB) guidance implied stricter suitability reviews for board members and senior management, along with individual responsibility and in some cases criminal liability of non-executive directors (“NEDs”), as well as strict limits on variable remuneration. Higher regulatory requirements were compounded by the creation of a single supervisor for all systemic Eurozone banks. In many countries, especially the smaller ones, familiarity with supervisors usually allow a larger margin of forbearance and greater tolerance in assuming local sovereign risk. This has since disappeared. New rules and stricter oversight practices in the financial industry have translated into higher governance requirements and expectations for European banks’ boards of directors and senior management. So how do the boards and management committees of the top European banks measure up to their former selves? Data from the 25 largest listed banks [1] in Europe shows that boards today are smaller, work harder, and have a higher level of expertise than a decade ago.

While board sizes are getting smaller, the number of committees supporting the board has consistently grown over the years. This is in part driven by the mandatory separation of the audit and risk committee into two separate committees, but also by a general trend towards establishing more and more committees focusing on regulatory and compliance issues, as well as bank culture, conduct and reputation.

On average, 86% of board membership has been refreshed post-crisis. New board members brought with them greater independence, banking experience and general financial expertise among NEDs, as well as an improved gender balance on the board. In fact, women now comprise on average 34% of top European banks’ board membership, a development largely driven by national initiatives. Another significant change since 2007 is the fact that all the bank boards in the group now conduct regular assessments of the effectiveness of the board, a Capital Requirements Directive IV (CRD IV) requirement. The disclosure of this process has also improved significantly, with 48% of banks now disclosing specific challenges identified and actions taken to address these.

The role of a bank NED has evolved post-crisis. With increased scrutiny, boards of financial institutions are now required to adopt a more hands-on approach, requiring a greater time-commitment by their non-executive directors. On average, the workload per director has increased by over 30% compared to pre-crisis levels.

In contrast to the board, the size of management committees has grown in recent years. The top management committee now tend to include more heads of functions, reflected by the increased presence of the Chief Risk Officer, Head of Compliance and Head of Legal. Despite the positive development of a better gender balance on the board of directors, the number of women on the highest management committee has not increased significantly over the last ten years. This may suggest that the “top-down” approach of board quotas adopted in many European countries might be less than effective in promoting gender equality.


*Lisa Andersson is Head of Research of Aktis and Stilpon Nestor is Managing Director and Senior Advisor at Nestor Advisors. This post is based on their recent Nestor Advisors/Aktis publication.

 

Quel client les firmes d’audit servent-elles ?


Voici un article-choc publié par Chris Hughes dans la revue Bloomberg qui porte sur l’indépendance (ou le manque d’indépendance) des quatre grandes firmes d’audit dans le monde.

Il y a une sérieuse polémique eu égard à l’indépendance réelle des grandes firmes d’audit.

Cet article donne les grandes lignes de la problématique et il esquisse des avenues de solution.

Qu’en pensez-vous ?

 

 

Just Whom Does an Auditor Really Serve?

 

Shareholders need to be the client, not company executives.

L’une des quatre grandes firmes

 

British lawmakers are pushing for a full-blown antitrust probe into the country’s four big accountancy firms following the demise of U.K. construction group Carillion Plc.

The current domination of KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, EY and Deloitte isn’t working for shareholders. But creating more competition among the bean counters won’t be enough on its own. The fundamental problem is who the client is. The thrust of reform should be on making auditors see that their client is the investor and not the company executive. Randgold Resources is the only FTSE 100 company not to be audited by one of the Big Four !

Carillion’s accounts weren’t completely useless. Recent annual reports contained red flags of the company’s deteriorating financial health that were apparent to the smart money. Some long funds cut their holdings and hedge funds took large short positions, as my colleague Chris Bryant points out.

If the evidence was there to those who looked hard, it’s odd that the company was given a clean bill of health from accountancy firm KPMG months before it went bust. The impression is that auditors are on the side of the company rather than the shareholder. (KPMG says it believes it conducted its audit appropriately.)

Would more competition have made a difference? Companies may have only one accountant available if the few competing firms are already working for a rival. A lack of choice in any market usually leads to lower quality.

One response would be to force the Big Four to shed clients to mid-tier firms, creating a Big Five or Big Six. The risk is this greater competition just leads to a race to the bottom on fees with no improvement in quality. Other remedies are needed first.

The combination of audit and more lucrative consultancy work has long been chided – with good reason. Consultancy creates a client-pleasing culture. That’s at odds with the auditor’s role in challenging the assumptions behind company statements.

Opponents of a separation say combining the two services helps attract talent. This is a weak argument. Further lowering the current cap on consultancy fees, or completely separating audit and consultancy, is hard to argue with.

The accountancy firm should clearly serve the non-executive directors on the company’s audit committee which, in turn, is charged with looking out for shareholders. The risk is that the auditor’s main point of contact is the executive in the form of the chief financial officer.

Shareholders already have a vote on the appointment of the auditor. But annual reports could provide more useful disclosure on the frequency and depth of the last year’s contact between the firm and the audit committee, and between the latter and shareholders.

Now consider the nature of the job itself. Companies present the accounts, auditors check them. Out pops a financial statement that gives the false impression of extreme precision. Numbers that are the based on assumptions might be better presented as a range, accompanied by a critique of the judgments applied by the company.

Creating more big audit firms may create upward pressure on quality. But so long as they aren’t incentivized to have shareholders front of mind, it won’t be a long wait for the next Carillion.

__________________________________________________________

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Quelle est la raison d’être d’une entreprise ?


Quelle est la raison d’être d’une entreprise sur le plan juridique ? À qui doit-elle rendre des comptes ?

Une entreprise est-elle au service exclusif de ses actionnaires ou doit-elle obligatoirement considérer les intérêts de ses parties prenantes (stakeholders) avant de prendre des décisions de nature stratégiques ?

On conviendra que ces questions ont fréquemment été abordées dans ces pages. Cependant, la réalité de la conduite des organisations semble toujours refléter le modèle de la primauté des actionnaires, mieux connu maintenant sous l’appellation « démocratie de l’actionnariat ».

L’article de Martin Lipton* fait le point sur l’évolution de la reconnaissance des parties prenantes au cours des quelque dix dernières années.

Je crois que les personnes intéressées par les questions de gouvernance (notamment les administrateurs de sociétés) doivent être informées des enjeux qui concernent leurs responsabilités fiduciaires.

Bonne lecture. ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

The Purpose of the Corporation

 

 

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Whether the purpose of the corporation is to generate profits for its shareholders or to operate in the interests of all of its stakeholders has been actively debated since 1932, when it was the subject of dueling law review articles by Columbia law professor Adolf Berle (shareholders) and Harvard law professor Merrick Dodd (stakeholders).

Following “Chicago School” economics professor Milton Friedman’s famous (some might say infamous) 1970 New York Times article announcing ex cathedra that the social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, shareholder primacy was widely viewed as the purpose and basis for the governance of a corporation. My 1979 article, Takeover Bids in the Target’s Boardroom, arguing that the board of directors of a corporation that was the target of a takeover bid had the right, if not the duty, to consider the interests of all stakeholders in deciding whether to accept or reject the bid, was widely derided and rejected by the Chicago School economists and law professors who embraced Chicago School economics. Despite the 1985 decision of the Supreme Court of Delaware citing my article in holding that a board of directors could take into account stakeholder interests, and over 30 states enacting constituency (stakeholder) statutes, shareholder primacy continued to dominate academic, economic, financial and legal thinking—often disguised as “shareholder democracy.”

While the debate continued and stakeholder governance gained adherents in the new millennium, shareholder primacy continued to dominate. Only since the 2008 financial crisis and resulting recession has there been significant recognition that shareholder primacy has been a major driver of short-termism, encourages activist attacks on corporations, reduces R&D expenditures, depresses wages and reduces long-term sustainable investments—indeed, it promotes inequality and strikes at the very heart of our society. In the past five years, the necessity for changes has been recognized by significant academic, business, financial and investor reports and opinions. An example is the 2017 paper I and a Wachtell Lipton team prepared for the World Economic Forum, The New Paradigm: A Roadmap for an Implicit Corporate Governance Partnership Between Corporations and Investors to Achieve Sustainable Long-Term Investment and Growth, which quotes or cites many of the others.

This year we are seeing important new support for counterbalancing shareholder primacy and promoting long-term sustainable investment. Among the many prominent examples is the January 2018 annual letter from Larry Fink, Chairman of BlackRock, to CEOs:

Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings, and, in the process, sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation, and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth. It will remain exposed to activist campaigns that articulate a clearer goal, even if that goal serves only the shortest and narrowest of objectives. And ultimately, that company will provide subpar returns to the investors who depend on it to finance their retirement, home purchases, or higher education.

This was followed in March by the report of a commission appointed by the French Government recommending amendment to the French Civil Code to add, “The company shall be managed in its own interest, considering the social and environmental consequences of its activity,” following the existing, “All companies shall have a lawful purpose and be incorporated in the common interest of the shareholders.” The draft amendment is intended to establish the principle that each company should pursue its own interest—namely, the continuity of its operation, sustainability through investment, collective creation and innovation. The report notes that this amendment integrates corporate and social responsibility considerations into corporate governance and goes on to state that each company has a purpose not reducible to profit and needs to be aware of its purpose. The report recommends an amendment to the French Commercial Code for the purpose of entrusting the boards of directors to define a company’s purpose in order to guide the company’s strategy, taking into account its social and environmental consequences.

Also in March, the European Commission in its Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growthproposed both corporate governance and investor stewardship requirements:

Subject to the outcome of its impact assessment, the Commission will table a legislative proposal to clarify institutional investors’ and asset managers’ duties in relation to sustainability considerations by Q2 2018. The proposal will aim to (i) explicitly require institutional investors and asset managers to integrate sustainability considerations in the investment decision-making process and (ii) increase transparency, towards end-investors on how they integrate such sustainability factors in their investment decisions in particular as concerns their exposure to sustainability risks.

Further, the Commission proposes a number of other laws or regulations designed to promote ESG, CSR and sustainable long-term investment.

In addition to these examples, there are similar policy statements by major investors and similar efforts at legislation to modulate or eliminate shareholder primacy in Great Britain and the United States. While it is not certain that any legislation will soon be enacted, it is clear that the problems have been identified, support is growing to find a way to address them and if implicit stakeholder governance does not take hold, legislation will ensue to assure it.

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

Les responsabilités des administrateurs eu égard à la gestion des risques


Les administrateurs de sociétés doivent apporter une attention spéciale à la gestion des risques telle qu’elle est mise en œuvre par les dirigeants des entreprises.

Les préoccupations des fiduciaires pour la gestion des risques, quoique fondamentales, sont relativement récentes, et les administrateurs ne savent souvent pas comment aborder cette question.

L’article présenté, ci-dessous, est le fruit d’une recherche de Martin Lipton, fondateur de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, spécialisée dans les fusions et acquisitions ainsi que dans les affaires de gouvernance.

L’auteur et ses collaborateurs ont produit un guide des pratiques exemplaires en matière de gestion des risques. Cet article de fond s’adresse aux administrateurs et touche aux éléments-clés de la gestion des risques :

(1) la distinction entre la supervision des risques et la gestion des risques ;

(2) les leçons que l’on doit tirer de la supervision des risques à Wells Fargo ;

(3) l’importance accordée par les investisseurs institutionnels aux questions des risques ;

(4) « tone at the top » et culture organisationnelle ;

(5) les devoirs fiduciaires, les contraintes réglementaires et les meilleures pratiques ;

(6) quelques recommandations spécifiques pour améliorer la supervision des risques ;

(7) les programmes de conformité juridiques ;

(8) les considérations touchant les questions de cybersécurité ;

(9) quelques facettes se rapportant aux risques environnementaux, sociaux et de gouvernance ;

(10) l’anticipation des risques futurs.

 

Voici donc l’introduction de l’article. Je vous invite à prendre connaissance de l’article au complet.

Bonne lecture !

 

Risk Management and the Board of Directors

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Gestion des risques et administrateurs de sociétés »

 

Overview

The past year has seen continued evolution in the political, legal and economic arenas as technological change accelerates. Innovation, new business models, dealmaking and rapidly evolving technologies are transforming competitive and industry landscapes and impacting companies’ strategic plans and prospects for sustainable, long-term value creation. Tax reform has created new opportunities and challenges for companies too. Meanwhile, the severe consequences that can flow from misconduct within an organization serve as a reminder that corporate operations are fraught with risk. Social and environmental issues, including heightened focus on income inequality and economic disparities, scrutiny of sexual misconduct issues and evolving views on climate change and natural disasters, have taken on a new salience in the public sphere, requiring companies to exercise utmost care to address legitimate issues and avoid public relations crises and liability.

Corporate risk taking and the monitoring of corporate risk remain prominently top of mind for boards of directors, investors, legislators and the media. Major institutional shareholders and proxy advisory firms increasingly evaluate risk oversight matters when considering withhold votes in uncontested director elections and routinely engage companies on risk-related topics. This focus on risk management has also led to increased scrutiny of compensation arrangements throughout the organization that have the potential for incentivizing excessive risk taking. Risk management is no longer simply a business and operational responsibility of management. It has also become a governance issue that is squarely within the oversight responsibility of the board. This post highlights a number of issues that have remained critical over the years and provides an update to reflect emerging and recent developments. Key topics addressed in this post include:

the distinction between risk oversight and risk management;

a lesson from Wells Fargo on risk oversight;

the strong institutional investor focus on risk matters;

tone at the top and corporate culture;

fiduciary duties, legal and regulatory frameworks and third-party guidance on best practices;

specific recommendations for improving risk oversight;

legal compliance programs;

special considerations regarding cybersecurity matters;

special considerations pertaining to environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks; and

anticipating future risks.

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?