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Principales tendances en gouvernance à l’échelle internationale en 2017


Voici un excellent résumé des principales tendances en gouvernance à l’échelle internationale. L’article paru sur le site de la Harvard Law School Forum est le fruit des recherches effectuées par Rusty O’Kelley, membre de CEO and Board Services Practice, et Anthony Goodman, membre de Board Effectiveness Practice de Russell Reynolds Associates.

Les auteurs ont interviewé plusieurs investisseurs activistes et institutionnels ainsi que des administrateurs de sociétés publiques et des experts de la gouvernance afin d’appréhender les tendances qui se dessinent pour les entreprises cotées en 2017.

Parmi les conclusions de l’étude, notons :

  1. Le besoin de se coller plus étroitement à des normes de gouvernance universellement acceptées ;
  2. La nécessité de bien se préparer aux nouveaux risques et aux nouvelles opportunités amenées par la montée des gouvernements populistes de droite ;
  3. Une responsabilité accrue des administrateurs de sociétés pour la création de valeur à long terme ;
  4. L’importance d’une solide compréhension des changements globaux eu égard à l’exercice d’une bonne gouvernance, notamment dans les états suivants :

–  États-Unis

–  Union européenne

–  Japon

–  Inde

–  Brésil

Cette lecture nous donne une perspective globale des défis qui attendent les administrateurs et les CA de grandes sociétés publiques en 2017.

Bonne lecture !

 

Global and Regional Trends in Corporate Governance for 2017

 

Russell Reynolds Associates recently interviewed numerous institutional and activist investors, pension fund managers, public company directors and other governance professionals about the trends and challenges that public company boards will face in 2017. Our conversations yielded a wide array of perspectives about the forces that are driving change in the corporate governance landscape.

 

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The changing pressures and dynamics that boards will face in the coming year are diverse and significant in their impact. Institutional investors will continue their push for more uniform standards of corporate governance globally, while also increasing their expectations of the role that boards should play in responsibly representing shareholders. Political uncertainty and the surprise results of the US Presidential and “Brexit” votes may require that boards take a more active role in scenario planning and helping management to navigate increasingly costly risks. The movement for companies and investors to adopt a more long-term orientation has gained momentum, with several large institutional investors now pressuring boards to demonstrate that they are actively involved in guiding a company’s strategy for long-term value creation.

Higher Expectations and Greater Alignment Around Corporate Governance Norms

Continuing the trend from last year, large institutional investors and pension funds are pushing for more aligned approaches to corporate governance across borders to support long-term value creation. Regulators are responding, particularly in emerging economies and those with nascent corporate governance regimes. Recent reforms in Japan, India and Brazil have borrowed heavily from the US or UK models. Where regulators have not yet caught up to or agreed with investor expectations, institutional investors are engaging companies directly to advocate for the governance reforms they want to see. These investors also expect more from their boards than ever before and are increasingly willing to intervene when they do not feel they are being responsibly represented in the boardroom.

Corporate Governance in an Era of Political Uncertainty

Populist political movements have gained broad support in several countries around the world, contributing to uncertainty about the future regulatory and political environments of two of the world’s five largest economies. In the UK, the Conservative government has signaled potential support for shareholder influence over executive pay and disclosure of the CEO-employee pay ratio. In the US, President-elect Trump has demonstrated a willingness to “name and shame” specific companies that he perceives to have benefited unfairly from trade deals or moved jobs overseas. Boards must be prepared to navigate these new reputational risks and intense media scrutiny, and review management’s assumptions about the political implications of certain decisions.

Increasing Board Accountability for Long-Term Value Creation

Efforts to encourage a more long-term market orientation have intensified in recent years, with several prominent business leaders and investors, most notably Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, urging companies to focus on sustained value creation rather than maximizing short-term earnings. In his 2016 letter to chief executives of S&P 500 companies and large European corporations, Mr. Fink specifically called for increased board oversight of a company’s strategy for long-term value creation, noting that BlackRock’s corporate governance team would be looking for assurances of this oversight when engaging with companies.

Global and Regional Trends in Corporate Governance in 2017

Based on our global experience as a firm and our interviews with experts around the world, we believe that public companies will likely face the following trends in 2017:

  1. Increasing expectations around the oversight role of the board, to include greater oversight of strategy and scenario planning, investor engagement, and executive succession planning.
  2. Continued focus on board refreshment and composition, with particular attention being paid to directors’ skill profiles, the currency of directors’ knowledge, director overboarding, diversity, and robust mechanisms for board refreshment that go beyond box-ticking exercises.
  3. Greater scrutiny of company plans for sustained value creation, as concerns increase that activist settlements and other market forces are causing short-term priorities to compromise long-term interests.
  4. Greater focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, and in particular those related to climate change and sustainability, as industries beyond the extractive sector begin to feel investor pressure in this area.

We explore these trends and their implications for five key regions and markets: the United States, the European Union, India, Japan and Brazil.

United States

The surprise election of Donald Trump has increased regulatory and legislative uncertainty. Certain industries, such as financial services, natural resources and healthcare, may face less pressure and government scrutiny. We expect nominees to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to be less supportive of the increased disclosure requirements around executive pay and diversity. However, public pension funds and institutional investors will continue to push governance issues through increased specific engagement with individual companies.

  1. Investors continue to push boards to demonstrate that they are taking a strategic and proactive approach to board refreshment. In particular, they are looking for indicators that boards are adding directors with the skill sets necessary to complement the company’s strategic direction, and ensuring a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives to guide that strategy. Some investors see tenure and age limits as too blunt an instrument, preferring internal or external board evaluations to ensure that every director is contributing effectively. Several large institutional investors will continue to push boards to conduct external board evaluations by third parties to increase the quality of feedback and improve governance.
  2. Ongoing fallout from the Wells Fargo scandal will increase pressure on boards to split the CEO/Chair role, particularly in the financial services sector. Given investor pressure, particularly from pension funds, we also anticipate increased demand for clawbacks, a trend that is likely to go beyond the banking sector.
  3. We expect that 2017 will be a significant year for ESG issues, and in particular those related to climate change and sustainability. Industries beyond the extractive sector will begin to feel investor pressure in this area. While this pressure is being exerted by a number of stakeholder groups, the degree to which the baton has been picked up by mainstream institutional investors is notable.
  4. Increased attention on climate risk is also changing the way many companies and investors think about materiality and disclosure, which will have significant implications for audit committees. Michael Bloomberg is currently leading the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, which will seek to develop consistent, voluntary standards for companies to provide information about climate-related financial risk. The Task Force’s recommendations are expected in mid-2017.
  5. Boards will increasingly be expected to ensure sufficient succession planning not just at the CEO level but in other key C-suite roles as well, as investors want to know that boards are actively monitoring the pipeline of talent. Additionally, there is a relatively new trend of some boards conducting crisis management exercises as a supplement to the activism risk assessment we have seen over the past couple of years.
  6. In the event that all or parts of the Dodd-Frank regulations are repealed, investors will likely turn to private ordering—seeking to persuade companies to change their by-laws—to keep the elements that are most important to them (e.g. “say on pay”). Current SEC rules require that companies begin disclosing their CEO-employee pay ratio in 2018, but we believe this to be a likely target for repeal.

European Union

Across many countries in Europe, the push for board and management diversity will continue apace in 2017. Executive pay continues to be the focus of government, investor and media attention with various proposals for reining in compensation. Work being done in the UK on board oversight of corporate culture has the potential to spill across European borders and travel farther afield over the next few years.

  1. Many countries in Europe continue to push ahead with encouraging gender diversity at the board level, as national laws regulating the number of female directors proliferate. In the UK, the Hampton-Alexander Review recommended that the Corporate Governance Code be amended to require FTSE 350 companies to disclose the gender balance of their executive committees in their annual report.
  2. After ebbing slightly in 2014, activism has made a comeback in Europe: whereas 51 companies were targeted in 2014, 64 were targeted in the first half of 2016 alone. We anticipate that European activists will continue to apply less aggressive and more collaborative tactics than those seen in the US. Additionally, we expect to see US and European institutional investors to be supportive of European activist investors, particularly those who are self-described “constructive activists”, who take a less aggressive approach than their US counterparts.
  3. The EU is expected to amend its Shareholder Rights Directive in 2017 to include an EU-wide “say on pay” framework that would give shareholders the right to regular votes on prospective and retrospective remuneration. While these votes are not expected to be binding, the directive does require that pay be based on a shareholder-approved policy and that issuers must address failed votes. Germany saw a sharp increase in dissents on “say on pay” proposals this year, jumping from 8% to over 20%. In France, the government is currently debating whether to make “say on pay” votes binding, spurred by the public outcry about the Renault board’s decision to confirm the CEO’s 2015 compensation, despite a rejection by a majority of shareholders.
  4. The UK government is expected to continue its push for compensation practice reform in 2017, having recently published a series of proposed policies, including mandatory disclosure of the CEO pay ratio, employee representation in executive compensation decisions, and making shareholder votes on executive compensation binding. We also expect continued strong media coverage and related public opposition to large public company pay packages, which could put UK boards in the spotlight.
  5. In Germany, the ongoing fallout from the Volkswagen scandal is the likely impetus for proposed amendments to the corporate governance code that would underscore boards’ obligations to adhere to ethical business practices. The proposed amendments also acknowledge the increasingly common practice of investor engagement with the supervisory board, and recommend that the supervisory board chair be prepared to discuss relevant topics with investors.
  6. In the UK, boards will be focused on implementing the recommendations of the recent Financial Reporting Council (FRC) report on corporate culture and the role of boards, which makes the case that long-term value creation is directly linked to company culture and the role of business in society.

India

Indian boards continue to struggle with the implementation of many of the major changes to corporate governance practices required by the 2013 Companies Act, but reform is progressing. While the complete fallout from the recent Tata leadership imbroglio is not yet clear, it will almost certainly reverberate through the Indian corporate governance landscape for years to come.

  1. Recent regulatory changes have increased the scope of responsibilities for the Nomination and Remuneration Committee, requiring boards to ensure that directors have the right set of skills to deliver on these new responsibilities. Increased emphasis on CEO succession planning and board evaluations have necessitated that Committee members become more fluent in these governance processes and methodologies, particularly as the requirement to report on them annually has increased the spotlight on the board’s role in these processes.
  2. The introduction in 2013 of a mandatory minimum of at least one female director for most listed companies has increased India’s gender diversity at the board level to one of the highest rates in Asia, with 14% of all directorships currently held by women. However, concerns persist about the potential for “tokenism”, as a sizeable portion of the women appointed come from the controlling families of the company.
  3. India has also attempted to integrate ESG and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issues at the board level, having mandated that every board establish a CSR committee and that the company spend 2% of net profits on CSR activities. However, companies will need to ensure that their approach to CSR amounts to more than a box-ticking exercise if they want to attract the support of the growing cadre of ESG-focused investors.
  4. Boards are increasingly expected to take a more active role in risk management, particularly cybersecurity risks. Boards should also ensure that their companies are adequately anticipating and responding to cybersecurity threats.
  5. Changes to the 2013 Companies Act have considerably enhanced the duties and liabilities of directors, along with strict penalties for any breach of these duties and the potential for class action lawsuits against individual directors. While potentially helpful in increasing director accountability, these changes also significantly increase the personal risk that a director assumes when joining a board.

Japan

Japan’s Corporate Governance Code was reformulated in 2015, as part of the “Abenomics” push for structural reforms. Japanese companies continue to implement the corporate governance principles resulting from the new regulations, with many hoping that the adoption of more Western norms will help prompt the return of foreign investors.

  1. The overhaul of Japan’s corporate governance model in 2015 has begun to yield significant results, as 96% of Japanese boards now have at least one outside director and 78% have at least two. However, Japan’s famously deferential corporate culture may make it difficult for boards to unlock the value of these independent perspectives, as seniority and family ownership often still take precedence.
  2. Increasing investor interest in the Japanese market is likely to increase pressure on boards to adopt more Western norms of corporate governance. CalPERS, the California public pension fund, recently began an explicit program of engagement in Japan, their second-largest equity market, in order to encourage the adoption of more Western norms, including increased board independence and diversity, defining narrower standards of independence, and increasing the disclosure of director qualifications.
  3. Gender diversity remains a challenge for Japanese boards, with only 3% of directorships held by women. However, women account for 22% of outside directors, suggesting that gender diversity on boards will likely continue to increase as the appointment of independent directors becomes more common. A new law, introduced in April 2016, now requires companies with more than 300 employees to publish data on the number of women they employ and how many hold management positions. We anticipate this increased scrutiny at all levels of the company to have a knock-on effect for boards.
  4. While other elements of the new Corporate Governance Code have seen near unanimous compliance, only 55% of listed companies have complied with the stipulation to conduct formal board evaluations. Moreover, the quality and format of the evaluations that are occurring vary significantly, with many adopting a self-evaluation process that amounts to little more than a box-ticking exercise.
  5. The common Japanese practice of former executives and chairs remaining in “advisor” roles beyond the end of their formal tenure is now coming under increasing scrutiny. ISS will now generally vote against amendments to create new advisory positions, unless the advisors will serve on the board and therefore be held accountable to shareholders.

Brazil

Brazil’s corporate governance regime has evolved significantly in the last decade, as various regulatory entities have sought to apply greater protections for minority shareholders and better align standards with other Western models to attract greater foreign investment.

  1. As Brazil continues to navigate the fallout of the Petrobras scandal, many are questioning how the mechanisms for encouraging and enforcing investor stewardship and corporate governance can be strengthened.
  2. AMEC, Brazil’s association of institutional investors, recently released the country’s first Investor Stewardship Code, calling on investors to adhere to seven principles, including implementing mechanisms to manage conflicts of interest, taking ESG issues into account, and being active and diligent in the exercise of voting rights.
  3. In an effort to address the high levels of absenteeism among institutional investors at general meetings, Brazil’s Security and Exchange Commission (CVM) will, beginning in 2017, require that listed companies allow shareholders to vote by mail or email, rather than requiring that they (or their proxy) be physically present to cast their vote. Brazilian companies, and their boards, should be prepared for the increased requests for investor engagement that are likely to result from the more active participation of institutional investors in the voting process.
  4. New regulations for the country’s Novo Mercado segment of listed companies will be announced in 2017. Highlights of the proposed changes include the required establishment of audit, compensation and appointment committees, a minimum of two independent directors, and more stringent disclosure of directors’ relationships to related companies and other parties.

Compte rendu hebdomadaire de la Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance | 5 janvier 2017


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 5 janvier 2017.

Bonne lecture !

 

harvard_forum_corpgovernance_small

 

  1. Are Directors Really Irrelevant to Capital Structure Choice?
  2. 2017 Board Priorities Report
  3. The Life (and Death?) of Corporate Waste
  4. Progress in Understanding Proxy Access and the Shareholder Proposal Process
  5. Rethinking Compensation Philosophies: Top 5 Questions for Boards
  6. Controlling Stockholder M&A Does Not Automatically Trigger Entire Fairness Review
  7. Are Shareholder Votes Rigged?
  8. Jury Verdict in “Spread Bet” Insider Trading Case: A Reminder of U.S. Long-Arm Regulatory Risk
  9. REIT M&A, Governance and Activism—Themes for 2017
  10.  Activism, Strategic Trading, and Liquidity
  11. The Delaware General Corporation Law, Simplified
  12. Gender Parity on Boards Around the World

L’activisme de Bill Ackman a du succès dans le cas de CP Rail | Quelles leçons en retirer ?


Yvan Allaire*, président exécutif de l’Institut de la gouvernance des organisations privées et publiques (IGOPP), vient de me transmettre une synthèse de l’analyse de la saga CP-Ackman-Pershing Square, portant sur les leçons à tirer de cet épisode d’agression par un fonds « activiste ».

Cet article a été publié sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation le 23 décembre 2016.

Comme le disent les auteurs, l’une des leçons à retirer de cette saga est que les conseils d’administration de l’avenir doivent agir comme des activistes, en ce sens qu’ils doivent être continuellement à la recherche d’informations susceptibles de questionner leurs stratégies et leur modèle d’affaires. Sinon, certains fonds activistes seront bien tentés par l’aventure…

Le texte complet du cas est accessible en cliquant sur « here » en fin de texte.

Pershing Square Capital Management, an activist hedge fund owned and managed by Bill Ackman, began hostile maneuvers against the board of CP Rail in September 2011 and ended its association with CP in August 2016, having netted a profit of $2.6 billion for his fund. This Canadian saga, in many ways, an archetype of what hedge fund activism is all about, illustrates the dynamics of these campaigns and the reasons why this particular intervention turned out to be a spectacular success… thus far.

Et vous, quelles leçons en retirez-vous ?

Bonne lecture !

 

A “Successful” Case of Activism at the Canadian Pacific Railway: Lessons in Corporate Governance

In 2009, the Chairman of the board of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) asserted that the company had put in place the best practices of corporate governance; that year, CP was awarded the Governance Gavel Award for Director Disclosure by the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance. Then, in 2011, CP ranked 4th out of some 250 Canadian companies in the Globe & Mail Corporate Governance Ranking. [1] Yet, this stellar corporate governance was no insurance policy against shareholder discontent.

Pershing Square began purchasing shares of CP on September 23, 2011. They filed a 13D form on October 28th showing a stock holding of 12.2%; by December 12, 2011, their holding had reached 14.2% of CP voting shares, thus making Pershing Square the largest shareholder of the company.

screen-shot-2013-06-04-at-12_22_02-am

On February 6, 2012, Ackman, with Hunter S. Harrison (retired CEO of CN—direct competitor of CP and leader in efficiency among Class 1 North American railways—and his candidate for CEO of CP) by his side, made a fact-based presentation about the shortcomings and failings of the CP board and management. Harrison and Ackman stated that their goal for CP was to achieve an operating ratio of 65 for 2015 (down from 81.3 in 2011—the lower the ratio, the better the performance).

The Board qualified Harrison’s (and Ackman’s) targets of “shot in the dark”, showing a lack of research and a profound misunderstanding of CP’s reality. Relying on an independent consultant report (Oliver Wyman Group), Green mentioned that Harrison’s target for CP’s operating ratio was not achievable since CP’s network was characterized by steeper grades and greater curvature thus adding close to 6.7% to the operating ratio compared to its competitors. [2]

On April 4th 2012, Bill Ackman came out swinging in a scathing letter to CP shareholders disparaging CP’s Board of directors in general, and its CEO, Fred Green, in particular. According to Mr. Ackman, “under the direction of the Board and Mr. Green, CP’s total return to shareholders from the inception of Mr. Green’s CEO tenure to the day prior to Pershing Square’s investment was negative 18% while the other Class I North American railways delivered strong positive total returns to shareholders of 22% to 93%.” [3] Thus, according to him, “Fred Green’s and the Board’s poor decisions, ineffective leadership and inadequate stewardship have destroyed shareholder value.” [4]

A few hours before the annual meeting, CP issued a press release in which it stated that Fred Green had resigned as CEO, and that five other directors, including the Chairman of the Board, John Cleghorn, would not stand for re-election at the company’s shareholder meeting.

Pershing Square had won the proxy fight; all the nominees proposed by Ackman were elected.

Almost exactly five years after first buying shares of CP, Ackman confirmed in August 2016 that Pershing Square would sell its remaining shares of CP, thus formally exiting the “target.” Over those five years, CP has generated a compounded annualized total shareholder return of 45.39% (between September 23, 2011 and August 31, 2016), a performance well above the CN and the S&P/TSX 60 index (CP is a constituent of that index). Pershing Square pocketed an estimated $2.6 billion in profits for its venture into CP.

With massive reductions in the workforce, a transformation of the operations and a radical change of the CP’s organizational culture, CP is undoubtedly a different company from what it was before the proxy fight. In early September 2016, Bill Ackman resigned from CP’s Board, officially concluding this episode.

Lessons in corporate governance

In this day and age, the CP case teaches us that no matter its size or the nature of its business, a company is always at risk of being challenged by dissident shareholders, and most particularly by those funds which make a business of these sorts of operations, the activist hedge funds. Of course, a number of critical features of this saga can be singled out to explain the particular success of this intervention, but this is not the focal point of this post. [5] After all, a widely held company with weak financial results and a stagnating stock price will inevitably attract the attention of these funds.

But the puzzling question and it is an unresolved dilemma of corporate governance remains: how come the board did not know earlier what became apparent very quickly after the Ackman/Harrison takeover? Why would the board not call on independent experts to assess management’s claim that structural differences made it impossible for CP to achieve a performance similar to that of other railroads? The gap in operating ratio between CP and CN had not always been as wide. In fact, as shown in Figure 1, CP had a lower operating ratio than CN during a period of time in the 1990s (Of course, CN was a Crown corporation at that time). The gap eventually widened, reaching unprecedented levels during Fred Green’s tenure (the last full year of operating ratios attributable to Green was in 2011).

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Figure 1. Evolution of the operating ratio (%—left scale) for the CP and CN (1994-2015)

How could the board have known that performances far superior to those targeted by the CEO could be swiftly achieved?

Lurking behind these questions is the fundamental flaw of corporate governance: the asymmetry of information, of knowledge and time invested between the governors and the governed, between the board of directors and management. In CP’s case, the directors, as per the norms of “good” fiduciary governance, relied on the information provided by management, believed the plans submitted by management to be adequate and challenging, and based the executives’ lavish compensation on the achievement of these plans. The Chairman, on behalf of the Board, did “extend our appreciation to Fred Green and his management team for aggressively and successfully implementing our Multi-Year plan and creating superior value for our shareholders and customers.” [6] That form of governance is being challenged by activist investors of all stripes.

Their claim, a demonstrable one in the case of CP, is that with the massive amount of information now accessible about a publicly listed company and its competitors, it is possible for dedicated shareholders to spot poor strategies and call for drastic changes. If push comes to shove, these funds will make their case directly to other shareholders via a proxy contest for board membership.

Corporate boards of the future will have to act as “activists” in their quest for information and their ability to question strategies and performances.

The full paper is available for download here.

Endnotes

1The Board Games, The Globe & Mail’s annual review of corporate governance practices in Canada.(go back)

2Deveau, S. “CP Chief Fred Green Defends his Track Record.” Financial Post, March 27, 2012.(go back)

3Letter addressed by William Ackman to Canadian Pacific Railway shareholders, Proxy Circular from April 4th, 2012.(go back)

4Ibid.(go back)

5The case analysis identified four factors that are rarely present in other cases of activism, a fact which explains why few of these interventions achieve the level of success of the CP case.(go back)

6Cleghorn, John. Chairman’s letter to shareholders, CP’s Annual Information Form 2011.(go back)

__________________________________

*Yvan Allaire is Emeritus professor of strategy at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and Executive Chair of the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations (IGOPP); François Dauphin is Director of Research of IGOPP and a lecturer at UQAM. This post is based on their recent paper.

Le rôle du conseil d’administration dans les procédures de conformité


Voici un cas de gouvernance, publié en décembre sur le site de Julie Garland McLellan* qui illustre comment la direction d’une société publique peut se retrouver en situation d’irrégularité malgré une culture du conseil d’administration axée sur la conformité.

L’investigation du vérificateur général (VG) a révélé plusieurs failles dans les procédures internes de la société. De ce fait, Kyle le président du comité d’audit, risque et conformité, est interpellé par le président du conseil afin d’aider la direction à trouver des solutions durables pour remédier à la situation.

Même si Kyle est conscient qu’il ne possède pas l’autorité requise pour régler les problèmes constatés par le VG, il comprend qu’il est impératif que son message passe.

Le cas présente la situation de manière assez succincte, mais explicite ; puis, trois experts en gouvernance se prononcent sur le dilemme qui se présente aux personnes qui vivent des situations similaires.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

Le rôle du conseil d’administration dans les procédures de conformité

 

Business audit concept . Flat design vector illustration

Kyle is chairman on the Audit, Risk and Compliance committee of a government authority board which is subject to a Public Access to Information Act. The auditor general has just completed an audit of several authorities bound by that Act and Kyle’s authority was found to have several breeches of the Act, in particular;

–  some contracts valued at $150,000 or more were not recorded in the contracts register

–  some contracts were not entered into the register within 45 working days of the contracts becoming effective

–  there were instances where inaccurate information was recorded in the register when compared with the contracts, and

–  additional information required for certain classes of contracts was not disclosed in some registers.

The Board Chairman is rightly concerned that this has happened in what all directors believed to be a well governed authority with a strong culture of compliance. The Board Chairman has asked Kyle to oversee management’s response to the Auditor General and the development of systems to ensure that these breeches do not reoccur. Kyle is mindful that he remains a non-executive and has no authority within the chain of management command. He is keen to help and knows that the CEO is struggling with the complexity of her role and will need assistance with any increase in workload.

How can Kyle help without getting embroiled in management affairs?

Raz’s Answer

The issue I spot here, is one which I’ve encountered myself – as a seasoned professional, you have the internal urge to roll your sleeves and get right into it, and solve the problem. From the details disclosed in this dilemma, there’s evidence that the authority’s internal culture is compliant, therefore it’s hard to believe there’s foul play which caused these discrepancies in the reports. I would have guessed that there are some legacy processes, or even old technology, which needs to be looked at and discover where the gap is.

The CEO is under immense pressure to fix this issue, being exposed to public scrutiny, but with the government’s limited resources at her disposal, the pressure is even higher. Making decisions under such pressure, especially when a board member, the chair of the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee is looking over her shoulder, will likely to force her to make mistakes.

Kyle’s dilemma is simple to explain, but more delicate to handle: « How do I fix this, without sticking my nose into the operations? »

As a NED, what Kyle needs to be is a guide to the CEO, providing a calm and supportive environment for the CEO to operate in. Kyle needs to consult with the CEO, and get her on side, to ensure she’ll devote whichever resources she does have, to deal with this issue. This won’t be a Band-Aid solution, but a solution which will require collaboration of several parts of the organisations, orchestrated by the CEO herself.

Raz Chorev is Partner at Orange Sky and Managing Director at CXC Global. He is based in Sydney, Australia.

Julie’s Answer

The Auditor General has asked management to respond and board oversight of management should be done by and through the CEO.

Kyle cannot help without putting his fingers (or intellect) into the organisation. To do that without causing upset he will need to inform the CEO of the Chairman’s request, offer to help and make sure that he reports to her before he reports elsewhere. Handled sensitively the CEO, who appears to be struggling, should welcome any assistance with the task. Handled insensitively this could be a major issue because the statutory definitions of directors’ roles in public sector companies are less fluid than those in the private sector.

Kyle should also take this as a wake-up call – he assumes a culture of compliance and good governance but that is obviously not correct. The audit committee should regularly review the regulatory and legislative compliance framework and verify that all is as it should be; that has clearly not happened and Kyle should work with the company secretary or chief compliance/legal officer to review the entire framework and make sure nothing else is missing from the regular schedule of reviews. The committee must ask for what it needs to oversight effectively not just read what they are given.

The prevailing attitude should be one of thankfulness that the issue has been found and can be corrected. If Kyle detects a cultural rejection of the need to comply and cooperate with the AG in establishing good governance then Kyle must report to the whole board so remedial action can be planned.

Once management have responded to the AG with their proposed actions to remedy the matter. The audit committee should review to check that the actions have been implemented and that they effectively lead to compliance with the requirements. Likely remedies include amending the position descriptions of staff doing tendering or those setting up vendors in the payments system to include entry of details to the register, training in compliance, design of an internal audit system for routine review of registers and comparison to workloads to ensure that nothing has ‘dropped between the cracks’, and regular reporting of register completion and audit to the board audit committee.

Sean’s Answer

The Audit Risk and Compliance Committee (« Committee ») is to assist the Board in fulfilling its corporate governance and oversight responsibilities in relation to the bodies’ financial reporting, internal control structure, risk management systems, compliance and the external audit function.

The external auditors are responsible for auditing the bodies’ financial reports and for reviewing the unaudited interim financial reports. The Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 calls for auditing financial statements and performance reviews by the Auditor General.

As Committee Chairman Kyle must be independent and must have leadership experience and a strong finance, accounting or business background. So too must the CEO and CFO have appropriate and sufficient qualifications, knowledge, competence, experience and integrity and other personal attributes to undertake their roles.

It should be the responsibility of the Committee to maintain free and open communication between the Committee, external auditors and management. The Committee’s function is principally oversight and review.

The appointment and ongoing assessment, mentoring and discipline of the CEO rests with the board but the delegation of this authority in relation to compliance often rests with the Committee and Board Chairs.

Kyle may invite members of management (CFO and maybe the CEO) or others to attend meetings  and the Committee should have  authority, within the scope of its responsibilities, to seek information it requires, and assistance  from any employee or external party. Inviting the CFO and or CEO to the Committee allows visibility and a holistic and independent forum where deficiencies may be isolated and functions (but not responsibility) delegated to others.

There is a disconnect or deficiency in one or more functions; Kyle should ensure that the Committee holistically review its own charter, discuss with management and the external auditors the adequacy and effectiveness of the internal controls and reporting functions (including the Bodies’s policies and procedures to assess, monitor and manage these controls), as well as a review of the internal quality control procedures (because these are also suspected to be deficient).

It will rapidly become apparent to management, the Committee, Kyle, the board and the Chairman where the deficiencies lie or did lie, and how they have been corrected. Underlying behavioural problems and or abilities to function will also become apparent and with these appropriately addressed similar deficiencies in other areas of the body may be contemporaneously corrected and all reported to the Auditor General.

Sean Rothsey is Chairman and Founder of the Merkin Group. He is based in Cooroy, Queensland, Australia.


*Julie Garland McLellan is a practising non-executive director and board consultant based in Sydney, Australia. www.mclellan.com.au/newsletter.html

Compte rendu hebdomadaire de la Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 29 décembre 2016.

Bonne lecture !

 

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  1. A “Successful” Case of Activism at the Canadian Pacific Railway: Lessons in Corporate Governance, posted by Yvan Allaire and François Dauphin, IGOPP and UQAM, on Friday, December 23, 2016
  2. U.K. Proposed Enhancements to Corporate Governance: Will the New U.S. Administration Follow?, posted by Cydney S. Posner, Cooley LLP, on Friday, December 23, 2016
  3. Delaware Supreme Court Ruling in Zynga: Reasonable Doubt of Director Independence , posted by Thomson Reuters Practical Law, Corporate & Securities Service, on Saturday, December 24, 2016
  4. Do CEO Bonus Plans Serve a Purpose?, posted by Wayne R. Guay and John D. Kepler, University of Pennsylvania, on Monday, December 26, 2016
  5. 2016 Corporate Governance Annual Summary, posted by Michael McCauley, Florida State Board of Administration, on Monday, December 26, 2016
  6. Areas of Focus for Global Audit Regulators, posted by Steven B. Harris, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, on Tuesday, December 27, 2016
  7. Rethinking US Financial Regulation in Light of the 2016 Election, posted by Reena Agrawal Sahni, Shearman & Sterling LLP, on Tuesday, December 27, 2016
  8. 2016 Spencer Stuart Board Index, posted by Spencer Stuart, on Wednesday, December 28, 2016
  9. Results of the 2016 Proxy Season in Silicon Valley, posted by David A. Bell, Fenwick & West LLP, on Wednesday, December 28, 2016
  10. Female Directors, Board Committees and Firm Performance, posted by Colin Green and Swarnodeep Homroy, Lancaster University, on Thursday, December 29, 2016
  11. Executive Compensation: Analysis of Recent Incentive Financial Goals, posted by John R. Sinkular and Julia Kennedy, Pay Governance LLC, on Thursday, December 29, 2016

Le Spencer Stuart Board Index | 2016


Voici le rapport annuel toujours très attendu de Spencer Stuart*.

Ce document présente un compte rendu très détaillé de l’état de la gouvernance dans les grandes sociétés publiques américaines (S&P 500).

On y découvre les résultats des changements dans le domaine de la gouvernance aux É.U. en 2016, ainsi que certaines tendances pour 2017.

Les thèmes abordés sont les suivants :

La composition des Boards

L’indépendance du président du CA

Les mandats des administrateurs et les limites aux nombres de mandats

L’âge de la retraite des administrateurs

L’évaluation des Boards

La nature des relations du Boards et de la direction avec les actionnaires

L’amélioration de la performance des Boards

Diverses informations, notamment :

Only 19% of new independent directors are active CEOs, chairs, presidents and chief operating officers, compared with 24% in 2011, 29% in 2006 and 49% in 1998, the first year we looked at this data for S&P 500 companies.

Active executives with financial backgrounds (CFOs, other financial executives, as well as investors and bankers) represent 15% of new independent directors this year, an increase from 12% last year. Another 10% of new directors are retired finance and public accounting executives.

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On average, S&P 500 directors have 2.1 outside corporate board affiliations, although most directors aren’t restricted from serving on more.

The number of boards with no female directors dropped to the lowest level we have seen; six S&P 500 boards (1%) have no women, a noteworthy decline from 2006, when 52 boards (11%) included no female members. Women now constitute 21% of all S&P 500 directors.

Among the boards of the 200 largest S&P companies, the total number of minority directors has held steady at 15% since 2011. 88% of the top 200 companies have at least one minority director, the same as 10 years ago.

Only 43% of S&P 500 CEOs serve on one or more outside corporate boards in addition to their own board, the same as in 2015. In 2006, 55% of CEOs served on at least one outside board.

Boards met an average of 8.4 times for regularly scheduled and special meetings, up from 8.1 last year and 8.2 five years ago. The median number of meetings rose from 7.0 last year to 8.0.

The average annual total compensation for S&P 500 directors, excluding the chairman’s compensation, is $280,389.

Over time, the compensation mix for directors has evolved, with more stock grants and fewer stock options. Today, stock grants represent 54% of total director compensation, versus 48% five years ago, while stock options represent 6% of compensation today, down from 10% five years ago. Cash accounts for 38% of director compensation, versus 39% in 2011.

95% of the independent chairmen of S&P 500 boards receive an additional fee, averaging $165,112. Nearly two-thirds of lead and presiding directors, 65%, receive additional compensation. The average premium paid to lead and presiding directors is $33,354.

2016 Spencer Stuart Board Index

 

Investor attention to board performance and governance continues to escalate, and, increasingly, it’s large institutional investors—so-called “passive” investors—who are making known their expectations in areas such as board composition, disclosure and shareholder engagement. Long-term investors have shifted their posture to taking positions on good governance, and are increasingly demonstrating common ground with activists on governance topics.

Board composition is a particular area of focus, as traditional institutional investors have become more explicit in demanding that boards demonstrate that they are being thoughtful about who is sitting around the board table and that directors are contributing. They are looking more closely at disclosures related to board refreshment, board performance and assessment practices, in some cases establishing voting policies on governance.

Boards are taking notice. Directors want to ensure that their boards contribute at the highest level, aligning with shareholder interests and expectations. In response, boards are enhancing their disclosures on board composition and leadership, reviewing governance practices and establishing protocols for engaging with investors. Here are some of the trends we are seeing in the key areas of investor concern.

Board composition

The composition of the board—who the directors are, the skills and expertise they bring, and how they interact—is critical for long-term value creation, and an area of governance where investors increasingly expect greater transparency. Shareholders are looking for a well-explained rationale for why the group of people sitting around the board table are the right ones based on the strategic priorities of the business. They want to know that the board has the processes in place to review and evolve board composition in light of emerging needs, and that the board regularly evaluates the contributions and tenure of current board members and the relevance of their experience.

Acknowledging investor interest in their composition, more boards are reviewing how to best communicate their thinking about the types of expertise needed in the board—and how individual directors provide that expertise. More than one-third of the 96 corporate secretaries responding to our annual governance survey, conducted each year as part of the research for the Spencer Stuart Board Index, said their board has changed the way it reports director bios/qualifications; among those that have not yet made changes, 15% expect the board to change how they present director qualifications in the future.

What’s happening to board composition in practice after all of the talk about increasing board turnover? In 2016, we actually saw a small decline in the number of new independent directors elected to S&P 500 boards. S&P 500 boards included in our index elected 345 new independent directors during the 2016 proxy year—averaging 0.72 new directors per board. Last year, S&P 500 boards added a total of 376 new directors (0.78 new directors per board).

Nearly one-third (32%) of the new independent directors on S&P 500 boards are serving on their first outside corporate board. Women account for 32% of new directors, the highest rate of female representation since we began tracking this data for the S&P 500. This year’s class of new directors, however, includes fewer minority directors (defined as African-American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian); 15% of the 345 new independent directors are minorities, a decrease from 18% in 2015.

With the rise of shareholder activism, we’ve also seen an increase in investors and investment managers on boards. This year, 12% of new independent directors are investors, compared with 4% in 2011 and 6% in 2006.

Independent board leadership

Boards continue to feel pressure from some shareholders to separate the chair and CEO roles and name an independent chairman. And, indeed, 27% of S&P 500 boards, versus 21% in 2011, have an independent chair. An independent chair is defined as an independent director or a former executive who has met applicable NYSE or NASDAQ rules for independence over time. This actually represents a small decline from 29% last year. Meanwhile, naming a lead director remains the most common form of independent board leadership: 87% of S&P 500 boards report having a lead or presiding director, nearly all of whom (98%) are identified by name in the proxy.

In our governance survey, 12% of respondents said their board has recently separated the roles of chairman and CEO, while 33% said their board has discussed whether to split the roles within the next five years. Among boards that expect to or have recently separated the chair and CEO roles, 72% cite a CEO transition as the reason, while 20% believe the chair/CEO split represents the best governance.

In response to investor interest in board leadership structure—and sometimes demands for an independent chairman—more boards are discussing their leadership structure in their proxies, for example, explaining the rationale for maintaining a combined chair/CEO role and delineating the responsibilities of the lead director. Among the lead director responsibilities boards highlight: approving the agenda for board meetings, calling meetings and executive sessions of independent directors, presiding over executive sessions, providing board feedback to the CEO following executive sessions, leading the performance evaluation of the CEO and the board assessment, and meeting with major shareholders or other external parties, when necessary. Some proxies include a letter to shareholders from the lead independent director.

Tenure and term limits

Director tenure continues to be a hot topic for some shareholders. While some rating agencies and investors have questioned the independence of directors with “excessive” tenure, there are no specific regulations or listing standards in the U.S. that speak to director independence based on tenure. And, in fact, most companies do not have governance rules limiting tenure; only 19 S&P 500 boards (4%) set an explicit term limit for non-executive directors, a modest increase from 2015 when 13 boards (3%) had director term limits.

Just 3% of survey respondents said their boards are considering establishing director term limits, but many boards are disclosing more in their proxies about director tenure. Specifically, boards are describing their efforts to ensure a balance between short-tenured and long-tenured directors. And several companies have included a short summary of the board’s average tenure accompanied by a pie chart breaking down the tenure of directors on the board (e.g., directors with less than five years tenure, between five and 10 years, and more than 10 years tenure on the board).

Among S&P 500 boards overall, the average board tenure is 8.3 years, a slight decrease from 8.7 five years ago. The median tenure has declined as well in that time, from 8.4 to 8.0. The majority of boards, 63%, have an average tenure between six and 10 years, but 19% of boards have an average tenure of 11 or more years.

We also looked this year at the tenure of individual directors: 35% of independent directors have served on their boards for five years or less, 28% have served for six to 10 years, and 22% for 11 to 15 years. Fifteen percent of independent directors have served on their boards for 16 years or more.

Mandatory retirement

In the absence of term or tenure limits, most S&P 500 boards rely on mandatory retirement ages to promote turnover. About three-quarters (73%) of S&P 500 boards report having a mandatory retirement age for directors. Eleven percent report that they do not have a mandatory retirement age, and 16% do not discuss mandatory retirement in their proxies.

Retirement ages have crept up in recent years, as boards have raised them to allow experienced directors to serve longer. Thirty-nine percent of boards have mandatory retirement ages of 75 or older, compared with 20% in 2011 and just 9% in 2006. Four boards have a retirement age of 80. The most common mandatory retirement age is 72, set by 45% of S&P 500 boards.

As retirement ages have increased, so has the average age of independent directors. The average age of S&P 500 independent directors is 63 today, two years older than a decade ago. In that same period, the median age rose from 61 to 64. Meanwhile, the number of older boards has increased; 37% of S&P 500 boards have an average age of 64 or older, compared with 19% a decade ago, and 15 of today’s boards (3%) have an average age of 70 or greater, versus four (1%) a decade ago.

Board evaluations

Another topic on which large institutional investors have become more vocal is board performance evaluations. Shareholders are seeking greater transparency about how boards address their own performance and the suitability of individual directors—and whether they are using assessments as a catalyst for refreshing the board as new needs arise.

We have seen a growing trend in support of individual director assessments as part of the board effectiveness assessment—not to grade directors, but to provide constructive feedback that can improve performance. Yet the pace of adoption of individual director assessments has been measured. Today, roughly one-third (32%) of S&P 500 boards evaluate the full board, committees and individual directors annually, an increase from 29% in 2011.

In our survey of corporate secretaries, respondents said evaluations are most often conducted by a director, typically the chairman, lead director or a committee chair. A wide range of internal and external parties are also tapped to conduct board assessments, including in-house and external legal counsel, the corporate secretary and board consulting firms. Thirty-five percent use director self-assessments, and 15% include peer reviews. According to proxies, a small number of boards, but more than in the past, disclose that they used an outside consultant to facilitate all or a portion of the evaluation process.

Shareholder engagement

In light of investors’ growing desire for direct engagement with directors, more boards have established frameworks for shareholders to raise questions and engage in meaningful, two-way discussions with the board. In addition to improving disclosures about board composition, assessment and other key governance areas, some boards include in their proxies a summary of their shareholder outreach efforts. For example, they detail the number of investors the board met with, the issues discussed and how the company and board responded. A few boards facilitate direct access to the board by providing contact information for individual directors, including the lead director and audit committee chair.

Going further, many boards now proactively reach out to their company’s largest shareholders. In our survey, 83% of respondents said management or the board contacted the company’s large institutional investors or largest shareholders, an increase from 70% the year prior. The most common topic about which companies engaged with shareholders was proxy access (52%), an increase from 33% in 2015. Other topics included “say on pay” (51%), CEO compensation (40%), director tenure (30%), board refreshment (27%), shareholder engagement approach (27%) and chairman independence (24%). Survey respondents also wrote in more than a dozen additional topics, including majority/cumulative voting, disclosure enhancements, environmental issues and gender pay equity.

Enhancing board performance

The topic of board refreshment can be a highly charged one for boards. But having the right skills around the table is critical for the board’s ability to provide the appropriate guidance and oversight of management. Furthermore, the capabilities and perspectives that a board needs evolve over time as the business context changes. Boards can ensure that they have the right perspectives around the table and are well-equipped to address the issues that drive shareholder value—which, after all, is what investors are looking for—by doing the following:

Viewing director recruitment in terms of ongoing board succession planning, not one-off replacements. Boards should periodically review the skills and expertise on the board to identify gaps in skills or expertise based on changes in strategy or the business context.

Proactively communicating the skill sets and expertise in the boardroom—and the roadmap for future succession. Publishing the board’s skill matrix and sharing the board’s thinking about the types of expertise that are needed on the board—and how individual directors provide that expertise—signals to investors that the board is thoughtful about board succession.

Setting expectations for appropriate tenure both at the aggregate and individual levels. By setting term expectations when new directors join, boards can combat the perceived stigma attached to leaving a board before the mandatory retirement age. Ideally, boards will create an environment where directors are willing to acknowledge when the board would benefit from bringing on different expertise.

Thinking like an activist and identifying vulnerabilities in board renewal and performance. Proactive boards conduct board evaluations annually to identify weaknesses in expertise or performance. They periodically engage third parties to manage the process and are disciplined about identifying and holding themselves accountable for action items stemming from the assessment.

Establishing a framework for engaging with investors. This starts with proactive and useful disclosure, which demonstrates that the board has thought about its composition, performance and other specific issues. In addition, it is valuable to have a protocol in place enumerating responsibilities related to shareholder engagement.


*Note: The Spencer Stuart Board Index (SSBI) is based on our analysis of the most recent proxy reports from the S&P 500, plus an extensive supplemental survey. The complete publication draws on the latest proxy statements from 482 companies filed between May 15, 2015, and May 15, 2016, and responses from 96 companies to our governance survey conducted in the second quarter of 2016. Survey respondents are typically corporate secretaries, general counsel or chief governance officers. Proxy and survey data have been supplemented with information compiled in Spencer Stuart’s proprietary database.

The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Résumé des activités en gouvernance des sociétés | 2016


Voici un article publié sur le site de la HLS par Michael McCauley* qui montre comment la Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) évalue la gouvernance des entreprises dans laquelle elle investit.

Il m’apparaît utile de comprendre le processus décisionnel des investisseurs institutionnels, si l’on veut connaître les variables de la gouvernance dont elles tiennent compte.

L’auteur explique la méthodologie utilisée par la SBA dans sa quête d’information sur les entreprises visées.

Bonne lecture et joyeux temps des fêtes !

2016 Corporate Governance Annual Summary

 

The Florida SBA’s annual corporate governance summary explains how the Board makes proxy voting decisions, describes the process and policies used to analyze corporate governance practices, and details significant market issues affecting global corporate governance practices at owned companies. The SBA acts as a strong advocate and fiduciary for Florida Retirement System (FRS) members and beneficiaries, retirees, and other non-pension clients to strengthen shareowner rights .and promote leading corporate governance practices at U.S. and international companies in which the SBA holds stock.

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The SBA’s corporate governance activities are focused on enhancing share value and ensuring that public companies are accountable to their shareowners with independent boards of directors, transparent disclosures, accurate financial reporting, and ethical business practices designed to protect the SBA’s investments.

The SBA’s annual corporate governance summary is designed to provide transparency of investment management activities involving responsible investment practices, proxy voting conduct, and engagement with owned companies. The report broadly conforms to the main principles for external responsibilities endorsed by the International Corporate Governance Network’s (ICGN) Global Stewardship Principles, most recently updated in June 2016. The ICGN Global Stewardship Principles provide a framework to implement stewardship practices in fulfilling an investor’s fiduciary obligations to beneficiaries or clients.

In addition to comprehensive data and information on corporate engagement, proxy voting, and regulatory issues, the complete 2016 report includes four topical sections detailed below:

Governance Patterns in the U.S. Banking Sector—market events this year demonstrate how a company’s governance regime can interact with its reputation and value.

CFOs serving on Boards in the UK—why is the British market so conducive for executives, including the CFO, to serve on their own boards?

Rule 14a-8 Governing Shareowner Resolutions—is it time for a more efficient way to make shareowner proposals during annual meetings?

UK Compensation Revolt—along with votes targeted at individual board members, investor votes on executive compensation exhibited high levels of dissent at many UK companies.

Annual Voting Review

During the 2016 proxy season, the SBA cast votes at over 10,300 public companies, voting more than 97,000 individual ballot items. The SBA actively engages portfolio companies throughout the year, addressing corporate governance concerns and seeking opportunities to improve alignment with the interests of our beneficiaries. Highlights from the 2016 proxy season included the continued record adoption of proxy access by U.S. companies, record high votes of dissent on pay packages for executives in the United Kingdom, and strong improvements in the level of independence among Japanese boards of directors. While SBA voting principles and guidelines are not pre-disposed to agree or disagree with management recommendations, some management positions may not be in the best interest of all shareowners. On behalf of participants and beneficiaries, the SBA emphasizes the fiduciary responsibility to analyze and evaluate all management recommendations very closely.

Across all voting items, the SBA voted 76.5 percent “For,” 20.2 percent “Against,” 3.1 percent “Withheld,” and 0.2 percent “Abstained” or “Did Not Vote” (due to various local market regulations or liquidity restrictions placed on voted shares). Of all votes cast, 22.2 percent were “Against” the management-recommended-vote (up from 19.4 percent during the same period last year). Among all global proxy votes, the SBA cast at least one dissenting vote at 7,689 annual shareowner meetings, or 74.6 percent of all meetings.

Director Elections

In uncontested director elections among all companies in the United States that are part of the Russell 3000 stock index, over 16,000 nominees received 96.1 percent average support from investors. This year’s figure was within two tenths of one percent from 2015’s statistic. Only 46 director nominees, or less than 0.3 percent, failed to receive a majority level of support from investors. Only two directors at large-capitalization companies within the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 stock index failed to receive a majority level of support. Board elections represent one of the most critical areas in voting because shareowners rely on the board to monitor management. The SBA supported 78.5 percent of individual nominees for boards of directors, voting against the remaining portion of directors due to concerns about candidate independence, qualifications, attendance, or overall board performance. The SBA’s policy is to withhold support from directors who fail to observe good corporate governance practices or demonstrate a disregard for the interests of investors.

Executive Compensation

During the 2016 proxy season, the SBA utilized compensation research from Equilar, Inc., Glass, Lewis & Co., and Institutional Shareholder Services to assist in evaluating the proxy voting decisions on executive compensation share plans and general say-on-pay ballot items. Across all global equity markets, the SBA voted to approve approximately 55 percent of all remuneration reports, whereas in the U.S. market all other investors provided an average support level of 91.5 percent with only 1.5 percent of all advisory votes failing to achieve a majority. ISS found that over half of all U.S. companies conducting annual pay votes have received investor support of at least 90 percent in each of the last five years since the Dodd-Frank Act instituted advisory say-on-pay shareowner votes.

Among all U.S. companies, the average level of investor support for equity plan proposals stayed about the same year over year at approximately 88 percent. However, the number of individual equity plans that failed to garner majority support rose by 50 percent, from 6 to 9 plans. Given the extremely low number of equity plans that fail each year, investor support for individual plans is almost universal. Less than one percent of equity plans failed during the last year, which also marked a five-year low for the number of compensation-related investor proposals with not a single proposal receiving majority support. Over the last fiscal year, the SBA supported 51.2 percent of all non-salary (equity) compensation items, 60.8 percent of executive incentive bonus plans, and 25.2 percent of management proposals to approve omnibus stock plans in which company executives would participate (and 19.3 percent support for the amendment of such plans). Omnibus stock plan ballot items typically include ratification of more than one equity plan beyond a company’s long-term incentive plan (LTIP).

Asset Owner/Asset Manager Peer Benchmarking

In May 2016, the SBA completed an international benchmarking survey on the costs of corporate governance activities at seventeen large public pension funds and global asset managers. The information helped SBA staff to assess the Investment Programs & Governance (IP&G) unit’s cost structure and service utilization across a large number of direct peers. When total research and voting services costs were calculated, SBA had the second lowest dollar-cost per proxy vote among public fund peers and asset managers. The SBA also ranked among the top three funds and well ahead of the fourteen remaining peers with respect to the proxy votes cast per full-time employee. The benchmarking showed that SBA’s corporate governance program uses similar services to peers, but does so at considerably lower cost and with greater efficacy. Our overall program costs and activity levels, particularly when standardized by assets under management, were very favorable compared to peers.

Active Ownership

The SBA actively engages portfolio companies throughout the year, addressing corporate governance concerns and seeking opportunities to improve alignment with the interests of our beneficiaries. During the 2016 fiscal year, SBA staff conducted engagements with over 100 companies owned within Florida Retirement System portfolios, including Compass Group PLC, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Prudential, Bank of Yokohama, Chevron, Bank of America, ENI, Amgen, Ethan Allen, Oracle, The Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan, RTI Surgical, Boeing, Terna Group SpA, Regions Financial Corporation, Red Electrica, and Time Warner. As part of evaluating voting decisions for several proxy contests, SBA staff also met with a number of activist hedge funds, including Red Mountain Capital (proxy campaign at iRobot), Harvest Capital (proxy campaign at Green Dot), and SilverArrow Capital (proxy campaign at Rofin-Sinar Technologies).

Notable Votes

There were numerous significant votes during the 2016 global proxy season, including proxy contests at iRobot Corporation in May and Ashford Hospitality Prime in June, the Facebook share reclassification in June, and the Stada Arzneimitell AG meeting in August. The SBA makes informed and independent voting decisions at investee companies, applying due care, intelligence, and judgment. The SBA makes all proxy voting decisions independently, casting votes based on written, internally-developed corporate governance principles and proxy voting guidelines that cover all expected ballot issues. More detail on each of these votes and the related SBA analysis is contained in the ‘Highlighted Proxy Votes’ section of the 2016 Annual Summary.

The SBA prepares additional reports on corporate governance topics and significant market developments, covering a wide range of shareowner issues. Historical information can be found within the governance section of the SBA’s website. (www.sbafla.com)

The complete publication is available on the SBA’s website here and can also be viewed here using the Issuu e-reader tool.


*Michael McCauley is Senior Officer, Investment Programs & Governance, of the Florida State Board of Administration (the “SBA”). This post is based on an excerpt from the SBA’s 2016 Corporate Governance Report written by Mike McCauley, Jacob Williams, Tracy Stewart, Hugh Brown, and Logan Rand.

Dix stratégies pour se préparer à l’activisme accru des actionnaires


La scène de l’activisme actionnarial a drastiquement évolué au cours des vingt dernières années. Ainsi, la perception négative de l’implication des « hedge funds » dans la gouvernance des organisations a pris une tout autre couleur au fil des ans.

Les fonds institutionnels détiennent maintenant 63 % des actions des corporations publiques. Dans les années 1980, ceux-ci ne détenaient qu’environ 50 % du marché des actions.

L’engagement actif des fonds institutionnels avec d’autres groupes d’actionnaires activistes est maintenant un phénomène courant. Les entreprises doivent continuer à perfectionner leur préparation en vue d’un assaut éventuel des actionnaires activistes.

L’article de Merritt Moran* publié sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, est d’un grand intérêt pour mieux comprendre les changements amenés par les actionnaires activistes, c’est-à-dire ceux qui s’opposent à certaines orientations stratégiques des conseils d’administration, ainsi qu’à la toute-puissance des équipes de direction des entreprises.

L’auteure présente dix activités que les entreprises doivent accomplir afin de décourager les activistes, les incitant ainsi à aller voir ailleurs !

Voici la liste des étapes à réaliser afin d’être mieux préparé à faire face à l’adversité :

  1. Préparez un plan d’action concret ;
  2. Établissez de bonnes relations avec les investisseurs institutionnels et avec les actionnaires ;
  3. La direction doit entretenir une constante communication avec le CA ;
  4. Mettez en place de solides pratiques de divulgations ;
  5. Informez et éduquez les parties prenantes ;
  6. Faites vos devoirs et analysez les menaces et les vulnérabilités susceptibles d’inviter les actionnaires activistes ;
  7. Communiquez avec les actionnaires activistes et tentez de comprendre les raisons de leurs intérêts pour le changement ;
  8. Comprenez bien tous les aspects juridiques relatifs à une cause ;
  9. Explorez les différentes options qui s’offrent à l’entreprise ciblée ;
  10. Apprenez à connaître le rôle des autorités réglementaires.

 

J’espère vous avoir sensibilisé à l’importance de la préparation stratégique face à d’éventuels actionnaires activistes.

Bonne lecture !

 

Ten Strategic Building Blocks for Shareholder Activism Preparedness

 

Shareholder activism is a powerful term. It conjures the image of a white knight, which is ironic because these investors were called “corporate raiders” in the 1980s. A corporate raider conjures a much different image. As much as that change in terminology may seem like semantics, it is critical to understanding how to deal with proxy fights or hostile takeovers. The way someone is described and the language used are crucial to how that person is perceived. The perception of these so-called shareholder activists has changed so dramatically that, even though most companies’ goals are still the same, the playbook for dealing with activists is different than the playbook for corporate raiders. As such, a corresponding increase in the number of activist encounters has made that playbook required reading for all public company officers and directors. In fact, there have been more than 200 campaigns at U.S. public companies with market capitalizations greater than $1 billion in the last 10 quarters alone. [1]

4858275_3_f7e0_ces-derniers-mois-le-fonds-d-investissement_eccbb6dc5ed4db8b354a34dc3b14c30fIt’s not just the terminology concerning activists that has changed, though. Technologies, trading markets and the relationships activists have with other players in public markets have changed as well. Yet, some things have not changed.

The 1980s had arbitrageurs that would often jump onto any opportunity to buy the stock of a potential target company and support the plans and proposals raiders had to “maximize shareholder value.” Inside information was a critical component of how arbs made money. Ivan Boesky is a classic example of this kind of trading activity—so much so that he spent two years in prison for insider trading, and is permanently barred from the securities business. Arbs have now been replaced by hedge funds, some of which comprise the 10,000 or so funds that are currently trying to generate alpha for their investors. While arbitrageurs typically worked inside investment banks, which were highly regulated institutions, hedge funds now are capable of operating independently and are often willing allies of the 60 to 80 full time “sophisticated” activist funds. [2] Information is just as critical today as it was in the 1980s.

Institutions now occupy a far greater percentage of total share ownership today, with institutions holding about 63% of shares outstanding of the U.S. corporate equity market. In the 1980s, institutional ownership never crossed 50% of shares outstanding. [3] Not only has this resulted in an associated increase of voting power for institutions by the same amount, but also a change in their behavior and posture toward the companies in which they invest, at least in some cases. Thirty years ago, the idea that a large institutional investor would publicly side with an activist (formerly known as a “corporate raider”) would be a rare event. Today, major institutions have frequently sided with shareholder activists, and in some cases privately issued a “Request for Activism”, or “RFA” for a portfolio company, as it has become known in the industry.

It seldom, if ever, becomes clear as to whether institutions are seeking change at a company or whether an activist fund identifies a target and then seeks institutional support for its agenda. What is clear is that in today’s form of shareholder activism, the activist no longer needs to have a large stake in the target in order to provoke and drive major changes.

For example, in 2013, ValueAct Capital held less than 1% of Microsoft’s outstanding shares. Yet, ValueAct President, G. Mason Morfit forced his way onto the board of one of the world’s largest corporations and purportedly helped force out longtime CEO Steve Ballmer. How could a relatively low-profile activist—at the time at least—affect such dramatic change? ValueAct had powerful allies, which held many more shares of Microsoft than the fund itself who were willing to flex their voting muscle, if necessary.

The challenge of shareholder activism is similar to, yet different from, that which companies faced in the 1980s. Although public markets have changed tremendously since the 1980s, market participants are still subject to the same kinds of incentives today as they were 30 years ago.

It has been said that even well performing companies, complete with a strong balance sheet, excellent management, a disciplined capital allocation record and operating performance above its peers are not immune. In our experience, this is true. When the amount of capital required to drive change, perhaps unhealthy change, is much less costly than it is to acquire a material equity position for an activist, management teams and boards of directors must navigate carefully.

Below are 10 building blocks that we believe will help position a company to better equip itself to handle the stresses and pressures from the universe of activist investors and hostile acquirers, which may encourage the activists to instead knock at the house next door.

Building Block 1: Be Prepared

Develop a written plan before the activist shows up. By the time a Schedule 13-D is filed, an activist already has the benefit of sufficient time to study a target company, develop a view of its weaknesses and build a narrative that can be used to put a management team and board of directors on the defensive. Therefore, a company’s plan must have balance and must contemplate areas that require attention and improvement. While some activists are akin to 1980s-style corporate raiders with irrational ideas designed only to bump up the stock over a very short period, there are also very sophisticated activists who are savvy and have developed constructive, helpful ideas. A company’s plan and response protocol need to be well thought through and in place before an activist appears. In some cases, the activist response plan can be built into a company’s strategic plan.

The plan needs inclusion and buy-in from the board of directors and senior management. Some subset of this group needs to be involved in developing the plan, not only substantively, but also in the tactical aspects of implementing the plan and communicating with shareholders, including activists, if and when an activist appears.

This preparatory building block extends beyond simply having a process in place to react to shareholder activism. It should complement the company’s business plan and include the charter and bylaws and consideration of traditional takeover defense strategies. It should provide for an advisory team, including lawyers, bankers, a public relations firm and a forensic accounting firm. We believe that the plan should go to a level of detail that includes which members of management and the board are authorized by the board to communicate with the activist and how those communications should occur.

Building Block 2: Promote Good Shareholder Relations with Institutions and Individual Shareholders

If the lesson of the first block was “put your own house in order,” then the second lesson is, “know your tenants, what they want, and how they prefer to live in your building.” This goes well beyond the typical investor relations function. This is where in-depth shareholder research comes into play. We recommend conducting a detailed perception study that can give boards and management teams a clear picture of what the current shareholder base wants, as well as how former and prospective shareholders’ perceptions of the company might differ from the way management and the board see the company itself.

In a takeover battle or proxy contest, facts are ammunition. Suppositions and assumptions of what management thinks shareholders want are dangerous. It is critical to understand how shareholders feel about the dividend policy and the capital allocation plans, for example. Understand how they view the executive compensation or the independence of the board. Do not assume. Ask candidly and revise periodically.

Building Block 3: Inform, Teach and Consult with the Board

Good governance is not something that can be achieved in a reactive sort of manner or when it becomes known that an activist is building a position. Without shareholder-friendly corporate governance practices, the odds of securing good shareholder relations in a contest for control drops significantly and creates the wrong optics.

There are governance issues that can cause institutional shareholders to act, or at least think, akin to activists. Recently, there have been various shareholder rebellions against excessive executive compensation packages—or say-on-pay votes. In fact, Norges, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has launched a public campaign targeting what it views as excessive executive compensation. The fund’s chief executive told the Financial Times that, “We are looking at how to approach this issue in the public space.” He is speaking for an $870 billion dollar fund. The way those votes are cast can mean the difference between victory and defeat in a proxy contest.

Building Block 4: Maintain Transparent Disclosure Practices

While this building block relates to maintaining good shareholder relations, it also recognizes that activists are smart, well informed, motivated and relentless. If a company makes a mistake, and no company is perfect, the activist will likely find it. Companies have write-downs, impairments, restatements, restructurings, events of change or challenges that affect operating performance. While any one of these events may invite activist attention, once a contest for control begins, an activist will find and use every mistake the company ever made and highlight the material ones to the marketplace.

A company cannot afford surprises. One “whoops” event can be all it takes to turn the tide of a proxy vote or a hostile takeover. That is why it is critical to disclose the good and the bad news before the contest begins rather than during the takeover attempt. It may be painful at the time, but with a history of transparency, the marketplace will trust a company that tells them the activist is in it for its own personal benefit and that the proposal the activist is making will not maximize shareholder value, but will only increase the activist’s short-term profit for its investors. Developing that kind of trust and integrity over time can be a critical factor in any contest for corporate control, especially when research shows that the activist has not been transparent in its prior transactions or has misled investors prior to or after achieving its intended result.

When a company has established good corporate governance policies, has been open and transparent, has financial statements consistent with GAAP and effective internal control over financial reporting and knows its shareholder base cold, what is the next step in preparing for the challenge of an activist shareholder?

Building Block 5: Educate Third Parties

Prominent sell-side analysts and financial journalists can, and do, move markets. In a contest for corporate control, or even in a short slate proxy contest, they can be invaluable allies or intractable adversaries. As with the company’s shareholder base, one must know the key players, have established relationships and trust long before a dispute, and have the confidence that the facts are on the company’s side. But winning them over takes time and research, and is another area where an independent forensic accounting firm can be of assistance.

For example, when our client, Allergan, was fighting off a hostile bid from Valeant and Pershing Square, we identified that Valeant’s “double-digit” sales growth came from excluding discontinued products and those with declining sales from its calculation. This piece of information served as key fodder for journalists, who almost unanimously sided against Valeant for this and other reasons. Presentations, investor letters and analyst days can make the difference in creating a negative perception of the adversary and spreading a company’s message.

Building Block 6: Do Your Homework

Before an activist appears, a company needs to understand what vulnerabilities might attract an activist in the first place. This is where independent third parties can be crucial. Retained by a law firm to establish the privilege, they can do a vulnerability assessment of the company compared to its peers.

This is a different sort of assessment than what building block two entails, essentially asking shareholders to identify perceived weaknesses. Here, a company needs to look for the types of vulnerabilities that institutional shareholders might not see—but that an activist surely will. When these vulnerabilities such as accounting practices or obscure governance structures are not addressed, an activist will use them on the offensive. Even worse are the vulnerabilities that are not immediately apparent. In any activist engagement, it is best to minimize surprises as much as possible.

Building Block 7: Communicate With the Activist

Before deciding whether to communicate, know the other players.

This includes a deep dive into the activist’s history—what level of success has the activist had in the past? Have they targeted similar companies? What strategies have they used? How do they negotiate? How have other companies reacted and what successes or failures have they experienced?

If the activist commences a proxy contest or a consent solicitation, turn that intelligence apparatus on the slate of board nominees the activist is proposing. Find out about their vulnerabilities and paint the full picture of their business record. Do they know the industry? Are they responsible fiduciaries? What is their personal track record? These are important questions that investigators can help answer.

Armed with information about the activist and having consulted with management, the board has to decide whether to communicate with the activist, and if so, what the rules of the road are for doing so. What are the objectives and goals and what are the pros and cons of even starting that communication process? If a decision is made to start communications with the activist, make sure to pick the time to do so and not just respond to what the media hype might be promoting. Poison pills can provide breathing room to make these determinations.

Always keep in mind that communications can lead to discussions, which in turn can lead to negotiations, which may result in a deal.

Before reaching a settlement deal, a company must be sure to have completed the preceding due diligence. More companies seem to be choosing to appease activists by signing voting agreements and/or granting board seats. Although this will likely buy more time to deal with the activist in private, it may simply delay an undesirable outcome rather than circumvent the issue. Whether or not the company signs a voting agreement with the activist, management and the board of directors should know the activist’s track record and current activities with other companies in great detail as the initial step in considering whether to reach any accommodation with the activist.

Building Block 8: Understand the Role of Litigation

Most of the building blocks thus far have involved making a business case to the marketplace and supporting that case with candid communications. But in many activist campaigns—especially the really adversarial ones—there will come a time when the company needs to make its case to a court or a regulator or both.

As with other building blocks, litigation goes to one of the most valuable commodities in a contest for corporate control: TIME. In most situations, the more time the target has to maintain the campaign, the better. The company’s legal team needs to work with the forensic accountants to understand and identify issues that relate to the activist’s prior transactions and business activities, while ensuring that the company is not living in a glass house when it throws stones. Armed with the facts, lawyers will do the legal analysis to determine whether the activist has complied with or broken state, federal or international law or regulation. If there are causes of action, then one way to resolve them is to litigate.

Building Block 9: Factor in Contingencies and Options

Contingencies can include additional activists, M&A and small issues that can become big issues. This building block is about understanding the environment in which the company is operating.

For example, are there hedge funds targeting the same company in a “wolfpack”, as the industry has coldly nicknamed them? If two or more hedge funds are acting in concert to acquire, hold, vote or dispose of a company’s securities, they can be treated as a group triggering the requirement to file a Schedule 13-D as such. Under certain circumstances, the remedy the SEC has secured for violating Section 13(d) of the Williams Act is to sterilize the vote of the shares held by the group’s members. So, if there is evidence indicating that funds are working together which have not jointly filed a Schedule 13-D, the SEC may be able to help. Or better yet, think about building block eight and litigate.

In the case of a hostile acquisition, consider whether there is an activist already on the board of the potential acquirer? Has the activist been a board member in prior transactions? If so, what kind of fiduciary has that activist shown himself to be?

Another contingency is exploring “strategic alternatives.”

Building Block 10: Understand the Role of Regulators

Despite the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, regulators today may be less inclined to intervene in these kinds of issues than they were 30 years ago.

When an activist is engaging in questionable or illegal practices, contacting regulators should be considered. But this requires being proactive.

The best way to approach the regulators is to present a complete package of evidence that is verified by independent third parties. Determine the facts, apply legal analysis to those facts and have conclusions that show violations of the law. Do not just show one side of the case; show both sides, the pros and the cons of a possible violation. Why? Because if the package is complete and has all the work that the regulator would want to do under the circumstances, two things will happen. First, the regulator will understand that there is an issue, a potential harm to shareholders and the public interest which the regulator is sworn to protect. Second, the regulator will save time when it presents the case for approval to act.

Using forensic accountants before and when an activist appears is one of the major factors that can assist companies today and also help the lawyers who are advising the target company. If other advisors are conflicted, the company needs a reputable, independent third party who can help the company ascertain facts on a timely basis to make informed decisions, and if the determination is made to oppose the activist, make the case to shareholders, to analysts, to media, to regulators and to the courts.

Each of these buildings blocks is important. While they have remained mostly the same since the 1980s, tactics, strategies and the marketplace have changed. Even though activists may appear to act the same way, each is different and each activist approach has its own differences from all the others.

Endnotes

1FactSet, SharkRepellent.(go back)

2FactSet, SharkRepellent.(go back)

3The Wall Street Journal, Federal Reserve and Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research.(go back)

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*Merritt Moran is a Business Analyst at FTI Consulting. This post is based on an FTI publication by Ms. Moran, Jason Frankl, John Huber, and Steven Balet.

La gouvernance des CÉGEPS | Une responsabilité partagée


Nous publions ici un cinquième billet de Danielle Malboeuf* laquelle nous a soumis ses réflexions sur les grands enjeux de la gouvernance des institutions d’enseignement collégial les 23 et 27 novembre 2013, le 24 novembre 2014 et le 4 septembre 2015, à titre d’auteure invitée.

Dans un premier article, publié le 23 novembre 2013 sur ce blogue, on insistait sur l’importance, pour les CA des Cégeps, de se donner des moyens pour assurer la présence d’administrateurs compétents dont le profil correspond à celui qui est recherché. D’où les propositions adressées à la Fédération des cégeps et aux CA pour élaborer un profil de compétences et pour faire appel à la Banque d’administrateurs certifiés du Collège des administrateurs de sociétés (CAS), le cas échéant. Un autre enjeu identifié dans ce billet concernait la remise en question de l’indépendance des administrateurs internes.

Le deuxième article publié le 27 novembre 2013 abordait l’enjeu entourant l’exercice de la démocratie par différentes instances au moment du dépôt d’avis au conseil d’administration.

Le troisième article portait sur l’efficacité du rôle du président du conseil d’administration (PCA).

Le quatrième billet abordait les qualités et les caractéristiques des bons administrateurs dans le contexte du réseau collégial québécois (CÉGEP)

Dans ce cinquième billet, l’auteure réagit aux préoccupations actuelles de la ministre de l’Enseignement supérieur eu égard à la gouvernance des CÉGEPS.

 

La gouvernance des CÉGEPS | Une responsabilité partagée

par

Danielle Malboeuf*  

 

Dans les suites du rapport de la vérificatrice générale portant sur la gestion administrative des Cégeps, la ministre de l’Enseignement supérieur, madame Hélène David a demandé au ministère un plan d’action pour améliorer la gouvernance dans le réseau collégial. Voici un point de vue qui pourrait enrichir sa réflexion.

Rappelons que pour atteindre de haut standard d’excellence, les collèges doivent compter sur un conseil d’administration (CA) performant dont les membres font preuve d’engagement, de curiosité et de courage tout en possédant les qualifications suivantes : crédibles, compétents, indépendants, informés et outillés.

Considérant l’importance des décisions prises par les administrateurs, il est essentiel que ces personnes possèdent des compétences et une expertise pertinente. Parmi les bonnes pratiques en gouvernance, les CA devraient d’ailleurs élaborer un profil de compétences recherchées pour ses membres et l’utiliser au moment de la sélection des administrateurs.  Au moment de solliciter la nomination d’un administrateur externe auprès du gouvernement, ce profil devrait être fortement recommandé. Sachant que chacun des 48 CA des Collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel compte sept personnes nommées par la ministre pour un mandat de trois ans renouvelable, il est important de lui rappeler l’importance d’en tenir compte.

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Il est également essentiel qu’elle procède à ces nominations dans les meilleurs délais. À l’heure actuelle, on constate que, dans certains cas, le délai pour nommer et remplacer des administrateurs externes peut être de plusieurs mois. Cette situation est doublement préoccupante quand plusieurs membres quittent le CA en même temps. Sachant qu’il existe une banque de candidats dûment formés par le Collège des administrateurs de sociétés et des membres de plusieurs ordres professionnels qui répondent au profil de compétences recherchées par les collèges, il serait pertinent de recruter des candidats parmi ces personnes.

De plus, pour être en présence d’administrateurs performants, il est essentiel que ces personnes soient au fait de leurs rôles et responsabilités. Des formations devraient donc leur être offertes. Toutefois, cette formation ne doit pas se limiter à leur faire connaître les obligations légales et financières qui s’appliquent au réseau collégial, mais les bonnes pratiques de gouvernance doivent également leur être enseignées. À ce sujet, il faut se réjouir du souhait formulé par madame David afin d’offrir des formations en ce sens.

Signalons aussi que les administrateurs ne devraient pas se retrouver en situation de conflit d’intérêts. Ainsi, il faut s’assurer, entre autres, que les administrateurs internes ne subissent pas de pressions des  groupes d’employés dont ils proviennent. Les  conseils d’administration des collèges comptent quatre membres du personnel qui enrichissent les échanges par leurs expériences pertinentes. La Loi sur les collèges prévoit que ces administrateurs internes sont élus par leurs pairs. Dans plusieurs collèges, le processus de sélection est confié au syndicat qui procède à l’élection de leur représentant au conseil d’administration lors d’une assemblée syndicale. Ces personnes peuvent subir des pressions surtout quand certains syndicats inscrivent dans leur statut et règlement que ces personnes doivent représenter l’assemblée syndicale et y faire rapport. D’autres collèges ont prévu des modalités qui respectent beaucoup mieux l’esprit de la loi. On confie au secrétaire général, le mandat de recevoir les candidatures et de procéder dans le cadre de processus convenu à la sélection de ces personnes. Cette dernière pratique devrait être encouragée.

Considérant les pouvoirs du CA qui agit tant sur les aspects financiers et légaux que sur les orientations du collège, il est essentiel que la direction fasse preuve de transparence et transmette aux membres toutes les informations pertinentes. Pour permettre aux administrateurs de porter des jugements adéquats et de juger de la pertinence et de l’efficacité de sa gestion, le collège doit aussi leur fournir des indicateurs. Sachant que des indicateurs sont présents dans le plan stratégique, les administrateurs devraient, donc porter une attention toute particulière à ces indicateurs, et ce, sur une base régulière.

Par ailleurs, les administrateurs ne doivent pas hésiter à poser des questions et à demander des informations additionnelles, le cas échéant. Le président du CA peut, dans ce sens, jouer un rôle essentiel. Il doit, entre autres, porter un regard critique sur les documents qui sont transmis avant les rencontres et encourager la création de sous-comités pour enrichir les réflexions. Considérant le rôle qui lui est confié dans la Loi, les présidents de CA pourraient être tentés de se limiter à jouer un rôle d’animateur de réunions, ce qui n’est pas suffisant.

En résumé, la présence de CA performant dans les Cégeps exige une évolution des pratiques et idéalement, des modifications législatives qui mettront à contribution chacun des acteurs du réseau collégial.

_______________________

*Danielle Malboeuf est consultante et formatrice en gouvernance ; elle possède une grande expérience dans la gestion des CÉGEPS et dans la gouvernance des institutions d’enseignement collégial et universitaire. Elle est CGA-CPA, MBA, ASC, Gestionnaire et administratrice retraitée du réseau collégial et consultante.

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Articles sur la gouvernance des CÉGEPS publiés sur mon blogue par l’auteure :

(1) LE RÔLE DU PRÉSIDENT DU CONSEIL D’ADMINISTRATION (PCA) | LE CAS DES CÉGEPS

(2) Les grands enjeux de la gouvernance des institutions d’enseignement collégial

(3) L’exercice de la démocratie dans la gouvernance des institutions d’enseignement collégial

(4) Caractéristiques des bons administrateurs pour le réseau collégial | Danielle Malboeuf

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Six mesures pour améliorer la gouvernance des organismes publics au Québec | Yvan Allaire


Je suis tout à fait d’accord avec la teneur de l’article de l’IGOPP, publié par Yvan Allaire* intitulé « Six mesures pour améliorer la gouvernance des organismes publics au Québec», lequel dresse un état des lieux qui soulève des défis considérables pour l’amélioration de la gouvernance dans le secteur public et propose des mesures qui pourraient s’avérer utiles. Celui-ci fut a été soumis au journal Le Devoir, pour publication.

L’article soulève plusieurs arguments pour des conseils d’administration responsables, compétents, légitimes et crédibles aux yeux des ministres responsables.

Même si la Loi sur la gouvernance des sociétés d’État a mis en place certaines dispositions qui balisent adéquatement les responsabilités des C.A., celles-ci sont poreuses et n’accordent pas l’autonomie nécessaire au conseil d’administration, et à son président, pour effectuer une véritable veille sur la gestion de ces organismes.

Selon l’auteur, les ministres contournent allègrement les C.A., et ne les consultent pas. La réalité politique amène les ministres responsables à ne prendre principalement avis que du PDG ou du président du conseil : deux postes qui sont sous le contrôle et l’influence du ministère du conseil exécutif ainsi que des ministres responsables des sociétés d’État (qui ont trop souvent des mandats écourtés !).

Rappelons, en toile de fond à l’article, certaines dispositions de la loi :

– Au moins les deux tiers des membres du conseil d’administration, dont le président, doivent, de l’avis du gouvernement, se qualifier comme administrateurs indépendants.

– Le mandat des membres du conseil d’administration peut être renouvelé deux fois

– Le conseil d’administration doit constituer les comités suivants, lesquels ne doivent être composés que de membres indépendants :

1 ° un comité de gouvernance et d’éthique ;

2 ° un comité d’audit ;

3 ° un comité des ressources humaines.

– Les fonctions de président du conseil d’administration et de président-directeur général de la société ne peuvent être cumulées.

– Le ministre peut donner des directives sur l’orientation et les objectifs généraux qu’une société doit poursuivre.

– Les conseils d’administration doivent, pour l’ensemble des sociétés, être constitués à parts égales de femmes et d’hommes.

Yvan a accepté d’agir en tant qu’auteur invité dans mon blogue en gouvernance. Voici donc son article.

 

Six mesures pour améliorer la gouvernance des organismes publics au Québec

par Yvan Allaire*

 

La récente controverse à propos de la Société immobilière du Québec a fait constater derechef que, malgré des progrès certains, les espoirs investis dans une meilleure gouvernance des organismes publics se sont dissipés graduellement. Ce n’est pas tellement les crises récurrentes survenant dans des organismes ou sociétés d’État qui font problème. Ces phénomènes sont inévitables même avec une gouvernance exemplaire comme cela fut démontré à maintes reprises dans les sociétés cotées en Bourse. Non, ce qui est remarquable, c’est l’acceptation des limites inhérentes à la gouvernance dans le secteur public selon le modèle actuel.

 

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En fait, propriété de l’État, les organismes publics ne jouissent pas de l’autonomie qui permettrait à leur conseil d’administration d’assumer les responsabilités essentielles qui incombent à un conseil d’administration normal : la nomination du PDG par le conseil (sauf pour la Caisse de dépôt et placement, et même pour celle-ci, la nomination du PDG par le conseil est assujettie au veto du gouvernement), l’établissement de la rémunération des dirigeants par le conseil, l’élection des membres du conseil par les « actionnaires » sur proposition du conseil, le conseil comme interlocuteur auprès des actionnaires.

Ainsi, le C.A. d’un organisme public, dépouillé des responsabilités qui donnent à un conseil sa légitimité auprès de la direction, entouré d’un appareil gouvernemental en communication constante avec le PDG, ne peut que difficilement affirmer son autorité sur la direction et décider vraiment des orientations stratégiques de l’organisme.

Pourtant, l’engouement pour la « bonne » gouvernance, inspirée par les pratiques de gouvernance mises en place dans les sociétés ouvertes cotées en Bourse, s’était vite propagé dans le secteur public. Dans un cas comme dans l’autre, la notion d’indépendance des membres du conseil a pris un caractère mythique, un véritable sine qua non de la « bonne » gouvernance. Or, à l’épreuve, on a vite constaté que l’indépendance qui compte est celle de l’esprit, ce qui ne se mesure pas, et que l’indépendance qui se mesure est sans grand intérêt et peut, en fait, s’accompagner d’une dangereuse ignorance des particularités de l’organisme à gouverner.

Ce constat des limites des conseils d’administration que font les ministres et les ministères devrait les inciter à modifier ce modèle de gouvernance, à procéder à une sélection plus serrée des membres de conseil, à prévoir une formation plus poussée des membres de C.A. sur les aspects substantifs de l’organisme dont ils doivent assumer la gouvernance.

Or, l’État manifeste plutôt une indifférence courtoise, parfois une certaine hostilité, envers les conseils et leurs membres que l’on estime ignorants des vrais enjeux et superflus pour les décisions importantes.

Évidemment, le caractère politique de ces organismes exacerbe ces tendances. Dès qu’un organisme quelconque de l’État met le gouvernement dans l’embarras pour quelque faute ou erreur, les partis d’opposition sautent sur l’occasion, et les médias aidant, le gouvernement est pressé d’agir pour que le « scandale » s’estompe, que la « crise » soit réglée au plus vite. Alors, les ministres concernés deviennent préoccupés surtout de leur contrôle sur ce qui se fait dans tous les organismes sous leur responsabilité, même si cela est au détriment d’une saine gouvernance.

Ce brutal constat fait que le gouvernement, les ministères et ministres responsables contournent les conseils d’administration, les consultent rarement, semblent considérer cette agitation de gouvernance comme une obligation juridique, un mécanisme pro-forma utile qu’en cas de blâme à partager.

Prenant en compte ces réalités qui leur semblent incontournables, les membres des conseils d’organismes publics, bénévoles pour la plupart, se concentrent alors sur les enjeux pour lesquels ils exercent encore une certaine influence, se réjouissent d’avoir cette occasion d’apprentissage et apprécient la notoriété que leur apporte dans leur milieu ce rôle d’administrateur.

Cet état des lieux, s’il est justement décrit, soulève des défis considérables pour l’amélioration de la gouvernance dans le secteur public. Les mesures suivantes pourraient s’avérer utiles :

  1. Relever considérablement la formation donnée aux membres de conseil en ce qui concerne les particularités de fonctionnement de l’organisme, ses enjeux, ses défis et critères de succès. Cette formation doit aller bien au-delà des cours en gouvernance qui sont devenus quasi-obligatoires. Sans une formation sur la substance de l’organisme, un nouveau membre de conseil devient une sorte de touriste pendant un temps assez long avant de comprendre suffisamment le caractère de l’organisation et son fonctionnement.
  2. Accorder aux conseils d’administration un rôle élargi pour la nomination du PDG de l’organisme ; par exemple, le conseil pourrait, après recherche de candidatures et évaluation de celles-ci, recommander au gouvernement deux candidats pour le choix éventuel du gouvernement. Le conseil serait également autorisé à démettre un PDG de ses fonctions, après consultation du gouvernement.
  3. De même, le gouvernement devrait élargir le bassin de candidats et candidates pour les conseils d’administration, recevoir l’avis du conseil sur le profil recherché.
  4. Une rémunération adéquate devrait être versée aux membres de conseil ; le bénévolat en ce domaine prive souvent les organismes de l’État du talent essentiel au succès de la gouvernance.
  5. Rendre publique la grille de compétences pour les membres du conseil dont doivent se doter la plupart des organismes publics ; fournir une information détaillée sur l’expérience des membres du conseil et rapprocher l’expérience/expertise de chacun de la grille de compétences établie. Cette information devrait apparaître sur le site Web de l’organisme.
  6. Au risque de trahir une incorrigible naïveté, je crois que l’on pourrait en arriver à ce que les problèmes qui surgissent inévitablement dans l’un ou l’autre organisme public soient pris en charge par le conseil d’administration et la direction de l’organisme. En d’autres mots, en réponse aux questions des partis d’opposition et des médias, le ministre responsable indique que le président du conseil de l’organisme en cause et son PDG tiendront incessamment une conférence de presse pour expliquer la situation et présenter les mesures prises pour la corriger. Si leur intervention semble insuffisante, alors le ministre prend en main le dossier et en répond devant l’opinion publique.

_______________________________________________

*Yvan Allaire, Ph. D. (MIT), MSRC Président exécutif du conseil, IGOPP Professeur émérite de stratégie, UQÀM

La tendance est à la tenue des assemblées annuelles des actionnaires en ligne


Les assemblées annuelles des actionnaires ont de plus en plus tendance à se tenir de manière virtuelle. Nous sommes d’avis, qu’à l’avenir, avec le développement des technologies de l’information, toutes les réunions se feront exclusivement en ligne.

Nous n’en sommes encore qu’au tout début de ce changement, mais il semble clair que les assemblées annuelles tenues sur place ou de manière hybride (virtuelle et sur place) céderont le pas aux rencontres en ligne.

L’article publié par Lisa A. Fontenot et Linda Dang associées de la firme Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher et paru sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum, fait le point sur les tenants et aboutissants de cette nouvelle approche à la conduite des réunions annuelles des actionnaires.

Parmi les avantages de l’utilisation de l’approche en ligne, mentionnons l’accroissement de la participation des actionnaires et la diminution des coûts pour l’ensemble des opérations.

Par contre, à ce stade-ci, plusieurs grandes organisations de défenses des actionnaires et plusieurs actionnaires activistes sont farouchement opposés à cette façon de procéder parce que la relation face à face avec les dirigeants et les administrateurs leur apparaît essentielle à la bonne gouvernance, mais surtout parce qu’elles croient que les entreprises auront tendance, et même intérêt, à gérer les questions des actionnaires à leur avantage.

Les auteures discutent en profondeur des bénéfices et des défis posés par cette problématique. Elles indiquent comment procéder pour mettre en place ces réunions virtuelles en s’appuyant sur les principes élaborés par un groupe de travail constitué d’un grand nombre de parties prenantes : « Best Practices Working Group for Online Shareholder Participation in Annual Meetings ».

Je vous souhaite une bonne lecture.

Annual Shareholder Meeting: Selected Considerations for a Virtual-Only Meeting

 

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In recent years, an increasing number of companies have opted to hold annual shareholder meetings exclusively online—i.e., a virtual meeting without a corresponding physical meeting—rather than a virtual meeting in tandem with a physical meeting (the so-called “hybrid” approach). While hybrid approaches are generally welcome or not opposed by investors and activist shareholders, some have criticized companies holding virtual-only annual meetings, asserting that virtual meetings limit the opportunity for shareholder participation in the meeting as well as engagement with management and the board. In spite of these criticisms, just as corporate use of the internet and social media to communicate with stakeholders is growing, virtual meetings are on the rise.

In 2001, Inforte Corporation was the first company to hold a virtual-only meeting, following Delaware’s 2000 amendment to its General Corporation Law permitting such meetings. Though virtual meetings are still very much a minority of total annual shareholder meetings, more and more companies have been holding virtual meetings over the last few years: 27 virtual meetings in 2012, 35 in 2013, 53 in 2014 and 90 in 2015. Broadridge Financial Solutions, an investor communications firm and a provider of a virtual meeting platform, reported 136 virtual meetings held in 2016 to date, with particular popularity with recently-publicly listed companies and technology companies. These include companies, large and small, such as Intel, HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Fitbit, Yelp, NVIDIA, Sprint, Lululemon, Graco, GoPro, Rambus, El Pollo Loco and Herman Miller.

Considerations for a Virtual Meeting

Benefits of Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings present many potential advantages for companies and their shareholders. Advocates suggest that virtual meetings will increase shareholder participation as compared to physical-only meetings because of improved access—shareholders who cannot attend in person due to location or other reasons can attend virtually and do not have to incur the time and costs of travel to a physical meeting. As an example, one company had only three shareholders attend its last physical meeting in 2008, while 186 shareholders attended its virtual meeting in 2009. In addition, considering that thousands of annual shareholder meetings are held within a few weeks of each other, shareholders can participate in more virtual meetings than physical meetings.

Similarly, companies may find virtual meetings appealing in their potential to reach as many shareholders as possible. Companies can also choose among different approaches to handling shareholder questions, some of which allow companies to preview and prioritize important questions, eliminate duplicative items and prepare more substantive or complete responses. Moreover, for some companies, the use of technology for the conduct of a shareholder meeting may be consistent with promoting the technology business of the company or enable a company to project a tech-savvy image.

A benefit to both shareholders and companies is the reduced cost of the annual meeting—a virtual meeting avoids the time, effort and expense of organizing a physical meeting, including reserving a large venue and arranging for appropriate personnel and materials. With companies and investors becoming increasingly global, virtual meetings can trim travel time and costs for shareholders, avoid traffic and other logistical delays and be easier to schedule amidst competing time demands. A virtual meeting may also be less disruptive to the company’s daily routine, allowing management and other employees to return to their work more quickly. In the current atmosphere where physical safety is always a concern, it is relatively easy to maintain security and control for a virtual meeting as compared to a live one. Lastly, holding the annual meeting virtually can reduce environmental impact, because there would be less travel and fewer printed materials regardless of the number of participants.

Challenges Presented by Virtual Meetings

Despite the potential advantages, some perceived challenges raised by virtual meetings cause certain institutional investors, such as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest U.S. public pension fund, and shareholder groups, such as the Council of Institutional Investors (CII), to oppose virtual meetings. These investors assert that virtual meetings reduce the effectiveness of shareholder participation by eliminating shareholders’ ability to meet with directors and express their concerns face-to-face. There is also concern that companies will manipulate shareholder questions to reduce any negative impact or redirect focus, by filtering, grouping, rephrasing or even ignoring questions so that companies can manage questions and their responses to advance the company viewpoints. By selecting questions ahead of time, companies could choose not to answer hard questions that would be more difficult to avoid in person. In effect, virtual meetings could potentially allow companies to limit the influence of corporate governance activists.

Companies may fear that virtual meetings lack the personal connection with shareholders and communities that in-person meetings can convey. Virtual meetings may create more uncertainty in shareholder votes because shareholders can more easily attend virtual meetings than physical meetings and thus electronically vote or change votes at the last moment while attending a virtual meeting. Especially in contested elections, the certainty of proxies received in advance of physical meetings provides more comfort for companies about the projected outcome of votes. Shareholders who can attend a meeting virtually may be less inclined to vote by proxy in advance, making voting results less predictable and making it harder for companies to gauge whether their solicitation methods are effective or need to be adjusted. In proxy contests, parties could continue solicitation efforts via e-mail up to the time of the virtual meeting, though a company’s last-minute announcements or statements may similarly be more likely to affect votes. Some companies may avoid virtual meetings because of their reluctance to make their shareholder lists available online, as required by many states for virtual meetings. Moreover, without the personal touch present when face-to-face, virtual meetings may diminish companies’ ability to resolve hostile or otherwise challenging questions as effectively as in physical meetings. Finally, to the extent that a virtual meeting broadcasts shareholder questions on a real-time basis, it could be more difficult for companies to manage disruptive participants than in a physical meeting.

Some prominent activist shareholders also oppose virtual meetings. For the 2017 proxy season, John Chevedden has submitted shareholder proposals to various companies requesting that the companies’ board of directors adopt a governance policy to initiate or restore in-person annual meetings and publicize this policy to investors. Mr. Chevedden has argued that in-person meetings serve an important function by enabling shareholders to better judge management’s performance and plans. Similarly, James McRitchie has written on his website about the negative impact of holding virtual annual meetings and advocated for shareholder proposals requiring physical meetings.

Both CalPERS and CII believe that companies “should hold shareowner meetings by remote communication (so-called ‘virtual’ meetings) only as a supplement to traditional in-person shareowner meetings, not as a substitute” and that “a virtual option, if used, should facilitate the opportunity for remote attendees to participate in the meeting to the same degree as in-person attendees.”California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) has also expressed a preference for a hybrid meeting, though it acknowledged that “the technology is moving.” At this time, most other major institutional investors have not taken a public stance regarding virtual meetings.

Neither Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) nor Glass Lewis have directly opposed virtual meetings in their guidelines, although ISS has indicated that it may make adverse recommendations where a company is using virtual-meeting technology to impede shareholder discussions or proposals.

Best practices for virtual meetings are continuing to evolve as more companies hold virtual meetings, so it may be difficult to predict investor response to specific practices.

Initial Considerations in Deciding Whether to Hold a Virtual Meeting

Governing Law and Documents

If a company desires to hold its meeting virtually, it first must confirm that the law of its state of incorporation permits virtual annual meetings and the requirements applicable to such meetings. Almost half of the U.S. states, including Delaware, permit virtual meetings. However, some of these 22 states include conditions that, practically speaking, mean that virtual meetings likely would not be used—for example, California permits virtual meetings but only with the consent of each shareholder participating remotely. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia do not permit virtual meetings but do permit hybrid meetings, and 11 states require a physical location for the shareholders’ meeting while permitting remote participation.

A Delaware corporation can hold its annual meeting virtually if it complies with certain statutory requirements. The company must “implement reasonable measures” to confirm that each person voting is a shareholder or proxyholder and to provide such persons with “a reasonable opportunity to participate in the meeting and to vote,” including the ability to read or hear the meeting proceedings on a substantially concurrent basis. The company must also maintain records of votes or other actions taken by the shareholder or proxyholder.

After confirming that virtual meetings are allowed under the state law applicable to the company, the company should make note of any statutory conditions, such as disclosure or shareholder consent requirements or objection rights. For example, as noted above, a company may also be required to make its shareholder list electronically available during the meeting. A company must also confirm that its governing documents permit virtual meetings; for example, a company’s bylaws often state where annual meetings are to be held and may need amendment to provide for virtual meetings. Notably, federal securities laws do not impose restrictions on how shareholder meetings are held. Similarly, while stock exchanges like the NYSE and NASDAQ require listed companies to hold shareholder meetings, they also do not prohibit nor impose restrictions on virtual meetings.

Factors Influencing the Decision to Hold a Virtual Meeting

A company should assess typical shareholder attendance at its annual meeting and the interest of senior management and directors in holding the annual meeting virtually who may have concerns about investor reaction to a virtual meeting announcement or who may want the company to demonstrate its embrace of current technology. A company should also compare the costs and logistical efforts necessary for a physical meeting against those needed for a virtual meeting, which will include fees for the virtual meeting platform and may still include travel expenses for certain directors and management team members. Other factors include whether any shareholder proposals are pending and the level of shareholder dissent, such as with respect to the company’s performance or governance. The company should evaluate the risk of triggering shareholder activism if it announces an intent to hold its annual meeting virtually. There may be reasons why a physical meeting may be preferable, such as where director elections are contested or a significant business transaction or controversial proposal will be put to a shareholder vote. To date, no virtual meetings involving proxy contests have been held.

Planning for a Virtual Meeting

In 2012, a group of “interested constituencies, comprised of retail and institutional investors, public company representatives, as well as proxy and legal service providers” published guidelines for virtual meetings. Chaired by a representative of CalSTRS and including members from the National Association of Corporate Directors, the Society for Corporate Governance (formerly known as the Society of Corporate Secretaries & Governance Professionals), AFL-CIO and NASDAQ and others, this “Best Practices Working Group for Online Shareholder Participation in Annual Meetings” set forth the following principles for online shareholder participation in annual meetings:

  1. Companies should “employ safeguards and mechanisms to protect [shareholder interests] and to ensure that companies are not using technology to avoid opportunities for dialogue that would otherwise be available at an in-person shareholder meeting.” Companies should adopt safeguards for shareholders’ online participation by adopting policies and procedures that offer a similar level of transparency and interaction as a physical meeting. The policies and procedures should also address validation of attendees (to confirm that they are shareholders and proxyholders) and enable online voting.
  2. Companies should “maximize the use of technology” to make the meeting accessible to all shareholders. Steps to be considered include offering telephone or videoconferencing access “so that shareholders can call in to ask questions during the meeting,” ensuring accessible technology “by utilizing a platform that accommodates most, if not all, shareholders,” “providing a technical support line for shareholders,” and “opening web lines and telephone lines in advance” for pre-meeting testing access.

If a company decides to hold its annual meeting virtually, it may wish to proactively discuss the proposed change with key shareholders and explain the rationale for it. The company must also determine how it would handle shareholder questions—for example, whether all questions would be posted and establishing what happens to questions received during the meeting that are not answered during the meeting.

A company has several options for hosting a virtual meeting (audio, video, telephone, web, etc.), and a company’s choice among those options will be guided by state legal requirements. Providers offer virtual meeting platforms on which companies can host their annual meetings and shareholders can attend and vote online. These commercial platforms can help companies comply with statutory requirements, such as Delaware’s requirement to maintain records of votes and other shareholder actions. If possible, the company should leverage technology to allow attendees with different levels of technological savvy or resources to attend.

Conclusion

Though some originally thought that only small companies would use virtual meetings because larger, more well-known companies would want to use the annual meeting as a public relations opportunity and to avoid backlash from shareholder groups, large companies have now started holding virtual meetings. In deciding whether to hold a virtual meeting, companies should weigh the relative advantages and disadvantages applicable to their situations, which may include potential negative sentiment from investors. With technological advances that enable the meetings to be more similar to physical meetings, the potential cost and time savings of virtual meetings may appeal to more companies.

The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Bâtir un conseil d’administration à « valeur ajoutée »


La question que pose l’auteur Robyn Bew, directeur à la National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), est directe et d’une grande importance : Les Boards sont-ils prêts pour affronter les changements des 20 dernières années ?

En effet, cela fait déjà vingt ans que le rapport du NACD (Blue Ribbon Commission on Director Professionalism) a fait ses recommandations sur les principes de saine gouvernance.

Cet article nous invite à revisiter les règles de gouvernance à la lumière des changements significatifs survenus depuis 20 ans.

Il ne s’agit pas de rafraîchir la composition du CA, mais plutôt de s’assurer que ce dernier constitue un actif stratégique durable.

L’article a été publié aujourd’hui sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

Bonne lecture !

Building the Strategic-Asset Board

 

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In 1996, the Report of the NACD Blue Ribbon Commission on Director Professionalism made recommendations on issues including establishing mechanisms for appropriate director turnover/tenure limitations, evaluation of the full board and of individual directors, and ongoing director education. [1] It stated, “the primary goal of director selection is to nominate individuals who, as a group, offer a range of specialized knowledge, skills, and expertise that can contribute to the successful operation of the company,” and advocated that boards must “[expand] the pool of potential nominees considered to include a more diverse range of qualified candidates who meet established criteria.”[2]

Twenty years later, the world in which boards operate has been transformed in fundamental ways, including increased complexity in the business environment; rapidly changing technology; volatility in global politics as well as in international economic and trade flows; the proliferation of information; the presence of major threats such as cyberattacks; higher levels of engagement between companies, boards, and investors of all stripes, including activists; new regulatory requirements; and greater levels of scrutiny from the press and the public. The velocity of the changes directors are facing shows no signs of slowing down.

The NACD 2016 Blue Ribbon Commission began its dialogue by asking whether boards are keeping up, and concluded that there is no single answer. It is clear that advancing director ages and tenures, coupled with low boardroom turnover, are external symptoms that are of increasing concern to investors and other stakeholders. But equally—if not more—significant is the question of whether a board’s composition, director skill sets, and core board processes remain fit-for-purpose in a world where the board’s mandate is evolving in fundamental ways, including but not limited to earlier involvement in strategy-setting discussions with management and greater engagement between designated board members and major investors. This new mandate places substantially different demands on directors, and boards need to ask themselves, “Are we ready?”

Many stakeholders are focused on encouraging higher levels of director turnover—often termed “board refreshment”—through the use of tenure-limiting mechanisms. We believe that such mechanisms can help to drive needed change in the boardroom, but alone they are not sufficient to ensure that boards truly remain fit for-purpose over time. We are encouraging directors to think more holistically, and more ambitiously. Business as-usual approaches will not be sufficient.

As a starting point, directors should review the organization’s corporate governance guidelines, including the board’s mission and key operating principles. Are all board members familiar with them? How often are they reviewed and updated? How rigorously have they been implemented? Do they help to foster a culture of continuous improvement and ongoing learning?

Boards are unique entities. While (in the case of public companies) they are elected by and accountable to shareholders, they are self-constituting, self-evaluating, self-compensating, and self-perpetuating: that is, in the normal course of business, they control their own composition and succession planning. This also means that boards are equipped to take action to elevate their performance on an entirely self-directed, voluntary basis—and they should do so. Otherwise, if board leadership appears to be passive or slow to act in the face of a challenging competitive environment and greater scrutiny from all angles, directors should prepare for the possibility of “shock treatments” imposed from the outside, in the form of activist challenges, regulatory mandates, or quotas. Put another way, without sufficient and timely evolution, boards could face revolution.

Beyond “Board Refreshment”: Building a Strategic-Asset Board

Too many companies still view changes in their boardrooms as necessary primarily on an incremental basis and from the standpoint of director replacement—i.e., responding to the loss of directors due to age or other reasons for departure in a fairly reactive, one-off manner. And while (as noted above) the idea of “board refreshment” has attracted increasing attention in the corporate governance community, as well as with regulators and the press, in the words of one Commissioner, “the current definition [of board refreshment] can still be somewhat limiting—it can imply change for the sake of change.”

The Commission advocates a more ambitious approach, centered on proactive measures that help to build a strategic-asset board. Characteristics of this approach include:

A focus on continuous improvement of overall board composition, individual director skills, and boardroom processes—collectively aimed at achieving and maintaining a high-performance boardrather than a primarily reactive or event-driven approach to board change. One indicator of well-established continuous-improvement processes is that they are used in times of good performance, not just when the company is in a down cycle or facing external challenge

Using the company’s current and future needs as the starting point for determining board composition. Such an approach will certainly include considerations about maintaining an appropriate level of continuity and institutional memory in the boardroom—but in the words of Vanguard CEO Bill McNabb, “To be frank, board members cannot be more worried about their own seats than they are about the future of the company they oversee.”[3]

A set of tools and processes that works together as a system for continuous improvement—avoiding what one Commissioner called the “formulaic approach” of overreliance on automatic tenure-limiting mechanism

While outcomes will be specific to individual boards, in general, we expect to see improvements such as the following:

Boards that are composed of directors who collectively have the right skills and insights to support the formulation and execution of the organization’s strategy—in other words, boards where it is clear that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts

Boards that have the ability to adapt and retool themselves over time, so that they are able to maintain a superior level of oversight and guidance and evolve as the organization’s strategy and competitive environment evolve

Boards that are transparent in their communications with investors and other stakeholders about who they are and how they operatenacd-1

SECTION 1 of the report describes the ways in which the board’s mandate has evolved in response to external factors and strategic imperatives, and outlines the ways in which the Commission believes boards must respond: by moving beyond traditional approaches to “board refreshment” and establishing a system for continuous improvement in the boardroom.

SECTION 2 explores the key dimensions of continuous improvement, focusing on seven areas in particular: board leadership and oversight responsibilities; board composition and succession planning; recruiting and onboarding new directors; processes for board evaluation; continuing education; tenure-limiting mechanisms; and communication with shareholders and stakeholders.

SECTION 3 summarizes the Commission’s recommendations, and the Appendices provide tools and related resources to help boards implement the recommendations.

NACD has characterized the mission of the board as “[becoming] a strategic asset of the company measured by the contributions we make—collectively and individually—to the long-term success of the enterprise.” [4] We believe this report will help directors in organizations of all sizes and in all sectors to do exactly that.

Recommendations of the 2016 NACD Blue Ribbon Commission

  1. Boards should review their governance principles on a regular basis (at least every other year) to ensure they are complete, up-to-date, and fully understood by current members and director candidates. Governance principles should incorporate a definition of director responsibilities, including a commitment to ongoing learning and the belief that service on the board should not be considered to be a permanent appointment.
  2. The nominating and governance committee should oversee the board’s processes for continuous improvement, working in close coordination with the nonexecutive chair or lead director and with the endorsement of the full board.
  3. Director renominations should not be a default decision, but an annual consideration based on a number of factors, including an assessment of current and future skill sets and leadership styles that are needed on the board.
  4. Nominating and governance committees should develop a “clean-sheet” assessment of the board’s needs in terms of director skill sets and experience at least every two to three years, and use it as an input in continuous-improvement efforts (including recruitment and director education).
  5. The director recruitment process should have a time horizon that matches the organization’s long-term strategy, typically three to five years or more. The process should be designed to include candidates from diverse backgrounds.
  6. Recruiting and onboarding processes should familiarize prospective and new directors with the board’s governance principles and set expectations regarding criteria for renomination, ongoing director education, and other aspects of continuous improvement as defined by the board.
  7. Conduct annual evaluations at the full-board level, and evaluations of committees and individual directors at least once every two years. Use a qualified independent third party on a periodic basis, to encourage candor and add a neutral perspective.
  8. Participation in continuing education should be a requirement for all directors, regardless of experience level or length of board tenure.
  9. Tenure is an important aspect of boardroom diversity. Nominating and governance committees should strive for a mix of tenures on the board—for example, maintaining a composition that includes at least one director with <5, 5–10, and >10 years of service.
  10. High-performance boards will not need to rely exclusively on tenure-limiting mechanisms to ensure appropriate board turnover and composition. However, boards that use such policies should consider replacing or combining retirement age with a maximum term of service.
  11. Communications with investors and other key stakeholders should include a detailed explanation of the link between the organization’s strategic needs and the board’s composition and skill sets, as well as information about the board’s continuous-improvement processes.

Tools for Directors

The report’s 12 appendices enable boards to benchmark their current practices and implement the report’s recommendations. Examples of appendix content are below.

Early Engagement: Going Beyond Traditional Board Succession Planning

A reference list of more than 25 questions to help directors evaluate the board’s ability to manage succession planning as a portfolio, instead of as a series of one-off replacements of individual directors; the strength of the board’s search capabilities, including early-engagement activities and the depth of the candidate pipeline; and the role that board and company culture play in succession planning.

Considerations for Upgrading Board Evaluation Processes

The appendix provides guidance to help boards

  1. establish effective, ongoing rhythms for evaluation processes;
  2. avoid “evaluation fatigue”;
  3. inform the use of third-party facilitators;
  4. make evaluations more holistic by incorporating input from management; and
  5. act on evaluation results.

Guidelines for Developing Board and Individual-Director Learning Agendas

The appendix includes frameworks and questions to help inform full-board and individual-director education activities:

  1. Suggested categories and topic areas for education, with sourcing strategies
  2. A personal learning and development checklist for directors
  3. Outline of a “lifecycle approach” to learning and development for the board, with components of a global director leadership profile

Tools, Templates, and Examples

Multiyear board succession planning matrix

Sample board and committee-level evaluation questions

New-director onboarding checklist

Examples of effective disclosures of director skills, board evaluations, and director education

Examples of corporate governance principles and board tenure policies

* * *

The complete publication is available exclusively to NACD members and is available for download here.

Endnotes:

1NACD, Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Director Professionalism, 2011 ed. (Washington, DC: NACD, 2011), pp. 12, 5, 15, 10.(go back)

2Ibid., p. 13.(go back)

3F. William McNabb III, Getting to Know You: The Case for Significant Shareholder Engagement, Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, June 24, 2015.(go back)

4NACD, Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Board Evaluation: Improving Director Effectiveness, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: NACD, 2010), p. 2.(go back)

La planification de la relève du PDG par le CA | Une activité très négligée


Voici un article d’Eben Harrell paru dans le numéro de décembre 2016 de Harvard Business Review.

L’auteur affirme, basé sur plusieurs résultats de recherche, que les conseils d’administration ne sont pas préparés à assurer la relève du président-directeur général.

En effet, il appert que le roulement des fonctions de CEO s’accélère grandement (plus de 15 %) et que seulement la moitié des CA sont préparés à faire face aux conséquences.

On estime que 40 % des nouvelles recrues CEO ne peuvent répondre aux exigences de leurs tâches dans les 18 premiers mois !

Le remplacement d’un PDG peut prendre plusieurs mois, voire des années !

Doit-on recruter à l’interne ou recruter à l’externe ? Les recherches montrent que l’on a de plus en plus tendance à recruter les candidats à l’externe ; on parle de 20 % à 30 % du recrutement qui se fait à l’externe.

On constate que les conseils d’administration ne font pas les efforts nécessaires pour planifier la relève de leur CEO et que les coûts reliés à ces manquements sont considérables.

Bonne lecture !

Succession Planning: What the Research Says

 

All CEOs will inevitably leave office, yet research has long shown that most organizations are ill-prepared to replace them. In this article, we review the most salient studies of succession planning and offer context from experts on the process of picking new leaders for organizations.

Boards Aren’t Ready for Succession

Each year about 10% to 15% of corporations must appoint a new CEO, whether because of executives’ retirement, resignation, dismissal, or ill health. In 2015, in fact, turnover among global CEOs hit a 15-year high. Activist investors are increasingly forcing out leaders they deem underperforming. Yet despite these trends, most boards are unprepared to replace their chief executives. A 2010 survey by the search firm Heidrick & Struggles and the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University revealed that only 54% of boards were grooming a specific successor, and 39% had no viable internal candidates who could immediately replace the CEO if the need arose.

0c6d26e8-bd5f-41bd-beb5-9153dfb50498_originalAn organization’s top executive is one of the few variables over which boards have total control—and their failure to plan for CEO transitions has a high cost. A study of the world’s 2,500 largest public companies shows that companies that scramble to find replacements for departing CEOs forgo an average of $1.8 billion in shareholder value. A separate study reveals that the longer it takes a company to name a new CEO during a succession crisis, the worse it subsequently performs relative to its peers. Finally, poor succession planning often extends the tenure of ineffective CEOs, who end up lingering in office long after they should have been replaced. A study by Booz & Company found that, on average, firms with stock returns in the lowest decile underperformed their industry peers by 45 percentage points over a two-year period—and yet the probability that their CEOs would be forced out was only 5.7%. The authors commented that “boards are giving underperforming CEOs more latitude than might be expected.”

Lack of preparedness is only part of the problem, however. An equal challenge, the consultant Ram Charan wrote in 2005, is that all too often, “CEOs are being replaced badly.” Boards aren’t finding the right man or woman for the job. Estimates suggest that up to 40% of new CEOs fail to meet performance expectations in the first 18 months.

Planning Takes Years, Not Months

So what can directors do not only to prepare for succession events but to ensure they make a winning pick when the time comes? A first step is to integrate executive development programs with CEO succession planning so that the best internal candidates are identified early and flagged at the board level. The proof that such an approach works can be found in companies with prestigious leadership-training programs. Researchers at Santa Clara University and Indiana University who examined the track records of chief executives groomed at “CEO factories,” such as General Electric, IBM, and Procter & Gamble, found that the stock market reacted positively when they were appointed and that they delivered superior operating performance over the next three years. The researchers concluded that certain firms “are efficient in developing leadership skills” because “they are able to expose executives to a broad variety of industries and help them develop skills that can be transferred to different business environments.”

Internal grooming of promising executives can create value beyond the avoidance of costly interregnums. In his book Succession, Noel Tichy, a management professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, argues that by putting potential successors in charge of new projects, companies can accelerate change while also testing candidates’ suitability for the top spot. Few boards of directors seize that opportunity, however. Research by the Conference Board, the Institute of Executive Development, and the Rock Center found that most directors lack detailed knowledge of the skills, capabilities, and performance of senior executives just one level below the CEO. Only 55% of directors surveyed in the study claimed to understand the strengths and weaknesses of those executives well or very well. Seventy-seven percent did not participate in the performance evaluations of their firm’s top executives other than the CEO. And only 7% of companies formally assigned a director to mentor senior executives below the CEO.

Some commentators believe this lack of involvement is the result of CEOs’ efforts to stymie boards: The absence of clear successors keeps incumbents in the job longer and gives them more bargaining power with boards. A packed governance agenda may also be to blame. When the consulting firm Mercer Delta surveyed directors about the amount of time they spent on nine key activities, a large majority reported devoting more and more hours to monitoring accounting, risk, and financial performance and other governance duties. Directors also indicated that they spent less time interacting with potential CEO successors than on any other activity.

Michael Useem, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, believes a shortage of directors with experience in hiring top executives also contributes to poor succession planning. He advocates for more current and former CEOs on boards. “People who know how to hire and manage top executives will better understand what a company needs in executive talent and which of the final candidates best brings that to the table,” he says.

In his book It’s Not the How or the What but the Who, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz of the search firm Egon Zehnder lays out six succession-planning guidelines for busy directors: First, start early, ideally the moment a new CEO takes charge. Second, create strict performance metrics and a process for evaluating the CEO against them. Third, identify and develop potential successors within the firm and then benchmark them against external talent. (Useem says directors can go deep during vetting by interviewing all the direct reports of the internal front-runners.) Fourth, look externally to widen the pool of candidates, through executive search firms that don’t use contingency arrangements or charge percentage fees (which Fernández-Aráoz believes create perverse incentives). Fifth, require the board to conduct periodic emergency succession drills. And finally, put in place an extensive transition process to help with onboarding, which is especially important given that 80% of CEO appointees have never served in a chief executive role before.

Insiders Versus Outsiders?

Boards often face a binary choice: Go with an internal candidate, or recruit an executive from another company? Traditionally, internal candidates favored by boards have progressed through positions with responsibility for larger and more complex P&L centers. They might start off by managing a single product and then move into an overseas “head of country” position before returning to the main corporate office to supervise a business unit and then run an entire division. Such a tightly choreographed internal trajectory is increasingly rare in a world of job hopping and frequent executive shuffles, however. Consider that in 1988, an executive typically worked for fewer than three employers in his or her lifetime; 10 years later the average had risen to more than five.

Increasingly, CEO vacancies are being filled by external candidates. In 2013, 20% to 30% of boards chose to replace an outgoing CEO with an external hire. In contrast, just 8% to 10% of newly appointed CEOs at S&P 500 companies were outsiders during the 1970s and 1980s.

This trend toward external hires has been strongly criticized by some scholars, including Harvard Business School’s Rakesh Khurana, who argues in his book Searching for a Corporate Savior that too often boards hire charismatic outsiders even when their experience and abilities are not right for companies’ needs. He also blames high-priced executive search firms for driving up demand for external candidates and censures the business press and the investor community for helping fuel what he calls “the cult of the outsider.”

Khurana may have a point: Candidates that are headhunted from other firms are paid more than internally promoted candidates. According to the executive-compensation research firm Equilar, the median pay of CEOs who are outsiders is $3.2 million more than the median pay of insiders. Far from deserving such a premium, externally appointed CEOs seem to underperform their internally promoted counterparts over the long run. A 2010 study by Booz & Company found that insider CEOs had delivered superior market-adjusted shareholder returns in seven out of the preceding 10 years. And Gregory Nagel of Middle Tennessee State University and James Ang of Florida State University used elaborate multiple regression analyses to show that, on average, going outside the company to fill the top office was justified in just 6% of cases.

These studies might not be capturing the whole picture, however. Companies tend to look outside their own ranks for leaders when recent financial results are poor, which suggests that external hires might struggle simply because they’re walking into challenging conditions at underperforming companies. What’s more, multiple studies have concluded that the CEO’s influence on corporate performance pales in comparison with other, uncontrollable effects—which is to say, it’s very hard to ascertain if a CEO is lucky or good. Furthermore, studies indicate that outsiders who join the company three to four years before they become CEO do just as well as insiders with much more experience at the firm, a crossover category of executive that Harvard Business School’s Joseph Bower calls “inside-outside” leaders. For these and other reasons, says David Larcker, a professor at Stanford Business School, “it is difficult to conclude whether internal or external candidates are systematically better operators.”

What Are the Traits of a Great CEO?

Whether they’re searching for a successor in a firm’s internal ranks or an external pool, directors would benefit from knowing which qualities best predict success in the top job. Unfortunately, while much ink has been spilled on the topic of individual leadership, very little of it can be scientifically supported. In an influential book published in 1991, the University of San Diego’s Joseph Rost pointed out that writers had defined leadership in more than 200 ways since 1900, often with nothing but conjecture or personal experience to back up their claims. That’s slowly changing as researchers look for correlations between personal biographies and leadership success. For instance, one study found that CEOs who had previously served on the boards of large public companies seemed to outperform those without such experience. Another study found that CEOs with military backgrounds were less likely to engage in fraudulent activity. Yet another found that CEOs who spent lavishly in their personal lives were more likely to oversee corporations with loose internal financial controls. Age may also be relevant: Researchers at Mississippi State and the University of Missouri found that younger CEOs outperformed their older counterparts, even after accounting for the fact that younger CEOs were more likely to work in fast-growing industries such as technology. And charismatic CEOs seemed to outperform during periods of upheaval and uncertainty but provided no boost during more stable times.

The private equity industry, which has vast experience hiring CEOs, may also offer some clues about what qualities make for strong CEOs. A recent survey of managing partners at 32 firms found that when choosing a chief executive, they paid less attention to attributes such as track record and industry experience and gave more weight to softer skills such as team building and resilience. But the PEs valued urgency much more highly than empathy—a finding more in keeping with a separate assessment of CEO personalities at venture-backed and private-equity-owned corporations, which suggested that attributes having to do with execution (such as speed, aggressiveness, persistence, work ethic, and high standards) were more predictive of strong performance than interpersonal strengths (such as listening skills, teamwork, integrity, and openness to criticism).

While intriguing, the attempt to find the traits of the ideal CEO-in-waiting is still in its infancy. No one has yet disproved the view of legendary management scholar Peter Drucker, who wrote that successful executives “differ widely in their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, values, and beliefs. All they have in common is that they get the right things done.” While we may be a long way from building a predictive algorithm that can identify the perfect CEO successor, researchers have shown that there still remains a great deal more that boards could do to improve their succession planning—starting (in many cases) with having a plan in the first place.

Une culture empreinte de corruption mène habituellement à de sérieux manquements organisationnels !


Si l’on pouvait identifier les variables qui contribuent à créer une culture d’entreprise corrompue, pourrait-on prévoir les comportements corporatifs fautifs ?

C’est essentiellement la question de recherche à laquelle Xiaoding Liu, professeur de finance à University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business, a tenté de répondre dans un article utilisant une méthodologie originale et une solide analyse.

L’auteur avance qu’une culture d’entreprise souffrant d’un certain degré de corruption, c’est-à-dire ayant une culture interne plus tolérante envers le manque d’éthique, est plus susceptible de mener à des manquements corporatifs significatifs eu égard aux malversations, aux conflits d’intérêts et aux comportements organisationnels  «opportunistes».

In particular, they ask whether a firm’s inherent tendency to behave opportunistically is deeply rooted in its corporate culture, commonly defined as the shared values and beliefs of a firm’s employees.

Cet article montre qu’il y a un lien significatif entre une culture interne basée sur de faibles valeurs éthiques et la probabilité d’inconduite de la direction.

De plus, l’article montre que les comportements des employés basés sur de faibles valeurs éthiques sont transmissibles à d’autres organisations et que ces conclusions s’appliquent tout autant à la direction.

C’est la raison pour laquelle les conseils d’administration doivent se préoccuper de la culture de l’entreprise, s’assurer d’avoir le pouls du climat interne et être vigilants eu égard aux manquements à l’éthique.

Il est également crucial de s’assurer d’avoir une équipe d’auditeurs internes indépendants et bien outillés qui se rapporte au comité d’audit de l’entreprise.

À la suite de ce compte rendu, vous aurez sûrement des questions d’ordre méthodologique. Si vous voulez en savoir davantage sur la démarche de l’auteur, je vous encourage fortement, même si c’est ardu, de lire l’article au complet.

Bonne lecture !

Corruption Culture and Corporate Misconduct

 

A key question in corporate governance is how to control problems arising from conflicts of interest between agents and principals. The existing literature has extensively investigated traditional ways of dealing with agency problems such as hostile takeovers, the board of directors, and institutional investors, and has found mixed evidence regarding their effectiveness. Acknowledging the difficulty in designing effective governance rules to curb corporate scandals and bank failures, regulators and academics have recently turned their attention inward to the firm’s employees. In particular, they ask whether a firm’s inherent tendency to behave opportunistically is deeply rooted in its corporate culture, commonly defined as the shared values and beliefs of a firm’s employees.

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In my article, Corruption Culture and Corporate Misconduct, recently published in the Journal of Financial Economics, I investigate this question by studying the role of corporate culture in influencing corporate misconduct. To do so, I create a measure of corporate corruption culture, which captures a firm’s general attitude toward opportunistic behavior. Specifically, corporate corruption culture is calculated as the average corruption attitudes of insiders (i.e., officers and directors) of a company. To measure corruption attitudes of insiders, I use a recently developed methodology from the economics literature that is generally described as the epidemiological approach (Fernández, 2011). It is based on the key idea that when individuals emigrate from their native country to a new country, their cultural beliefs and values travel with them, but their external environment is left behind. Moreover, these immigrants not only bring their beliefs and values to the new country, they also pass down these beliefs to their descendants. Thus, relevant economic outcomes at the country of ancestry are used as proxies of culture for immigrants and their descendants. Applying this approach, I use corruption in the insiders’ country of ancestry to capture corruption attitudes for insiders in the U.S., where the country of ancestry is identified based on surnames using U.S. Census data.

Using a sample of over 8,000 U.S. companies, I test the main prediction that firms with high corruption culture, which tend to be more tolerant toward corrupt behavior, are more likely to engage in corporate misconduct. Consistent with this prediction, I find that corporate corruption culture has a significant positive effect on various types of corporate misconduct such as earnings management, accounting fraud, option backdating, and opportunistic insider trading. The effects are also economically significant: a one standard deviation increase in a firm’s corruption culture is associated with an increase in the likelihood of corporate misconduct by about 2% to 7%, which are comparable to the effects of other governance measures such as board independence.

I further show that my findings are robust to controlling for time-varying local and industry factors, and traditional measures of corporate governance including the board size, the percentage of insider directors, the presence of institutional investors, and the threat of hostile takeovers. Van den Steen (2010) proposes a model of corporate culture and predicts that the appointment of a new CEO will lead to turnover through both selection and self-sorting. Thus, although corporate culture tends to be persistent over time, it is likely to change in a significant way around new CEO appointments. Motivated by this prediction, I examine corporate misconduct 5 years before and after the appointment of a new CEO while controlling for firm fixed effects. I continue to find a significant positive relation between corruption culture and corporate misconduct, which further alleviates endogeneity concerns.

The theoretical literature has predictions regarding the mechanisms through which corporate culture would affect opportunistic behavior. The first channel predicts that corruption culture acts as a selection mechanism by attracting or selecting individuals with similar corruption attitudes to the firm, where these individuals act according to their internal norms that are then reflected in corporate outcomes (Schneider, 1987). Consistent with this channel, I find that individuals with high corruption attitudes are more likely to join firms with high corruption culture and an insider is more likely to leave the firm if his corruption attitudes are more distant from the corruption attitudes of the other insiders in the firm. The second channel predicts that corruption culture can operate beyond internal norms and have a direct effect on individual behavior through group norms (Hackman, 1992). To test this channel, I examine misconduct at the insider level and focus on the sample of insiders that have moved across firms. Holding the individual constant, results show that when the same individual joins a firm with high corruption culture, his likelihood of engaging in personal misconduct increases compared to when he was at a firm with low corruption culture, consistent with corruption culture working through group norms.

In summary, I show that a firm’s corruption culture is an important determinant of the firm’s likelihood of engaging in corporate misconduct. This finding echoes the growing focus on corporate culture by regulators in an effort to curb corporate wrongdoing. Moreover, I provide evidence on the inner workings of corruption culture, showing that it influences corporate misconduct by both acting as a selection mechanism and having a direct influence on individual behavior. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first paper to construct a novel measure of corporate culture based on the ancestry origins of company insiders. By doing so, I contribute to a growing finance literature examining the influence of corporate culture on corporate behavior, where the main challenge is measurement.

The full article is available for download here.

L’évolution de la divulgation des comités d’audit aux actionnaires


Voici un article d’Ann Yerger, directrice du Center for Board Matters, de la firme Ernst & Young, qui porte sur l’évolution significative des politiques de divulgation des comités d’audit aux actionnaires des entreprises cotées en bourse aux États-Unis en 2106. L’article est paru sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance le 9 octobre.

L’étendue des divulgations aux actionnaires est vraiment très importante dans certains cas. Par exemple, en 2012, seulement 42 % des entreprises dévoilaient explicitement que le comité d’audit était responsable de l’engagement, de la rémunération et de la surveillance des auditeurs externes, alors qu’en 2016, 82 % divulguent, souvent en détail, les informations de cette nature.

Plusieurs autres résultats font état de changements remarquables dans la reddition de compte des comités d’audit aux actionnaires des entreprises.

Ceux-ci sont maintenant plus en mesure d’évaluer la portée des décisions des comités d’audit eu égard à la qualité du travail des auditeurs externes, aux raisons invoquées pour changer d’auditeur externe, à la fixation du mandat de l’auditeur externe, à la composition du comité d’audit, à l’augmentation des honoraires des firmes comptables dans les quatre catégories suivantes : audit, relié aux travaux d’audit, fiscalité et autres services connexes, etc.

Bonne lecture !

Audit Committee Reporting to Shareholders in 2016

 

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Audit committees have a key role in overseeing the integrity of financial reporting. Nevertheless, relatively little information is required to be disclosed by US public companies about the audit committee’s important work. Since our first publication in this series in 2012, we have described efforts by investors, regulators and other stakeholders to seek increased audit­-related disclosures, as well as the resulting voluntary disclosures to respond to this interest.

Over 2015–2016, US regulators have placed a spotlight on audit-related disclosures and financial reporting more generally. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) have both taken action to consider the possibility of requiring new disclosures relating to the audit.

SEC representatives also have used speeches to urge companies and audit committees to increase disclosures in this area voluntarily. While additional disclosure requirements for audit committees are not expected in the near term, regulators continue to monitor developments in this area. This post seeks to shed light on the evolving audit­-related disclosure landscape.

Context

Public company audit committees are responsible for overseeing financial reporting, including the external audit. Under US securities laws, audit committees are “directly responsible for the appointment, compensation, retention and oversight” of the external auditor, and must include a report in annual proxy statements about their work. This audit committee report, however, currently must affirm only that the committee carried out certain specific responsibilities related to communications with the external auditor, and this requirement has not changed since 1999.

In recent years, a variety of groups have brought attention to the relative lack of information available about the audit committee and the audit, including their view that this area of disclosure may not have kept up with the needs of investors and other proxy statement users. These groups include pension funds, asset managers, investors, corporate governance groups, and domestic and foreign regulators. As efforts to seek additional information have continued, there has been a steady increase in voluntary audit-related disclosures.

Over the last year, the SEC has taken a series of actions to consider whether and how to improve transparency around audit committees, audits and financial reporting more generally. The combined effect of these activities has been to increase engagement by issuers, audit firms, investors and other stakeholders in discussions about the current state of financial reporting­ related disclosure as well as how it should change.

Findings

Our analysis of the 2016 proxy statements of Fortune 100 companies indicates that voluntaryaudit-related disclosures continue to trend upward in a number of areas. The CBM data for this review is based on the 78 companies on the 2016 Fortune 100 list that filed proxy statements each year from 2012 to 2016 for annual meetings through August 15, 2016. Below are highlights from our research:

  1. The percentage of companies that disclosed factors considered by the audit committee when assessing the qualifications and work quality of the external auditor increased to 50%, up from 42% in 2015. In 2012, only 17% of audit committees disclosed this information.
  2. Another significant increase was in disclosures stating that the audit committee believed that the choice of external auditor was in the best interests of the company and/or the shareholders. In 2016, 73% of companies disclosed such information; in 2015, this percentage was 63%. In 2012, only 3% of companies made this disclosure.
  3. The audit committees of 82% of the companies explicitly stated that they are responsible for the appointment, compensation and oversight of the external auditor; in 2012, only 42% of audit committees provided such disclosures.
  4. 31% of companies provided information about the reasons for changes in fees paid to the external auditor compared to 21% the previous year. Reasons provided in these disclosures include one­-time events, such as a merger or acquisition. Under current SEC rules, companies are required to disclose fees paid to the external auditor, divided into the following categories: audit, audit-related, tax and all other fees. They are not, however, required to discuss the reasons why these fees have increased or decreased. From 2012 to 2016, the percentage of companies disclosing information to explain changes in audit fees rose from 9% to 31%. Additional CBM research examined the disclosures of the subset of studied companies (43) that had changes in audit fees of +/-­ 5% or more compared to the previous year. Out of these 43 companies, roughly 20% provided explanatory disclosures regarding the change in audit fees.
  5. 29 of the 43 companies had fee increases of 5% or more, out of which 8 companies disclosed the reasons for the increases. 14 of the 43 companies had fee decreases of 5% or more, out of which only one company provided an explanatory disclosure.
  6. 53% of companies disclosed that the audit committee considered the impact of changing auditors when assessing whether to retain the current auditor. This was a 6 percentage point increase over 2015. In 2012, this disclosure was made by 3% of the Fortune 100 companies. Over the past five years, the number of companies disclosing that the audit committee was involved in the selection of the lead audit partner has grown dramatically, up to 73% in 2016. In 2015, 67% of companies disclosed this information, while in 2012, only 1% of companies did so.
  7. 51% of companies disclosed that they have three or more financial experts on their audit committees, up from 47% in 2015 and 36% in 2012.

Summary: Trends in Audit Committee Disclosure

(Cliquez pour agrandir)

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Le point sur la gouvernance au Canada en 2016 | Rapport de Davies Ward Phillips Vineberg


Le rapport annuel de Davies est toujours très attendu car il brosse un tableau très complet de l’évolution de la gouvernance au Canada durant la dernière année.

Le document qui vient de sortir est en anglais mais la version française devrait suivre dans peu de temps.

Je vous invite donc à en prendre connaissance en lisant le court résumé ci-dessous et, si vous voulez en savoir plus sur les thèmes abordés, vous pouvez télécharger le document de 100 pages sur le site de l’entreprise.

Cliquez sur le lien ci-dessous. Bonne lecture !

Rapport de Davies sur la gouvernance 2016

 

Davies Governance Insights 2016, provides analysis of the top governance trends and issues important to Canadian boards, senior management and governance observers.

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The 2016 edition provides readers with our take on important topics ranging from shareholder engagement and activism to leadership diversity and the rise in issues facing boards and general counsel. We also provide practical guidance for boards and senior management of public companies and their investors on these and many other corporate governance topics that we expect will remain under focus in the 2017 proxy season.

 

Les devoirs des administrateurs eu égard à un climat de travail malsain | Un cas pratique


Voici un cas de gouvernance publié sur le site de Julie Garland McLellan* qui illustre les contradictions entre les valeurs énoncées par une école privée et celles qui semblent animer les administrateurs et les parents.

Le cas montre comment un administrateur, nouvellement élu sur un CA d’une école privée, peut se retrouver dans une situation embarrassante impliquant des comportements de harcèlement et de menaces qui affectent la santé mentale et le bien-être des employés.

Cette situation semble se présenter de plus en plus fréquemment dans les institutions d’enseignement qui visent des rendements très (trop !) élevés.

Comment Ignacio peut-il s’y prendre pour bien faire comprendre aux administrateurs de son CA leurs devoirs et leurs obligations légales d’assurer un climat de travail sain, absent d’agression de la part de certains parents ?

Le cas présente, de façon claire, une situation de culture organisationnelle déficiente ; puis, trois experts en gouvernance se prononcent sur le dilemme qui se présente aux administrateurs qui vivent des expériences similaires.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

 

Un cas culture organisationnelle déficiente !

 

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Ignacio is an old boy of a private school with a proud sporting tradition. He was invited onto the board last year when a long-serving director retired. The school is well run with a professional principal who has the respect of the staff as well as many of the boys.

The school has worked hard to develop academic excellence and its place in rankings has improved with a greater percentage of boys qualifying for university.

At the last board meeting the CEO was absent. The chairman explained that he had taken stress leave because he couldn’t cope with bullying from some of the parents. Some directors sniggered and the rest looked embarrassed. There were a few comments about ‘needing to grow a backbone’, ‘being a pansy’, and ‘not having the guts to stand up to parents or lead the teams to victory on the field’.

Ignacio was aghast – he asked about the anti-harassment and workplace health and safety policies and was given leave by the chair « to look into ‘covering our backs’ if necessary ».

Ignacio met with the HR manager and discovered the policies were out of date and appeared to have been cut and pasted from the original Department of Education advice without customisation. From his experience running a business Ignacio is aware of the importance of mental health issues in the modern workplace and also of the legal duty of directors to provide a workplace free from bullying and harassment. School staff are all aware of a discrepancy between the stated School values and those of the board and some parents. The HR manager tells him that recent bullying by parents has become more akin to verbal and even physical assault. Staff believe the board will not support them against fee paying parents even though the school is, in theory, a not-for-profit institution.

How can Ignacio help lead his board to an understanding of their duty to provide a safe workplace?

 

Chris’s Answer  …..

 

Julie’s Answer ….

 

Leanne’s Answer ….

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

 

Quelle est la rémunération globale des administrateurs canadiens ?


Quelle est la rémunération globale des administrateurs canadiens ?

C’est une question que beaucoup de personnes me posent, et qui n’est pas évidente à répondre !

L’article ci-dessous, publié par Martin Mittelstaedt, chercheur et ex-rédacteur au Globe and Mail, apporte un éclairage très intéressant sur la question de la rémunération des administrateurs canadiens.

Les études sur le sujet sont rares et donnent des résultats différents compte tenu de la taille, de la nature privée ou publique des entreprises, du secteur d’activité, des différentes composantes de la rémunération globale, etc.

De manière générale, il semble que les rémunérations des administrateurs canadiens et américains soient similaires et que les postes d’administrateurs des entreprises publiques commandent une rémunération globale d’environ quatre fois la rémunération offerte par les entreprises privées.

Une étude montre que la base médiane de la rémunération des administrateurs de sociétés privées au Canada est de 25 000 $, avec un jeton de présence de 1 500 $ et quatre réunions annuelles. Le nombre d’administrateurs est de six, incluant trois administrateurs indépendants et une femme ! La somme de la rémunération globale s’établirait à environ 31 000 $ US. Mais on parle ici de grandes entreprises privées…

Le montant de la rémunération dépend aussi beaucoup des plans de distribution d’actions, des privilèges, des bonis, etc.

Évidemment, pour toute entreprise publique, il est facile de connaître la rémunération détaillée des administrateurs et des cinq hauts dirigeants puisque ces renseignements se retrouvent dans les circulaires aux actionnaires.

Je vous encourage à lire cet article. Vous en saurez plus long sur les raisons qui font que les informations sont difficiles à obtenir dans le secteur privé.

Bonne lecture !

How much is a director worth ?

 

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Determining director compensation at private companies is more of an art than a science, with a wide range of practices and no one-size-fits-all formula.

Unlike publicly traded companies, where detailed information about director remuneration is as close as the nearest proxy circular, compensation at private boards is like “a black box,” according to Steve Chan, principal at Hugessen Consulting, who says retainers, meeting fees and share-based awards “are all over the map.”

Not much is known about private director compensation “for good reason,” observes David Anderson, president of Anderson Governance Group. “There is not a lot of data out there.”

PRIVATELY UNDERPAID?

Private company directorships can be prized assignments because they don’t involve the heavy compliance and regulatory burdens that occupy increasing amounts of time at public company boards.

But what private boards should be paid is difficult to determine, when there is little research to guide individual directors or companies. Some of the available data suggest private directors are being underpaid, at least relative to their public counterparts. But this information does not include the fact that the work may be different and much of the compensation at public boards may not ultimately pay off because it is linked to share price performance.

It is difficult to benchmark best practices with so little hard data, making it unsurprising that how best to set private company directors’ compensation is the most frequently asked question made by members to the ICD.

One of the few ongoing attempts to analyze compensation indicates remuneration is far higher at public boards, about four times higher in fact, although the amounts are skewed by the heavy use of stock-linked awards at publicly traded companies.

The private company survey, by Lodestone Global, was based on a questionnaire posed to members of the Young Presidents’ Organization, an international group of corporate présidents and CEOs, including many from Canada.

The Lodestone survey looked at medium-sized family or closely held firms, companies that are more established than early-stage startups, but smaller than large global corporations.

“The survey is not casually designed. The data is pretty rigorous and it’s global,” says Bernard Tenenbaum, managing partner at Princeton, N.J.-based Lodestone.

Tenenbaum says he started investigating private company board compensation because of the paucity of data on the subject. No one seemed to know what was going on. “People kept asking me, ‘Well how much should we pay directors?’ I’d say: ‘I don’t know. How much do you pay them now?’ And I started surveying.”

The firm’s most recent survey, based on 2014 data, had responses from more than 250 private companies, including 19 from Canada. The median revenue at the Canadian companies was $100-million, with the median number of employees at 325.

According to Tenenbaum, the median Canadian retainer was $25,000, with a $1,500 meeting fee and four meetings annually. The median number of directors was six, with three independent and one woman. The total of fees and retainers came to $31,000 (all dollar figures U.S.)

Interestingly, the overall U.S. compensation figure matched the Canadian one, but with a different composition. The median U.S. retainer was lower at $21,000, but the meeting fee was higher at $2,500. Including a few other miscellaneous items, like teleconference fees, U.S. compensation was $33,000, compared to $32,250 in Canada, a closeness that Tenenbaum termed “a kissing distance.”

The Lodestone figures give an indication of director compensation, although it is worth cautioning that the sample size is small, the figures are based on the median or middle-ranked firm, and there was a wide variety in size among the companies, given that they included a few smaller tech and industrial firms.

To benchmark private company director compensation, it is worthwhile to look at what comparable publicly traded companies are paying. One useful comparator is the smaller companies embedded in the BDO 600 survey of director compensation at medium-sized public companies. It has access to highly accurate data based on shareholder proxy circulars.

BDO’s 2014 survey found that among firms with revenue between $25-million and $325-million, cash compensation through retainer and committee fees averaged $54,000, while directors typically received another $65,000 in stock awards and options for a total of $119,000.

There is a small amount of information available in Canada on private board compensation, but the amount of data isn’t large enough to make generalized statements on remuneration and involves larger companies.

For example, in its director compensation, Canadian Tire Corp. breaks out amounts paid to the company’s non-publicly traded banking subsidiary, Canadian Tire Bank. In 2014, three directors on both boards were paid about $55,000 each for retainers and meeting fees for serving at the bank. Similarly, Loblaw Companies Ltd. paid $58,000 to a director who also served on President’s Choice Bank, a privately-held subsidiary.

The amounts are relatively low for blue-chip Canadian companies, but both banks are far smaller than their parent companies, with Canadian Tire Bank at $5.6-billion in assets and PC Bank at $3.3-billion.

Hugessen’s Chan says that in his experience, the larger, family-run private companies that have global operations compensate directors at roughly the same amounts as similarly sized public firms.

“Among the larger public companies versus the private companies, they’re comparable,” Chan says.

PUBLICLY EXPOSED

Tenenbaum says that based on his research and the figures from BDO, directors are being paid about $20,000 annually for taking on the added hassle of serving on a public company. He discounted the value of the stock-based compensation because it is conditional on share-price performance.

“There is a premium that you pay a director for taking the risk” of public company exposure, Tenenbaum says.

Directors also need to take into account some of the non-monetary factors of the board experience. Given that so much time on a public board is spent on compliance with regulatory requirements, being freed of this responsibility has value.

“When you’re on a private board, you don’t need to worry about all of the compliance that you have to worry about on a public company board,” says Larry Macdonald, who has served on both types of boards in the oil and gas sector. “You can spend more time on the issues which are probably more important to the company on a private board than you can on public board.”

Macdonald currently chairs publicly-traded Vermilion Energy Inc., but has also served on several private and volunteer boards.

One consequence of the difference in focus is that private boards can often have fewer members because directors can be more focused on company business needs, rather than on compliance requirements. Decision making can also be quicker and easier.

Macdonald says a public board may need eight to 10 people to handle the volume of work, compared to only five or six on a similar private company. As an example of the efficiency of a private board, a company that has a particularly good year and wants to pay employees a bonus can easily decide to do so.

At a public company, however, making this payment wouldn’t be as straightforward. Directors would have to compile a detailed explanation of why they wanted to pay the bonus and include it in shareholder circulars.

While some companies are downgrading the importance of meeting fees, Macdonald thinks they are necessary, with a range of $1,000 to $1,500 being sufficient. “There should be a permeeting fee. You want your directors to show up in person, if at all possible, and if you’re not going to give them a permeeting fee they’re going to be phoning it in or not showing up, so you’ve got to keep everybody interested,” he says.

EQUITY COMPENSATION

He would set the retainer with an eye to any equity compensation. “If there is a pretty good option plan, I would think that $10,000 a year would be adequate, but if the option plan is weaker, you have to up the annual fee,” Macdonald says.

The amount of equity reserved for directors in private companies is a disputed topic. Tenenbaum says equity compensation at private companies, in his experience, is rare. But Chan says a figure often used is to allocate 10 percent of the equity for directors and executives.

If the director is “pounding the pavement with the CEO, a big chunk ofthe [equity] pool might go to directors,” Chan says.

The amount of equity reserved for executives and the board could be as high as 20 percent to 30 percent in the early life of a technology company, but lower than 10 percent in a capital intensive business. “It all depends on size. You’re not going to give 10 percent away of a $1-billion company,” he says.

Macdonald considers the 10 percent of stock reserved for management and directors a good ball park figure. The bulk of the stock typically goes to management, with one or two percent earmarked for directors, he says.

RICHER REWARDS

Public boards are typically egalitarian, with all directors receiving the same base compensation. Private boards, however, can and do pay differing amounts, depending on the specialized skills companies are trying to assemble among their directors. Macdonald says a private oil company looking to pick up older fields, which may have environmental issues, might award extra compensation to attract a director with recognized skills in health, safety and environment.

To be sure, compensation is only one factor in attracting directors to a board. Tenenbaum says academic research has found that the reasons directors cite to join boards are led by the quality of top management, the opportunity to learn and to be challenged. Personal prestige, compensation and stock ownership are far down the list.

These factors may explain why many people want to serve on private boards. “The qualitative experience of private company directors is quite different from public company directors,” says Anderson.

“They avoid a lot of the perceived risk of public company boards and they get the benefit of doing what, as business people, they really like doing, which is thinking about the business and applying their knowledge and experience to business problems.”


This article originally appeared in the Director Journal, a publication of the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD). Permission has been granted by the ICD to use this article for non-commercial purposes including research, educational materials and online resources. Other uses, such as selling or licensing copies, are prohibited.

 

Deux livres phares sur la gouvernance d’entreprise


On me demande souvent de proposer un livre qui fait le tour de la question eu égard à ce qui est connu comme statistiquement valide sur les relations entre la gouvernance et le succès des organisations (i.e. la performance financière !)

Le volume publié par David F. Larcker et Brian Tayan, professeurs au Graduate School de l’Université Stanford, en est à sa deuxième édition et il donne l’heure juste sur l’efficacité des principes de gouvernance.

Je vous recommande donc vivement ce volume.

Également, je profite de l’occasion pour vous indiquer que je viens de recevoir la dernière version  des Principes de gouvernance d’entreprise du G20 et de l’OCDE en français et j’ai suggéré au Collège des administrateurs de sociétés (CAS) d’inclure cette publication dans la section Nouveauté du site du CAS.

Il s’agit d’une publication très attendue dans le monde de la gouvernance. La documentation des organismes internationaux est toujours d’abord publiée en anglais. Ce document en français de l’OCDE sur les principes de gouvernance est la bienvenue !

Voici une brève présentation du volume de Larcker. Bonne lecture !

This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date reference for implementing and sustaining superior corporate governance. Stanford corporate governance experts David Larcker and Bryan Tayan carefully synthesize current academic and professional research, summarizing what is known and unknown, and where the evidence remains inconclusive.

Corporate Governance Matters, Second Edition reviews the field’s newest research on issues including compensation, CEO labor markets, board structure, succession, risk, international governance, reporting, audit, institutional and activist investors, governance ratings, and much more. Larcker and Tayan offer models and frameworks demonstrating how the components of governance fit together, with updated examples and scenarios illustrating key points. Throughout, their balanced approach is focused strictly on two goals: to “get the story straight,” and to provide useful tools for making better, more informed decisions.

Book cover: Corporate Governance Matters, 2nd edition

This edition presents new or expanded coverage of key issues ranging from risk management and shareholder activism to alternative corporate governance structures. It also adds new examples, scenarios, and classroom elements, making this text even more useful in academic settings. For all directors, business leaders, public policymakers, investors, stakeholders, and MBA faculty and students concerned with effective corporate governance.

Selected Editorial Reviews

An outstanding work of unique breadth and depth providing practical advice supported by detailed research.
Alan Crain, Jr., Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Baker Hughes
Extensively researched, with highly relevant insights, this book serves as an ideal and practical reference for corporate executives and students of business administration.
Narayana N.R. Murthy, Infosys Technologies
Corporate Governance Matters is a comprehensive, objective, and insightful analysis of academic and professional research on corporate governance.
Professor Katherine Schipper, Duke University, and former member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board

Les grandes sociétés sont plus résistantes que l’on est porté à le croire !


Voici un excellent article partagé par Paul Michaud, ASC, et publié dans The Economist.

Il y a plusieurs pratiques du management et de la gouvernance à revoir à l’âge des grandes entreprises internationales qui se démarquent par l’excellence de leur modèle d’acquisiteur, de consolidateur et de synergiste.

Incumbents have always had a tendency to grow fat and complacent. In an era of technological disruption, that can be lethal. New technology allows companies to come from nowhere (as Nokia once did) and turn entire markets upside down. Challengers can achieve scale faster than ever before. According to Bain, a consultancy, successful new companies reach Fortune 500 scale more than twice as fast as they did two decades ago. They can also take on incumbents in completely new ways: Airbnb is competing with the big hotel chains without buying a single hotel.

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous un bref extrait de cet article que je vous encourage à lire.

The new Methuselahs

 

IN SEPTEMBER 2009 Fast Company magazine published a long article entitled “Nokia rocks the world”. The Finnish company was the world’s biggest mobile-phone maker, accounting for 40% of the global market and serving 1.1 billion users in 150 countries, the article pointed out. It had big plans to expand into other areas such as digital transactions, music and entertainment. “We will quickly become the world’s biggest entertainment media network,” a Nokia vice-president told the magazine.

20160917_srd004

It did not quite work out that way. Apple was already beginning to eat into Nokia’s market with its smartphones. Nokia’s digital dreams came to nothing. The company has become a shadow of its former self. Having sold its mobile-phone business to Microsoft, it now makes telecoms network Equipment.

There are plenty of examples of corporate heroes becoming zeros: think of BlackBerry, Blockbuster, Borders and Barings, to name just four that begin with a “b”. McKinsey notes that the average company’s tenure on the S&P 500 list has fallen from 61 years in 1958 to just 18 in 2011, and predicts that 75% of current S&P 500 companies will have disappeared by 2027. Ram Charan, a consultant, argues that the balance of power has shifted from defenders to attackers.

Incumbents have always had a tendency to grow fat and complacent. In an era of technological disruption, that can be lethal. New technology allows companies to come from nowhere (as Nokia once did) and turn entire markets upside down. Challengers can achieve scale faster than ever before. According to Bain, a consultancy, successful new companies reach Fortune 500 scale more than twice as fast as they did two decades ago. They can also take on incumbents in completely new ways: Airbnb is competing with the big hotel chains without buying a single hotel.

Next in line for disruption, some say, are financial services and the car industry. Anthony Jenkins, a former chief executive of Barclays, a bank, worries that banking is about to experience an “Uber moment”. Elon Musk, a founder of Tesla Motors, hopes to dismember the car industry (as well as colonise Mars).

It is perfectly possible that the consolidation described so far in this special report will prove temporary. But two things argue against it. First, a high degree of churn is compatible with winner-takes-most markets. Nokia and Motorola have been replaced by even bigger companies, not dozens of small ones. Venture capitalists are betting on continued consolidation, increasingly focusing on a handful of big companies such as Tesla. Sand Hill Road, the home of Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists, echoes with talk of “decacorns” and “hyperscaling”.

Second, today’s tech giants have a good chance of making it into old age. They have built a formidable array of defences against their rivals. Most obviously, they are making products that complement each other. Apple’s customers usually buy an entire suite of its gadgets because they are designed to work together. The tech giants are also continuously buying up smaller companies. In 2012 Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion, which works out at $30 for each of the service’s 33m users. In 2014 Facebook bought WhatsApp for $22 billion, or $49 for each of the 450m users. This year Microsoft spent $26.2 billion on LinkedIn, or $60.5 for each of the 433m users. Companies that a decade ago might have gone public, such as Nest, a company that makes remote-control gadgets for the home, and Waze, a mapping service, are now being gobbled up by established giants.

…..

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