BlackRock vient de publier sa position concernant les principes de gouvernance qui doivent guider ses investissements dans les sociétés de rang mondial.
BlackRock est une entreprise pionnière dans la divulgation des critères qu’elle prend en compte avant d’investir dans les organisations. C’est pour cette raison que toutes les personnes intéressées par les questions de gouvernance doivent être bien informées sur les grands principes qui soutiennent ses décisions.
Celles-ci sont considérées comme le « Gold standard » dans le monde de la gouvernance.
L’article ci-joint présente la philosophie de placement de l’organisation, ainsi que les principes qui recouvrent les sept thèmes suivants :
Dans ce billet, je fais référence au premier thème, celui portant sur les principes devant guider la gouvernance des entreprises, notamment les questions relatives à la gouvernance et à la composition des conseils d’administration.
Pour en connaître davantage sur les autres principes, je vous invite à lire l’article au complet.
The purpose of this post is to provide an overarching explanation of BlackRock’s approach globally to our responsibilities as a shareholder on behalf of our clients, our expectations of companies, and our commitments to clients in terms of our own governance and transparency.
Introduction to BlackRock
BlackRock’s purpose is to help more and more people experience financial well-being. We manage assets on behalf of institutional and individual clients, across a full spectrum of investment strategies, asset classes, and regions. Our client base includes pension plans, endowments, foundations, charities, official institutions, insurers, and other financial institutions, as well as individuals around the world. As part of our fiduciary duty to our clients, we have determined that it is generally in the best long-term interest of our clients to promote sound corporate governance through voting as an informed, engaged shareholder. This is the responsibility of the Investment Stewardship Team.
Philosophy on investment stewardship
Companies are responsible for ensuring they have appropriate governance structures to serve the interests of shareholders and other key stakeholders. We believe that there are certain fundamental rights attached to shareholding. Companies and their boards should be accountable to shareholders and structured with appropriate checks and balances to ensure that they operate in shareholders’ best interests to create sustainable value. Shareholders should have the right to vote to elect, remove, and nominate directors, approve the appointment of the auditor, and amend the corporate charter or by-laws. Shareholders should be able to vote on matters that are material to the protection of their investment, including but not limited to, changes to the purpose of the business, dilution levels and pre-emptive rights, and the distribution of income and capital structure. In order to make informed decisions, we believe that shareholders have the right to sufficient and timely information. In addition, shareholder voting rights should be proportionate to their economic ownership—the principle of “one share, one vote” helps achieve this balance.
Consistent with these shareholder rights, we believe BlackRock has a responsibility to monitor and provide feedback to companies, in our role as stewards of our clients’ investments. BlackRock Investment Stewardship (“BIS”) does this through engagement with management teams and/or board members on material business issues including environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) matters and, for those clients who have given us authority, through voting proxies in the best long-term economic interests of our clients. We also participate in the public debate to shape global norms and industry standards with the goal of a policy framework consistent with our clients’ interests as long-term shareholders.
BlackRock looks to companies to provide timely, accurate, and comprehensive reporting on all material governance and business matters, including ESG issues. This allows shareholders to appropriately understand and assess how relevant risks and opportunities are being effectively identified and managed. Where company reporting and disclosure is inadequate or the approach taken is inconsistent with our view of what supports sustainable long-term value creation, we will engage with a company and/or use our vote to encourage a change in practice.
BlackRock views engagement as an important activity; engagement provides us with the opportunity to improve our understanding of the business and ESG risks and opportunities that are material to the companies in which our clients invest. As long-term investors on behalf of clients, we seek to have regular and continuing dialogue with executives and board directors to advance sound governance and sustainable business practices, as well as to understand the effectiveness of the company’s management and oversight of material issues. Engagement is an important mechanism for providing feedback on company practices and disclosures, particularly where we believe they could be enhanced. We primarily engage through direct dialogue but may use other tools such as written correspondence to share our perspectives. Engagement also informs our voting decisions.
We vote in support of management and boards where and to the extent they demonstrate an approach consistent with creating sustainable long-term value. If we have concerns about a company’s approach, we may choose to engage to explain our expectations. Where we consider that a company has failed to address one or more material issues within an appropriate timeframe, we may hold directors accountable or take other voting actions to signal our concerns. We apply our voting guidelines to achieve the outcome we believe is most aligned with our clients’ long-term economic interests.
We recognize that accepted standards and norms of corporate governance differ between markets; however, there are sufficient common threads globally to identify this overarching set of principles (the “Principles”) which are anchored in transparency and accountability. At a minimum, we expect companies to observe the accepted corporate governance standards in their domestic market or to explain why not doing so supports sustainable long-term value creation.
Our regional and market-specific voting guidelines explain how these Principles inform our voting decisions in relation to specific ballot items for shareholder meetings.
These Principles cover seven key themes:
- Boards and directors
- Auditors and audit-related issues
- Capital structure, mergers, asset sales, and other special transactions
- Compensation and benefits
- Environmental and social issues
- General corporate governance matters and shareholder protections
- Shareholder proposals
Boards and directors
The performance of the board is critical to the economic success of the company and the protection of shareholders’ interests. As part of their responsibilities, board members owe fiduciary duties to shareholders in overseeing the strategic direction and operation of the company. For this reason, BlackRock focuses on directors in many of our engagements and sees the election of directors as one of our most important responsibilities in the proxy voting context.
We support boards whose approach is consistent with creating sustainable long-term value. This includes the effective management of strategic, operational, and material ESG factors and the consideration of key stakeholder interests. Our primary focus is on the performance of the board of directors. The board should establish and maintain a framework of robust and effective governance mechanisms to support its oversight of the company’s strategic aims. We look to the board to articulate the effectiveness of these mechanisms in overseeing the management of business risks and opportunities and the fulfillment of the company’s purpose. Disclosure of material issues that affect the company’s long-term strategy and value creation, including material ESG factors, is essential for shareholders to be able to appropriately understand and assess how the board is effectively identifying, managing, and mitigating risks.
Where a company has not adequately disclosed and demonstrated these responsibilities, we will consider withholding our support for the re-election of directors whom we hold accountable. We assess director performance on a case-by-case basis and in light of each company’s particular circumstances, taking into consideration our assessment of their governance, sustainable business practices, and performance. In serving the interests of shareholders, the responsibility of the board of directors includes, but is not limited to, the following:
– Establishing an appropriate corporate governance structure
– Supporting and overseeing management in setting long-term strategic goals, applicable measures of value-creation and milestones that will demonstrate progress, and steps taken if any obstacles are anticipated or incurred
– Providing oversight on the identification and management of material, business operational and sustainability-related risks
– Overseeing the financial resilience of the company, the integrity of financial statements, and the robustness of a company’s Enterprise Risk Management frameworks
– Making decisions on matters that require independent evaluation which may include mergers, acquisitions and disposals, activist situations or other similar cases
– Establishing appropriate executive compensation structures
– Addressing business issues, including environmental and social issues, when they have the potential to materially impact the company’s long-term value
There should be clear definitions of the role of the board, the committees of the board and senior management. We set out below ways in which boards and directors can demonstrate a commitment to acting in the best interests of long-term shareholders. We will seek to engage with the appropriate directors where we have concerns about the performance of the company, board, or individual directors. As noted above, we believe that when a company is not effectively addressing a material issue, its directors should be held accountable.
BlackRock believes that directors should stand for re-election on a regular basis, ideally annually. In our experience, annual re-elections allow shareholders to reaffirm their support for board members or hold them accountable for their decisions in a timely manner. When board members are not re-elected annually, we believe it is good practice for boards to have a rotation policy to ensure that, through a board cycle, all directors have had their appointment re-confirmed, with a proportion of directors being put forward for re-election at each annual general meeting.
Effective board composition
Regular director elections also give boards the opportunity to adjust their composition in an orderly way to reflect the evolution of the company’s strategy and the market environment. BlackRock believes it is beneficial for new directors to be brought onto the board periodically to refresh the group’s thinking and in a manner that supports both continuity and appropriate succession planning. We expect companies to keep under regular review the effectiveness of its board (including its size), and assess directors nominated for election or re-election in the context of the composition of the board as a whole. This assessment should consider a number of factors, including the potential need to address gaps in skills or experience, the diversity of the board, and the balance of independent and non-independent directors. We also consider the average tenure of the overall board, where we are seeking a balance between the knowledge and experience of longer-serving members and the fresh perspectives of newer members.
When nominating new directors to the board, there should be detailed information on the individual candidates in order for shareholders to assess the suitability of an individual nominee and the overall board composition. These disclosures should give a clear sense of how the collective experience and expertise of the board aligns with the company’s long-term strategy and business model. We also expect disclosures to demonstrate how diversity is accounted for within the proposed board composition, including demographic factors such as gender, ethnicity, and age; as well as professional characteristics, such as a director’s industry experience, specialist areas of expertise, and geographic location.
We expect there to be a sufficient number of independent directors, free from conflicts of interest or undue influence from connected parties, to ensure objectivity in the decision-making of the board and its ability to oversee management.
Common impediments to independence may include but are not limited to:
- Current or recent employment at the company or a subsidiary
- Being, or representing, a shareholder with a substantial shareholding in the company
- Interlocking directorships
- Having any other interest, business, or other relationship which could, or could reasonably be perceived to, materially interfere with a director’s ability to act in the best interests of the company
BlackRock believes that the board is able to fulfill its fiduciary duty when there is a clearly independent, senior non-executive director to chair it or, where the chairman is also the CEO (or is otherwise not independent), a lead independent l director. The role of this director is to enhance the effectiveness of the independent members of the board through shaping the agenda, ensuring adequate information is provided to the board and encouraging independent participation in board deliberations. The lead independent director or another appropriate director should be available to shareholders in those situations where an independent director is best placed to explain and justify a company’s approach.
There are matters for which the board has responsibility that may involve a conflict of interest for executives or for affiliated directors. BlackRock believes that objective oversight of such matters is best achieved when the board forms committees comprised entirely of independent directors. In many markets, these committees of the board specialize in audit, director nominations and compensation matters. An ad hoc committee might also be formed to decide on a special transaction, particularly one involving a related party, or to investigate a significant adverse event.
As the role of a director is demanding, directors must be able to commit an appropriate amount of time to board and committee matters. It is important that every director has the capacity to meet all of his/her responsibilities—including when there are unforeseen events—and therefore, he/she should not take on an excessive number of roles that would impair his/her ability to fulfill his/her duties.