La gouvernance de sociétés au Canada | Au delà de la théorie de l’agence


Les auteurs Imen Latrousa, Marc-André Morencyb, Salmata Ouedraogoc et Jeanne Simard, professeurs à l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, ont réalisé une publication d’une grande valeur pour les théoriciens de la gouvernance.

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, un résumé de l’article paru dans la Revue Organisations et Territoires

Résumé

De nombreux chercheurs ont mis en évidence les aspects et conséquences discutables de certaines conceptions financières ou théories de l’organisation. C’est le cas de la théorie de l’agence, conception particulièrement influente depuis une quarantaine d’années, qui a pour effet de justifier une gouvernance de l’entreprise vouée à maximiser la valeur aux actionnaires au détriment des autres parties prenantes.

Cette idéologie de gouvernance justifie de rémunérer les managers, présumés négliger ordinairement les détenteurs d’actions, avec des stock-options, des salaires démesurés. Ce primat accordé à la valeur à court terme des actions relève d’une vision dans laquelle les raisons financières se voient attribuer un rôle prééminent dans la détermination des objectifs et des moyens d’action, de régulation et de dérégulation des entreprises. Cet article se propose de rappeler les éléments centraux de ce modèle de gouvernance et de voir quelles critiques lui sont adressées par des disciplines aussi diverses que l’économie, la finance, le droit et la sociologie.

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « théorie de l'agence »

 

Voir l’article ci-dessous :

La gouvernance d’entreprise au Canada : un domaine en transition

Répertoire des articles en gouvernance publiés sur LinkedIn


L’un des moyens utilisés pour mieux faire connaître les grandes tendances en gouvernance de sociétés est la publication d’articles choisis sur ma page LinkedIn.

Ces articles sont issus des parutions sur mon blogue Gouvernance | Jacques Grisé

Depuis janvier 2016, j’ai publié un total de 43 articles sur ma page LinkedIn.

Aujourd’hui, je vous propose la liste des 10 articles que j’ai publiés à ce jour en 2019 :

 

Liste des 10 articles publiés à ce jour en 2019

 

Image associée

 

 

1, Les grandes firmes d’audit sont plus sélectives dans le choix de leurs mandats

2. Gouvernance fiduciaire et rôles des parties prenantes (stakeholders)

3. Problématiques de gouvernance communes lors d’interventions auprès de diverses organisations – Partie I Relations entre président du CA et DG

4. L’âge des administrateurs de sociétés représente-t-il un facteur déterminant dans leur efficacité comme membres indépendants de CA ?

5. On constate une évolution progressive dans la composition des conseils d’administration

6. Doit-on limiter le nombre d’années qu’un administrateur siège à un conseil afin de préserver son indépendance ?

7. Manuel de saine gouvernance au Canada

8. Étude sur le mix des compétences dans la composition des conseils d’administration

9. Indice de diversité de genre | Equilar

10. Le conseil d’administration est garant de la bonne conduite éthique de l’organisation !

 

Si vous souhaitez voir l’ensemble des parutions, je vous invite à vous rendre sur le Lien vers les 43 articles publiés sur LinkedIn depuis 2016

 

Bonne lecture !

Les grandes firmes d’audit sont plus sélectives dans le choix de leurs mandats


Voici un article publié par GAVIN HINKS pour le compte de Board Agenda qui montre que les grandes firmes d’audit sont de plus en plus susceptibles de démissionner lorsque les risques leur apparaissent trop élevés.

Les recherches indiquent que c’est particulièrement le cas au Royaume-Uni où l’on assiste à des poursuites plus fréquentes des Big Four. Ces firmes d’audit sont maintenant plus sélectives dans le choix de leurs clients.

Compte tenu de la situation oligopolistique des grandes firmes d’audit, devons-nous nous surprendre de ces décisions de retrait dans la nouvelle conjoncture de risque financier des entreprises britanniques ?

The answer is not really. Over recent years auditors, especially the Big Four (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY) have faced consistent criticism for their work—complaints that they control too much of the market for big company audit and that audit quality is not what it should be.

Le comité d’audit des entreprises est interpellé publiquement lorsque l’auditeur soumet sa résignation. L’entreprise doit souvent gérer une crise médiatique afin de sauvegarder sa réputation.

Pour certains experts de la gouvernance, ces situations requirent des exigences de divulgation plus sévères. Les parties prenantes veulent connaître la nature des problèmes et des risques qui y sont associés.

Également, les administrateurs souhaitent connaître le plan d’action des dirigeants eu égard au travail et aux recommandations du comité d’audit

L’auteur donne beaucoup d’exemples sur les nouveaux comportements des Big Four.

Bonne lecture !

 

Auditor resignations indicate new attitude to client selection

 

 

auditor
Image: Shutterstock

 

The audit profession in Britain is at a turning point as Westminster—Brexit permitting—considers new regulation.

It seems firms may be responding by clearing the decks: the press has spotted a spate of high-profile auditor resignations with audit firms bidding farewell to a clutch of major clients. This includes firms outside the Big Four, such as Grant Thornton, which recently said sayonara to Sports Direct, the retail chain, embroiled in running arguments over its governance.

But Grant Thornton is not alone. KPMG has parted ways with Eddie Stobart, a haulage firm, and Lycamobile, a telecommunications company. PwC meanwhile has said goodbye to Staffline, a recruitment business.

Should we be surprised?

The answer is not really. Over recent years auditors, especially the Big Four (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY) have faced consistent criticism for their work—complaints that they control too much of the market for big company audit and that audit quality is not what it should be.

This came to a head in December 2017 with the collapse of construction and contracting giant Carillion, audited by KPMG. The event prompted a parliamentary inquiry followed by government-ordered reviews of the audit market and regulation.

An examination of the watchdog for audit and financial reporting, the Financial Reporting Council, has resulted in the creation of a brand new regulatory body; a look at the audit market resulted in recommendations that firms separate their audit businesses from other services they provide. A current look at the quality and scope of audit, the Brydon review, will doubtless come up with its own recommendations when it reports later this year.

 

Client selection

 

While it is hard to obtain statistics, the press reports, as well as industry talk, indicate that auditors are becoming more picky about who they choose to work for.

According to Jonathan Hayward, a governance and audit expert with the consultancy Independent Audit, the first step in any risk management for an audit firm is client selection. He says the current environment in which auditors have become “tired of being beaten up” has caused a new “sensitivity” in which auditors may be choosing to be more assiduous in applying client filtering policies.

Application of these policies may have been soft in the past, as firms raced for market share, but perhaps also as they applied what Hayward calls the auditor’s “God complex”: the idea that their judgement must be definitive.

Psychological dispositions are arguable. What may be observed for certain is that the potential downsides are becoming clearer to audit chiefs. Fines meted out in recent times by a newly energised regulator facing replacement include the £5m (discounted to £3.5m) for KPMG for the firm’s work with the London branch of BNY Mellon. Deloitte faced a £6.5m fine (discounted to £4.2m) for its audit of Serco Geografix, an outsourcing business. Last year PwC faced a record breaking £10m penalty for its work on the audit of collapsed retailer BHS.

What those fines have brought home is the thin line auditors tread between profit and and huge costs if it goes wrong. That undermines the attractiveness of being in the audit market.

One expert to draw attention to the economics is Jim Peterson, a US lawyer who blogs on corporate law and has represented accountancy firms.

Highlighting Sports Direct’s need to find a replacement audit firm, Peterson notes Grant Thornton’s fee was £1.4m with an estimated profit of £200,000-£250,000.

“A projection from that figure would be hostage, however, to the doubtful assumption of no further developments,” Peterson writes.

“That is, the cost to address even a modest extension of necessary extra audit work, or a lawsuit or investigative inquiry—legal fees and diverted management time alone—would swamp any engagement profit within weeks.”

He adds: “And that’s without thinking of the potential fines or judgements. Could the revenue justify that risk? No fee can be set and charged that would protect an auditor in the fraught context of Sports Direct—simply impossible.”

Media attention

 

Auditor resignations are not without their own risks. Maggie McGhee, executive director, governance at ACCA, a professional body for accountants, points out that parting with a client can bring unpleasant public attention.

“If auditors use resignation more regularly in a bid to extract themselves from high-risk audits,” says McGhee, “then it is probable that there will be some media interest if issues are subsequently identified at the company. Questions arise, such as did the auditor do enough?”

But as, McGhee adds, resignation has to remain part of the auditor’s armoury, not least as part of maintaining their independence.

For non-executives on an audit committee, auditor resignation is a significant moment. With an important role in hiring an audit firm as well as oversight of company directors, their role will be to challenge management.

“The audit committee is critical in these circumstances,” says McGhee, “and it should take action to understand the circumstance and whether action is required.”

ACCA has told the Sir Donald Brydon review [examining audit quality] that greater disclosure is needed of “the communication and judgements” that pass between auditors and audit committees. McGhee says it would be particularly relevant in the case of auditor resignations.

There have been suggestions that Sir Donald is interested in resignations. ShareSoc and UKSA, bodies representing small shareholders, have called on Sir Donald to recommend that an a regulatory news service announcement be triggered by an auditor cutting ties.

A blog on ShareSoc’s website says: “It seems clear that there is a need to tighten the disclosure rules surrounding auditor resignations and dismissals.”

It seems likely Sir Donald will comment on resignations, though what his recommendations will be remains uncertain. What is clear is that recent behaviour has shone a light on auditor departures and questions are being asked. The need for answers is sure to remain.

Gouvernance fiduciaire et rôles des parties prenantes (stakeholders)


Je partage avec vous l’excellente prise de position de Martin Lipton *, Karessa L. Cain et Kathleen C. Iannone, associés de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, spécialisée dans les fusions et acquisitions et dans les questions de gouvernance fiduciaire.

L’article présente un plaidoyer éloquent en faveur d’une gouvernance fiduciaire par un conseil d’administration qui doit non seulement considérer le point de vue des actionnaires, mais aussi des autres parties prenantes,

Depuis quelque temps, on assiste à des changements significatifs dans la compréhension du rôle des CA et dans l’interprétation que les administrateurs se font de la valeur de l’entreprise à long terme.

Récemment, le Business Roundtable a annoncé son engagement envers l’inclusion des parties prenantes dans le cadre de gouvernance fiduciaire des sociétés.

Voici un résumé d’un article paru dans le Los Angeles Times du 19 août 2019 : In shocking reversal, Big Business puts the shareholder value myth in the grave.

Among the developments followers of business ethics may have thought they’d never see, the end of the shareholder value myth has to rank very high.

Yet one of America’s leading business lobbying groups just buried the myth. “We share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” reads a statement issued Monday by the Business Roundtable and signed by 181 CEOs. (Emphasis in the original.)

The statement mentions, in order, customers, employees, suppliers, communities and — dead last — shareholders. The corporate commitment to all these stakeholders may be largely rhetorical at the moment, but it’s hard to overstate what a reversal the statement represents from the business community’s preexisting viewpoint.

Stakeholders are pushing companies to wade into sensitive social and political issues — especially as they see governments failing to do so effectively.

Since the 1970s, the prevailing ethos of corporate management has been that a company’s prime responsibility — effectively, its only responsibility — is to serve its shareholders. Benefits for those other stakeholders follow, but they’re not the prime concern.

In the Business Roundtable’s view, the paramount duty of management and of boards of directors is to the corporation’s stockholders; the interests of other stakeholders are relevant as a derivative of the duty to stockholders,” the organization declared in 1997.

Bonne lecture. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus !

 

Stakeholder Governance and the Fiduciary Duties of Directors

 

Jamie Dimon
JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon signed the business statement disavowing the shareholder value myth.(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

 

There has recently been much debate and some confusion about a bedrock principle of corporate law—namely, the essence of the board’s fiduciary duty, and particularly the extent to which the board can or should or must consider the interests of other stakeholders besides shareholders.

For several decades, there has been a prevailing assumption among many CEOs, directors, scholars, investors, asset managers and others that the sole purpose of corporations is to maximize value for shareholders and, accordingly, that corporate decision-makers should be very closely tethered to the views and preferences of shareholders. This has created an opportunity for corporate raiders, activist hedge funds and others with short-termist agendas, who do not hesitate to assert their preferences and are often the most vocal of shareholder constituents. And, even outside the context of shareholder activism, the relentless pressure to produce shareholder value has all too often tipped the scales in favor of near-term stock price gains at the expense of long-term sustainability.

In recent years, however, there has been a growing sense of urgency around issues such as economic inequality, climate change and socioeconomic upheaval as human capital has been displaced by technological disruption. As long-term investors and the asset managers who represent them have sought to embrace ESG principles and their role as stewards of corporations in pursuit of long-term value, notions of shareholder primacy are being challenged. Thus, earlier this week, the Business Roundtable announced its commitment to stakeholder corporate governance, and outside the U.S., legislative reforms in the U.K. and Europe have expressly incorporated consideration of other stakeholder interests in the fiduciary duty framework. The Council of Institutional Investors and others, however, have challenged the wisdom and legality of stakeholder corporate governance.

To be clear, Delaware law does not enshrine a principle of shareholder primacy or preclude a board of directors from considering the interests of other stakeholders. Nor does the law of any other state. Although much attention has been given to the Revlon doctrine, which suggests that the board must attempt to achieve the highest value reasonably available to shareholders, that doctrine is narrowly limited to situations where the board has determined to sell control of the company and either all or a preponderant percentage of the consideration being paid is cash or the transaction will result in a controlling shareholder. Indeed, theRevlon doctrine has played an outsized role in fiduciary duty jurisprudence not because it articulates the ultimate nature and objective of the board’s fiduciary duty, but rather because most fiduciary duty litigation arises in the context of mergers or other extraordinary transactions where heightened standards of judicial review are applicable. In addition, Revlon’s emphasis on maximizing short-term shareholder value has served as a convenient touchstone for advocates of shareholder primacy and has accordingly been used as a talking point to shape assumptions about fiduciary duties even outside the sale-of-control context, a result that was not intended. Around the same time that Revlon was decided, the Delaware Supreme Court also decided the Unocal and Household cases, which affirmed the board’s ability to consider all stakeholders in using a poison pill to defend against a takeover—clearly confining Revlonto sale-of-control situations.

The fiduciary duty of the board is to promote the value of the corporation. In fulfilling that duty, directors must exercise their business judgment in considering and reconciling the interests of various stakeholders—including shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, the environment and communities—and the attendant risks and opportunities for the corporation.

Indeed, the board’s ability to consider other stakeholder interests is not only uncontroversial—it is a matter of basic common sense and a fundamental component of both risk management and strategic planning. Corporations today must navigate a host of challenges to compete and succeed in a rapidly changing environment—for example, as climate change increases weather-related risks to production facilities or real property investments, or as employee training becomes critical to navigate rapidly evolving technology platforms. A board and management team that is myopically focused on stock price and other discernible benchmarks of shareholder value, without also taking a broader, more holistic view of the corporation and its longer-term strategy, sustainability and risk profile, is doing a disservice not only to employees, customers and other impacted stakeholders but also to shareholders and the corporation as a whole.

The board’s role in performing this balancing function is a central premise of the corporate structure. The board is empowered to serve as the arbiter of competing considerations, whereas shareholders have relatively limited voting rights and, in many instances, it is up to the board to decide whether a matter should be submitted for shareholder approval (for example, charter amendments and merger agreements). Moreover, in performing this balancing function, the board is protected by the business judgment rule and will not be second-guessed for embracing ESG principles or other stakeholder interests in order to enhance the long-term value of the corporation. Nor is there any debate about whether the board has the legal authority to reject an activist’s demand for short-term financial engineering on the grounds that the board, in its business judgment, has determined to pursue a strategy to create sustainable long-term value.

And yet even if, as a doctrinal matter, shareholder primacy does not define the contours of the board’s fiduciary duties so as to preclude consideration of other stakeholders, the practical reality is that the board’s ability to embrace ESG principles and sustainable investment strategies depends on the support of long-term investors and asset managers. Shareholders are the only corporate stakeholders who have the right to elect directors, and in contrast to courts, they do not decline to second-guess the business judgment of boards. Furthermore, a number of changes over the last several decades—including the remarkable consolidation of economic and voting power among a relatively small number of asset managers, as well as legal and “best practice” reforms—have strengthened the ability of shareholders to influence corporate decision-making.

To this end, we have proposed The New Paradigm, which conceives of corporate governance as a partnership among corporations, shareholders and other stakeholders to resist short-termism and embrace ESG principles in order to create sustainable, long-term value. See our paper, It’s Time to Adopt The New Paradigm.


Martin Lipton * is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy; Karessa L. Cain is a partner; and Kathleen C. Iannone is an associate. This post is based on their Wachtell Lipton publication.

Problématiques de gouvernance communes lors d’interventions-conseils auprès de diverses organisations – Partie I – Relations entre président du CA et DG


Lors de mes consultations en gouvernance des sociétés, je constate que j’interviens souvent sur des problématiques communes à un grand nombre d’organisations et qui sont cruciales pour l’exercice d’une gouvernance exemplaire.

Aujourd’hui, j’aborde l’une des plus grandes difficultés qui confrontent les conseils d’administration : la gestion des relations de pouvoir entre le président du CA (et certains administrateurs) et la direction générale.

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « collège des administrateurs de sociétés »

 

Dans des billets ultérieurs, je reviendrai sur plusieurs autres problématiques de gouvernance qui font l’objet de préoccupations par les conseils d’administration :

 

La clarification des rôles et responsabilités des principaux acteurs de la gouvernance : (1) conseil d’administration (2) présidence du conseil d’administration (3) direction générale (4) comités du conseil (5) secrétaire du conseil d’administration.

La composition et les rôles des comités du conseil soutenant la gouvernance : (1) comité de gouvernance et d’éthique (2) comité des ressources humaines et (3) comité d’audit.

La révision de la composition du conseil d’administration : nombre d’administrateurs, profils de compétences, types de représentation, durée et nombre de mandats, indépendance des administrateurs, etc.

La réévaluation du rôle du comité exécutif afin de mieux l’arrimer aux activités des autres comités.

L’importance du rôle du secrétaire du conseil eu égard à son travail, avant, pendant et après les réunions du conseil.

L’évaluation du processus de gestion des réunions du CA qui met l’accent sur l’amélioration de la dynamique d’équipe et la justification d’un huis clos productif et efficace.

La raison d’être d’un processus d’évaluation annuelle de l’efficacité du conseil et la proposition d’instruments d’auto-évaluation des administrateurs.

Les caractéristiques d’une bonne reddition de compte de la part de la direction générale.

L’intégration des nouveaux administrateurs afin de les rendre opérationnels rapidement.

L’adoption d’un code d’éthique des administrateurs exemplaire.

 

Le maintien de relations harmonieuses et continues entre le président du conseil et le directeur général est, selon mon expérience, absolument essentiel à l’exercice d’une saine gouvernance.

Selon de nombreux auteurs sur l’efficacité des conseils d’administration, il est important que le président ait la légitimité et la crédibilité requises pour gérer une saine tension entre les administrateurs et la direction générale de l’organisation.

Il n’y a pas de place pour la complaisance au conseil. Les administrateurs doivent bien comprendre que leur rôle est de veiller aux « intérêts supérieurs » de la société, et non aux intérêts propres à certains groupes de membres. Les administrateurs ont également la responsabilité de tenir compte des parties prenantes lors de leurs délibérations.

Le directeur général (DG) de la société est embauché par le CA pour gérer et exécuter la mission de l’organisation, en réalisant une stratégie liée à son modèle d’affaires. Lui aussi doit travailler en fonction des intérêts de la société, mais c’est la responsabilité fiduciaire du conseil d’administration de s’en assurer en mettant en place les mécanismes de surveillance appropriés.

La théorie dite de « l’agence », sur laquelle reposent les règles de gouvernance, stipule que le conseil d’administration représente l’autorité souveraine de l’organisation (puisqu’il possède la légitimité que lui confèrent les membres en assemblée générale).

Le CA confie à un DG qui, avec son équipe de gestionnaires, a la responsabilité de réaliser les objectifs stratégiques retenus. Les deux parties — le CA et la direction générale — doivent bien comprendre leurs rôles respectifs, et trouver les bons moyens pour gérer la tension inhérente à l’exercice de la gouvernance et de la gestion.

Les administrateurs doivent s’efforcer d’apporter une valeur ajoutée à la gestion en conseillant la direction sur les meilleures orientations à adopter, ainsi qu’en instaurant un climat d’ouverture, de soutien et de transparence propice à la réalisation de performances élevées.

Il est important de noter que l’organisation s’attend à la loyauté des administrateurs ainsi qu’à leur indépendance d’esprit face à la direction. Les administrateurs sont imputables envers la société. C’est la raison pour laquelle le conseil d’administration doit absolument mettre en place un processus d’évaluation de son fonctionnement et divulguer sa méthodologie.

De plus, il est important de noter qu’à l’instar des administrateurs, le président élu doit loyauté envers l’organisation et le conseil d’administration, et non envers les membres ou les actionnaires.

Les experts en gouvernance suggèrent que les rôles et les fonctions de président de l’organisation soient distincts de ceux du DG. Ils affirment que la séparation des fonctions entre la présidence et la direction générale est généralement bénéfique à l’exercice de la responsabilité de fiduciaire des administrateurs, c’est-à-dire que des pouvoirs différents permettent d’éviter les conflits d’intérêts, tout en assurant la légitimité du processus de gouvernance.

L’un des documents fondamentaux pour un président de CA est la publication  » La présidence du conseil d’administration d’une société d’État  » a été rendue possible grâce à l’appui du ministère du Conseil exécutif du Québec et des partenaires fondateurs du Collège des administrateurs de sociétés (CAS).

Dans ce document, très complet, on retrouve toute l’information essentielle concernant les rôles et les responsabilités des présidents de conseil, notamment à l’égard du directeur général. En voici la table des matières :

 

    1. Quel est le rôle du président envers le CA ?
    2. Quel est le rôle du président à l’égard des membres du CA ?
    3. Quel est le rôle du président d’un CA d’une société d’État à l’égard de son président-directeur général ?
    4. Quel est le rôle du président à l’égard du ministre responsable, de son ministère et des parlementaires ?
    5. Quelle est la responsabilité du président quant à la gouvernance du CA ?
    6. Le président a-t-il une responsabilité particulière quant à l’éthique de l’organisation ?
    7. Quelle est la responsabilité du président quant au recrutement, à l’accueil et au perfectionnement des membres du CA ?
    8. Comment le président peut-il planifier le travail du CA ?
    9. Quelle est la responsabilité du président quant à l’information fournie aux membres du CA ?
    10. Quelle est la responsabilité du président quant aux réunions du CA ?
    11. Quelle est la responsabilité du président à l’égard des comités du CA ?
    12. Quelle est la responsabilité du président relativement à la solidarité des membres et aux possibles dissensions au sein du CA ?
    13. Quelle est la responsabilité du président quant à la performance de l’organisation ?
    14. Quelle est la responsabilité du président du CA à l’égard de la représentation externe de l’organisation ?
    15. Le président a-t-il une responsabilité particulière à l’égard des risques et des crises ?
    16. Quelle est la responsabilité du président dans l’évaluation du conseil d’administration et du PDG ?
    17. Quelle responsabilité le président a-t-il dans la reddition de comptes tant externe qu’interne de son organisation ?
    18. Quelle est la responsabilité du président du CA quant à la relève éventuelle du PDG et à sa propre succession ?
    19. Quelles sont les caractéristiques personnelles et administratives d’un président de CA ?

 

Ce document présente toutes les définitions de fonctions de la présidence ainsi que tous les pouvoirs qui lui sont conférés. Il serait, à mon avis, essentiel que celui-ci serve de base à la rédaction du règlement général. Il pourrait en faire partie intégrante puisque ce texte a été conçu pour les présidents de conseil d’administration en général.

Voici, à titre d’exemple, un extrait de la section 3 portant sur le rôle du président d’un CA à l’égard de son directeur général.

En ce qui a trait à la relation entre le président du CA et le DG, le principe fondamental est simple : le président dirige le CA qui, lui-même, a autorité sur le DG.

« Le président s’assure que le conseil joue pleinement son rôle, notamment à l’égard de l’approbation des orientations stratégiques, de la gestion de la performance et des risques ainsi que de la surveillance effective de la direction.

Par sa position, le président est amené à faire en sorte que la responsabilité de supervision du CA ne s’exerce pas au détriment de celles plus opérationnelles de la direction générale. En effet, le DG est le prolongement du CA dans l’organisation et, à ce titre, c’est lui qui a autorité sur la haute direction et l’effectif de l’organisation ; il n’appartient pas aux membres du CA d’intervenir dans la gestion interne, sauf lorsque la loi le prévoit. Le président du CA doit lui-même respecter, et faire respecter par chacun des membres du conseil, cette limitation de leur champ de responsabilité.

Étant plus fréquemment que les autres membres du CA en contact avec le DG, le président est à même d’appuyer l’action de ce dernier. Pour ce faire, il doit s’assurer que les orientations et les décisions du CA lui laissent la marge de manœuvre et l’autorité qu’il lui faut. Il doit aussi, avec la collaboration du comité des ressources humaines, procéder à l’évaluation de la performance du DG selon le processus et les balises déterminés et en fonction des attentes formulées par le CA.

Des rencontres régulières entre le président du CA et le DG sont indispensables au maintien d’une relation empreinte de confiance. Cette relation privilégiée est d’autant plus importante que, généralement et dans tous les organismes et sociétés assujettis à la Loi sur la gouvernance des sociétés d’État, le DG est d’office membre du conseil d’administration. Tous deux ont avantage à avoir la même compréhension de leur rôle respectif, à partager l’information dont ils disposent avec la plus grande transparence, à faire preuve d’une grande franchise dans leurs échanges et à se soutenir mutuellement dans l’accomplissement de leurs tâches respectives.

Cependant, vu la différence des rôles qu’ils ont à jouer, leur relation ne doit laisser place à aucune complaisance. Ainsi conduite, cette relation devient le gage d’une action globale efficace ».

Au cours des prochaines semaines, j’aborderai les autres problématiques vécues lors de mes interventions-conseils.

Bonne lecture. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

Deux développements significatifs en gouvernance des sociétés


Aujourd’hui, je veux porter à l’attention de mes lecteurs un article de Assaf Hamdani* et Sharon Hannes* qui aborde deux développements majeurs qui ont pour effet de bouleverser les marchés des capitaux.

D’une part, les auteurs constatent le rôle de plus en plus fondamental que les investisseurs institutionnels jouent sur le marché des capitaux aux É. U., mais aussi au Canada.

En effet, ceux-ci contrôlent environ les trois quarts du marché, et cette situation continue de progresser. Les auteurs notent qu’un petit nombre de fonds détiennent une partie significative du capital de chaque entreprise.

Les investisseurs individuels sont de moins en moins présents sur l’échiquier de l’actionnariat et leur influence est donc à peu près nulle.

Dans quelle mesure les investisseurs institutionnels exercent-ils leur influence sur la gouvernance des entreprises ? Quels sont les changements qui s’opèrent à cet égard ?

Comment leurs actions sont-elles coordonnées avec les actionnaires activistes (hedge funds) ?

La seconde tendance, qui se dessine depuis plus de 10 ans, concerne l’augmentation considérable de l’influence des actionnaires activistes (hedge funds) qui utilisent des moyens de pression de plus en plus grands pour imposer des changements à la gouvernance des organisations, notamment par la nomination d’administrateurs désignés aux CA des entreprises ciblées.

Quelles sont les nouvelles perspectives pour les activistes et comment les autorités réglementaires doivent-elles réagir face à la croissance des pressions pour modifier les conseils d’administration ?

Je vous invite à lire ce court article pour avoir un aperçu des changements à venir eu égard à la gouvernance des sociétés.

Bonne lecture !

 

 

The Future of Shareholder Activism

 

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Two major developments are shaping modern capital markets. The first development is the dramatic increase in the size and influence of institutional investors, mostly mutual funds. Institutional investors today collectively own 70-80% of the entire U.S. capital market, and a small number of fund managers hold significant stakes at each public company. The second development is the rising influence of activist hedge funds, which use proxy fights and other tools to pressure public companies into making business and governance changes.

Our new article, The Future of Shareholder Activism, prepared for Boston University Law Review’s Symposium on Institutional Investor Activism in the 21st Century, focuses on the interaction of these two developments and its implications for the future of shareholder activism. We show that the rise of activist hedge funds and their dramatic impact question the claim that institutional investors have conflicts of interest that are sufficiently pervasive to have a substantial market-wide effect. We further argue that the rise of money managers’ power has already changed and will continue to change the nature of shareholder activism. Specifically, large money managers’ clout means that they can influence companies’ management without resorting to the aggressive tactics used by activist hedge funds. Finally, we argue that some activist interventions—those that require the appointment of activist directors to implement complex business changes—cannot be pursued by money managers without dramatic changes to their respective business models and regulatory landscapes.

We first address the overlooked implications of the rise of activist hedge funds for the debate on institutional investors’ stewardship incentives. The success of activist hedge funds, this Article argues, cannot be reconciled with the claim that institutional investors have conflicts of interest that are sufficiently pervasive to have a substantial market-wide effect. Activist hedge funds do not hold a sufficiently large number of shares to win proxy battles, and their success to drive corporate change therefore relies on the willingness of large fund managers to support their cause. Thus, one cannot celebrate—or express concern over—the achievements of activist hedge funds and at the same time argue that institutional investors systemically desire to appease managers.

But if money managers are the real power brokers, why do institutional investors not play a more proactive role in policing management? One set of answers to this question focuses on the shortcomings of fund managers—their suboptimal incentives to oversee companies in their portfolio and conflicts of interest. Another answer focuses on the regulatory regime that governs institutional investors and the impediments that it creates for shareholder activism.

We offer a more nuanced account of the interaction of activists and institutional investors. We argue that the rising influence of fund managers is shaping and is likely to shape the relationships among corporate insiders, institutional investors, and activist hedge funds. Institutional investors’ increasing clout allows them to influence companies without resorting to the aggressive tactics that are typical of activist hedge funds. With institutional investors holding the key to their continued service at the company, corporate insiders today are likely to be more attentive to the wishes of their institutional investors, especially the largest ones.

In fact, in today’s marketplace, management is encouraged to “think like an activist” and initiate contact with large fund managers to learn about any concerns that could trigger an activist attack. Institutional investors—especially the large ones—can thus affect corporations simply by sharing their views with management. This sheds new light on what is labeled today as “engagement.” Moreover, the line between institutional investors’ engagement and hedge fund activism could increasingly become blurred. To be sure, we do not expect institutional investors to develop deeply researched and detailed plans for companies’ operational improvement. Yet, institutional investors’ engagement is increasingly likely to focus not only on governance, but also on business and strategy issues.

The rising influence of institutional investors, however, is unlikely to displace at least some forms of activism. Specifically, we argue that institutional investors are unlikely to be effective in leading complex business interventions that require director appointments. Activists often appoint directors to target boards. Such appointments may be necessary to implement an activist campaign when the corporate change underlying the intervention does not lend itself to quick fixes, such as selling a subsidiary or buying back shares. In complex cases, activist directors are required not only in order to continuously monitor management, but also to further refine the activist business plan for the company.

This insight, however, only serves to reframe our Article’s basic question. Given the rising power of institutional investors, why can they not appoint such directors to companies’ boards? The answer lies in the need of such directors to share nonpublic information with the fund that appointed them. Sharing such information with institutional investors would create significant insider trading concerns and would critically change the role of institutional investors as relatively passive investors with a limited say over company affairs.

The complete article is available here.

________________________________________________________________

*Assaf Hamdani is Professor of Law and Sharon Hannes is Professor of Law and Dean of the Faculty at Tel Aviv University Buchmann Faculty of Law. This post is based on their recent article, forthcoming in the Boston University Law Review. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Dancing with Activists by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, Wei Jiang, and Thomas Keusch (discussed on the Forum here); The Agency Problems of Institutional Investors by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forumhere); and Index Funds and the Future of Corporate Governance: Theory, Evidence, and Policy by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the forum here).

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


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

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

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

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

Bonne lecture !

 

Spotlight on Boards

 

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

 

Afin de satisfaire ces attentes, les entreprises publiques doivent :

 

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

_________________________________________________________

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Bonne lecture !

 

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

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

 

OECD (2019), OECD Corporate Governance Factbook 2019

 

 

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The corporate and market landscape

 

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

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

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

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

 

The corporate governance framework

 

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

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

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

 

The rights and equitable treatment of shareholders and key ownership functions

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The corporate board of directors

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mechanisms for flexibility and proportionality in corporate governance

 

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

The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

La prévalence de l’activisme actionnarial en 2019


Voici une mise à jour de Martin Lipton*, associé fondateur de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, qui se spécialise dans les politiques et stratégies organisationnelles ayant un impact sur la gouvernance des entreprises. L’article a été publié aujourd’hui sur le site de HLS Forum sur la gouvernance.

En 2019, les auteurs prédisent que la menace de l’activisme sera encore plus prévalente.

Bonne lecture !

 

Activism: The State of Play at Year-End 2018

 

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As we noted [in 2018], the threat of activism continues to be high, and has become a global phenomenon. The conclusion of a volatile and dynamic 2018 prompts a brief update of the state of play.

  1. Activist assets under management remain at elevated levels, encouraging continued attacks on large successful companies in the U.S. and abroad. In many cases, activists have been taking advantage of recent stock market declines to achieve attractive entry points for new positions. These trends have been highlighted in several recent media reports, including in The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.
  2. While the robust M&A environment of much of 2018 has recently subsided, deal-related activism remains prevalent, with activists instigating deal activity, challenging announced transactions (e.g., the “bumpitrage” strategy of pressing for a price increase) and/or pressuring the target into a merger or a private equity deal with the activist itself.
  3. “Short” activists, who seek to profit from a decline in the target’s market value, remain highly aggressive in both the equity and corporate debt markets. In debt markets, we have also recently seen a rise in “default activism,” where investors purchase debt on the theory that a borrower is already in default and then actively seek to enforce that default in a manner by which they stand to profit.
  4. Elliott Management was the most active and in many cases aggressive activist of 2018. The Wall Street Journal noted that Elliott has publicly targeted 24 companies in 2018, with Icahn and Starboard runners-up with nine public targets each. The New Yorker published a lengthy profile of Paul Singer and Elliott in August, “Paul Singer, Doomsday Investor”. “Singer has excelled in this field in part because of a canny ability to discern his opponents’ weaknesses and a seeming imperviousness to public disapproval.”
  5. Enhanced ESG disclosure remains a topic of great interest to institutional investors and the corporate governance community. In October, two prominent business law professors, supported by investors and other entities with over $5 trillion in assets under management, filed a petition for rulemaking calling for the SEC to “develop a comprehensive framework requiring issuers to disclose identified environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aspects of each public-reporting company’s operations.” In November, the Embankment Project of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism issued its report outlining proposed ways to measure long-term sustainable value creation beyond financial results. And earlier this month, ESG disclosure was the subject of a lively discussion at a meeting of the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee, with various views expressed regarding the merits of regulatory efforts versus private ordering in this area.

It has become increasingly evident that the activism-driven corporate world is relatively fragile and is proving to be unsustainable, particularly when viewed in the broader context of rapidly changing political and social norms and increasing divisiveness across many planes of the social contract. A number of initiatives have been underway to establish a modern corporate governance framework that is calibrated to the current environment. For our part, at the request of the World Economic Forum, we prepared a paper titled, The New Paradigm: A Roadmap for an Implicit Corporate Governance Partnership Between Corporations and Investors to Achieve Sustainable Long-Term Investment and Growth, which was issued in September 2016 and most recently updated in our memo, Some Thoughts for Boards of Directors in 2019.

In essence, The New Paradigm conceives of corporate governance as a collaboration among corporations, shareholders and other stakeholders working together to achieve long-term value and resist short-termism. While we have seen considerable interest in The New Paradigm and similar initiatives from major institutional investors and other key stakeholders, until such a framework is widely adopted, it is unlikely that absent legislation, there will be any decrease in activism. Accordingly, companies should regularly review and adjust their plans to avoid an activist attack and to successfully deal with an activist attack if one should occur. Effective engagement with major shareholders is the essential element of activist defense.

____________________________________________________________

*Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy, and Zachary S. Podolsky is a corporate associate. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum authored by Mr. Lipton and Mr. Podolsky. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here); Dancing with Activists by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, Wei Jiang, and Thomas Keusch (discussed on the Forum here); and Who Bleeds When the Wolves Bite? A Flesh-and-Blood Perspective on Hedge Fund Activism and Our Strange Corporate Governance System by Leo E. Strine, Jr. (discussed on the Forum here).

Tendances globales en gouvernance et « Trends » régionaux


À l’occasion de la nouvelle année 2019, je partage avec vous une étude de la firme Russell Reynolds Associates sur les tendances en gouvernance selon différentes régions du monde.

L’article a été publié sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum par Jack « Rusty » O’Kelley, III, Anthony Goodman et Melissa Martin.

Ce qu’il y a de particulier dans cette publication ,c’est que l’on identifie cinq (5) grandes tendances globales et que l’on tente de prédire les Trends dans plusieurs régions du monde telles que :

(1) Les États-Unis et le Canada

(2) L’Union européenne

(3) La Grande-Bretagne

(4) Le Brésil

(5) l’Inde

(6) Le Japon

Les grandes tendances observées sont :

(1) la qualité et la composition du CA

(2) le degré d’attention apportée à la surveillance de la culture organisationnelle

(3) les activités des investisseurs qui limitent la primauté des actionnaires en mettant l’accent sur le long terme

(4) la responsabilité sociale des entreprises qui constitue toujours une variable critique et

(5) les investisseurs activistes qui continuent d’exercer une pression sur les CA.

Je vous recommande la lecture intégrale de cette publication pour vous former une opinion réaliste de l’évolution des saines pratiques de gouvernance. Les États-Unis et le Canada semblent mener la marche, mais les autres régions du globe ont également des préoccupations qui rejoignent les tendances globales.

C’est une lecture très instructive pour toute personne intéressée par la gouvernance des sociétés.

Bonne lecture et Bonne Année 2019 !

 

2019 Global & Regional Trends in Corporate Governance

 

 

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Institutional investors (both active managers and index fund giants) spent the last few years raising their expectations of public company boards—a trend we expect to see continue in 2019. The demand for board quality, effectiveness, and accountability to shareholders will continue to accelerate across all global markets. Toward the end of each year, Russell Reynolds Associates interviews a global mix of institutional and activist investors, pension fund managers, proxy advisors, and other corporate governance professionals regarding the trends and challenges that public company boards may face in the coming year. This year we interviewed over 40 experts to develop our insights and identify trends.

Overview of Global Trends

 

In 2019, we expect to see the emergence or continued development of the following key global governance trends:

 

1. Board quality and composition are at the heart of corporate governance.

Since investors cannot see behind the boardroom veil, they have little choice but to rely on various governance criteria as a stand-in for board quality: whether the board is truly independent, whether its composition is deliberate and under regular review, and whether board competencies align with and support the company’s forward-looking strategy. Directors face increased scrutiny around how equipped the board is with industry knowledge, capital allocation skills, and transformation experience. Institutional investors are pushing to further encourage robust, independent, and regular board evaluation processes that may result in board evolution. Boards will need to be vigilant as they consider individual tenure, director overboarding, and gender imbalance—all of which may provoke votes against the nominating committee or its chair. Gender diversity continues to be an area of focus across many countries and investors. Companies can expect increased pressure to disclose their prioritization of board competencies, board succession plans, and how they are building a diverse pipeline of director candidates. Norges Bank Investment Management, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has set a new standard for at least two independent directors with relevant industry experience on each of their 9,000 investee boards.

2. Deeper focus on oversight of corporate culture.

Human capital and intangible assets, including organizational culture and reputation, are important aspects of enterprise value, as they directly impact the ability to attract and retain top talent. Culture risk exists when there is misalignment between the values a company seeks to embody and the behaviors it demonstrates. Investors are keen to learn how boards are engaging with management on this issue and how they go about understanding corporate culture. A few compensation committees are including culture and broader human capital issues as part of their remit.

3. Investors placing limits on shareholder primacy and emphasizing long-termism.

The role of corporations in many countries is evolving to include meeting the needs of a broader set of stakeholders. Global investors are increasingly discussing social value; long-termism; and environment, social, and governance (ESG) changes that are shifting corporations from a pure shareholder primacy model. While BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s 2018 letter to investee companies on the importance of social purpose and a strategy for achieving long-term growth generated discussion in the US, much of the rest of the world viewed this as further confirmation of the focus on broader stakeholder, as well as shareholder, concerns. Institutional investors are more actively focusing on long-termism and partnering with groups to increase the emphasis on long-term, sustainable results.

4. ESG continues to be a critical issue globally and is at the forefront of governance concerns in some countries.

Asset managers and asset owners are integrating ESG into investment decisions, some under the framework of sustainability or integrated reporting. The priority for investors will be linking sustainability to long-term value creation and balancing ESG risks with opportunities. ESG oversight, improved disclosure, relative company performance against peers, and understanding how these issues are built into corporate strategy will become key focus areas. Climate change and sustainability are critical issues to many investors and are at the forefront of governance in many countries. Some investors regard technology disruption and cybersecurity as ESG issues, while others continue to categorize them as a major business risk. Either way, investors want to understand how boards are providing adequate oversight of technology disruption and cyber risk.

5. Activist investors continue to impact boards.

Activist investors are using various strategies to achieve their objectives. The question for boards is no longer if, but when and why an activist gets involved. The characterization of activists as hostile antagonists is waning, as some activists are becoming more constructive with management. Institutional investors are increasingly open to activists’ perspectives and are deploying activist tactics to bring about desired change. Activists continue to pay close attention to individual director performance and oversight failures. We are seeing even more boards becoming “their own activist” or commissioning independent assessments to preemptively identify vulnerabilities. Firms such as Russell Reynolds are conducting more director-vulnerability analysis, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of board composition and proactively identifying where activists may attack director composition. In the following sections, we explore these trends and how they will impact the United States and Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom, Brazil, India, and Japan.

 

The United States and Canada

Investor stewardship.

Eighty-eight percent of the S&P 500 companies have either Vanguard, BlackRock, or State Street as the largest shareholder, and together these investors collectively own 18.7 percent of all the shares in the S&P 500. Because the index funds’ creators are obligated to hold shares for as long as a company is included in a relevant index (e.g., Dow Jones, S&P 500, Russell 3000), the institutional investors view themselves as permanent capital. These investors view governance not as a compliance exercise, but as a key component of value creation and risk mitigation. Passive investors are engaging even more frequently with companies to ensure that their board and management are taking the necessary actions and asking the right questions. Investors want to understand the long-term value creation story and see disclosure showing the right balance between the long term and short term. They take this very seriously and continue to invest in stewardship and governance oversight. Several of the largest institutional investors want greater focus on long-term, sustainable results and are partnering with organizations to drive the dialogue toward the long term.

Board quality.

Investors are pushing for improved board quality and view board composition, diversity, and the refreshment process as key elements. There is similarly a push for richer insight into director skill relevancy. The Boardroom Accountability Project 2.0 has encouraged more companies to disclose a “board matrix,” setting out the skills, experiences, and demographic profile of directors. That practice is fast becoming the norm for proxy disclosure. Many more institutional investors want richer disclosure around director competencies and a clearer, more direct link between each director’s skills and the company’s strategy. As one investor noted, “We want to know why this collection of directors was selected to lead the company and whether they are prepared for change and disruption.” Some of the largest US institutional investors are pushing for better board succession and board evaluation processes and the use of external firms to assess board quality, composition, and effectiveness. Institutional investors are even more concerned about board succession processes and the continued use of automatic refreshment mechanisms (retirement ages and tenure limits) rather than a “foundational assessment process over time with a mix of internal and external reviewers.”

Board diversity.

In 2019, directors should expect more investors to vote against the nominating committee or its chair if there are no women on the board (or fewer than two women in some cases). Investors want to see an increased diversity of thought and experiences to better enable the board to identify risks and improve company performance. In the US, gender diversity has become a proxy for cognitive diversity. Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has updated its policies on gender diversity for Russell 3000 and S&P 1500 companies and may recommend votes against nominating committee chairs or members beginning in 2020. This follows recent California legislation requiring gender diversity for California-headquartered companies. Some very large investors are starting to take a broader approach to diversity, particularly as it relates to ethnicity and race. In Canada, nearly 40 percent of TSX-listed companies have no women on their boards. Proxy advisors have recently established voting guidelines related to the disclosure of formal gender diversity policies and gender diversity by TSX-listed companies.

ESG.

Investors are pushing companies to consider their broader societal impact—both what they do and how they disclose it. ESG has moved from being a discrete topic to a fundamental part of how investors evaluate companies. They will increasingly focus on how companies explain their approach to value creation, the impact of the company on society, and how companies weigh various stakeholder interests. Other investors will continue to look at ESG primarily through a financial lens, screening for risk identification and measurement, incorporation of ESG into strategy and long-term value creation, and executive compensation. There is continued and growing focus in the US on sustainability and climate change across a range of sectors. In Canada, proactive companies will consider developing and disclosing their own ESG policies and upgrading boards—through both changes in director education and, on occasion, board composition—to ensure that directors are equipped to understand ESG risk.

Oversight of corporate culture.

Given many high-profile failures in corporate culture and leadership over the last few years, investors and regulators will expect more disclosure and will ask more questions regarding how a board understands the company’s culture. When engaging with institutional investors, boards should expect questions regarding how they are understanding and assessing the health of a corporation’s culture. Boards need to reflect on whether they really understand the company culture and how they plan to assess hot spots and potential issues.

Activist investing.

Shareholder activism remains part of the US corporate governance landscape and is continuing to grow in Canada. In Canada, the industries with the highest levels of activism include basic materials, energy, banking, and financial institutions, and emerging sectors with high growth potential (e.g., blockchain, cannabis) could be next. Proxy battles are showing no signs of slowing down, but activists are using other methods to promote change, such as constructive engagement. Canadian companies are also seeing an increase in proxy contests launched by former insiders or company founders. Experts in Canada anticipate this trend will continue and, as a result, increased shareholder engagement will be critical.

Executive compensation.

Investors are looking for better-quality disclosure around pay-for-performance metrics, particularly sustainability metrics linked to risk management and strategy. In the US, institutional investors may vote against pay plans where there is misalignment and against compensation committees where there is “excessive” executive pay for two or more consecutive years. Some investors are uncomfortable with stock performance being a primary driver of CEO compensation since it may not reflect real leadership impact. In Canada, investors are urging companies to adopt say-on-pay policies in the absence of a mandatory vote, even though such adoption rates have been sluggish to date. Investors will likely continue to push for this reform.

Governance codes.

Earlier this year, the Corporate Governance Principles of the Investor Stewardship Group (ISG) went into effect with the purpose of setting consistent governance standards for the US market. Version 2.0 of the Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance was also published. US companies will want to consider proactive disclosure of how they comply with these sets of principles.

European Union

Investors more active.

Institutional investors are expanding resources for their engagement and stewardship teams in Europe. In 2019, investors will focus on connecting governance to long-term value creation through board oversight of talent management, ESG, and corporate culture. Additionally, some US activists are setting their sights on Europe and raising funds focused on European companies. Institutional investors are more willing to support activist investors if inadequate oversight by the board has led to poor share price and total shareholder return (TSR) performance.

Company and board diversity.

Though EU boards tend to have more women directors due to legislation and regulation, progress on gender diversity has not carried over into the C-suite. Boards can expect to engage with investors on this topic and will need to explain the root causes and plans to address it through talent management processes and diversity and inclusion initiatives. With gender diversity regulations already widely adopted across Europe, Austria has now also stipulated that public company boards have at least 30 percent women directors. However, since board terms are usually for five years, the full impact likely will not be visible until future election cycles.

ESG.

Many investors are encouraging use of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework for consistent measurement, assessment, and disclosure of ESG risks. Investors are likely to integrate climate-change competency and risk oversight into their voting guidelines in some form, and boards will need to demonstrate that they are thinking strategically about the opportunities, risks, and impact of climate change. A new legislative proposal in France could mandate that companies consider various stakeholders, the social environment, and the nonfinancial outcome of their actions.

Revised governance codes.

A recent study found strong compliance rates for the German Corporate Governance Code, except for the areas of executive remuneration and board composition recommendations. German boards should expect more investor engagement and pressure on these matters, including enhanced disclosure. Next year, the German code may include amendments impacting director independence and executive compensation. The revised governance code in the Netherlands focuses more closely on how long-term value creation and culture are vital elements within the governance framework. Denmark’s code now recommends that remuneration policies be approved at least every four years and bars retiring CEOs from stepping into the chairman or vice chairman role.

Board leadership.

Norges Bank Investment Management (commonly referred to as The Government Pension Fund Global) is pushing globally for the separation of CEO and chairman roles and independent chair appointments. In France, investors are focused on board composition and quality. Boards should expect to see continued pressure on separating the CEO and chairman roles as well as strengthening the role and prevalence of the lead director. Companies without a lead director could see negative votes against the reelection of the CEO/chair.

United Kingdom

Revised code.

Recent legislation and market activity have set the stage for the United Kingdom to implement governance reforms that will continue to influence global markets. The new UK Corporate Governance code will apply to reporting periods starting from January 1, 2019, although many companies have begun to apply it more quickly. The new code was complemented by updated and enhanced Guidance on Board Effectiveness to reemphasize that boards need to focus on improving their effectiveness—not just their compliance. Meanwhile the voluntary principle of “comply or explain” is itself being tested as the Kingman Review reconsiders the Financial Reporting Council’s powers and its twin role as both the government-designated regulator and the custodian of a voluntary code. Proxy advisors, who are growing more powerful, are also frequently voting against firms choosing to “explain” rather than comply. 2019 code changes include guidance around the board’s duty to consider the perspective of key stakeholders and to incorporate their interests into discussion and decisionmaking. Employees can be engaged via designating an existing non-executive director (already on the board), a workforce advisory committee, or a workforce representative on the board.

Board leadership and composition.

Other changes in the code include prioritizing non-executive chair succession planning and capping non-executive chair total tenure at nine years (including any time spent previously as a non-executive director)—a recommendation which could impact over 10 percent of the FTSE 350. Several investors noted that they understand the new tenure rule may cause unintended consequences around board chair succession planning. Investors are likely to focus on skills mix, diversity, and functional and industry experience. While directors can expect negative votes against their reelection if they are currently on more than four boards, better disclosure of director capacity and commitment may help sway investors.

Culture oversight.

The board’s evolving role in overseeing corporate culture—now explicit in the revised code—will be a primary focus for investors in 2019. The Financial Reporting Council has suggested that culture can be measured using several factors, such as turnover and absenteeism rates, reward and promotion decisions, health and safety data, and exit interviews. The code emphasizes that the board is responsible for a healthy culture that should promote delivering long-term sustainable performance. Auditor reform. Given public concern about recent corporate collapses, the role of external auditor and the structure of the audit firm market are under scrutiny. The government is under pressure to improve auditing and increase competition. Audit independence, rigor, and quality are likely to be examined, and boards may face greater pressure to change auditors more regularly. ISS is changing its policies for its UK/Ireland (and Continental European) policies beginning in 2019. ISS will begin tracking significant audit quality issues at the lead engagement partner level and will identify (when possible) any lead audit partners who have been linked to significant audit controversies.

Activist investors.

While institutional investors’ concerns center around the impact of disruption and how companies are responding with an eye toward long-termism and sustainability, activist campaigns continue to act as a potential counterweight. UK companies account for about 55 percent of activist campaigns in Europe, and UK companies will likely continue to be targeted next year.

Company diversity.

Diversity will continue to be a priority for board attention, including gender and ethnic diversity. The revised code broadened the role of the nominating committee to oversee the development of diversity in senior management ranks and to review diversity and inclusion initiatives and outcomes throughout the business.

Brazil

Outlook.

Following the highly polarized presidential election, Brazil is still facing some political uncertainty around the potential business and political agenda the new government will pursue. Despite recent ministry appointments being generally well received, global investors will likely still be cautious about investing in the country given the government’s deep history of entanglement with corporate affairs.

Governance reforms and stewardship.

Governance regulation is still in its early stages in Brazil and continues to be focused on overhauling compliance practices and implementing governance reforms. Securities regulator CVM recently issued guidelines regarding indemnity agreements between companies and board members (and other company stakeholders), which could lead to possible disclosure implications. The guidance serves to warn companies about potential conflicts of interest, and directors are cautioned to pay close attention to these new policies. Brazilian public companies are now required to file a comply-or-explain governance report as part of the original mandate stemming from the 2016 Corporate Governance Code, with an emphasis on the quality of such disclosures. Stewardship continues to be of growing importance, and boards are at the center of that discussion. The Association of Capital Market Investors is focusing on ensuring that the CVM and other market participants are holding companies to the highest governance standards not issuing waivers or failing to hold companies accountable for their actions.

Improved independence.

There is an ongoing push for more independence within the governance framework. More independent directors are being appointed to boards due to wider capital distribution. Brazil is working toward implementing reforms targeting political appointments within state-owned enterprises (SOE), but progress could slow depending upon the new government’s priorities. Recently, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved legislation that would allow politicians to once again be nominated to SOE boards. The Federal Senate will soon decide on the proposal, but its approval could trigger a backlash. Organizations like the Brazilian Institute of Corporate Governance are firmly positioning themselves against the law change, viewing it as a step back from recent governance progress. However, the Novo Mercado rules and Corporate Governance Code are strengthening the definition of independence and using shareholder meetings to confirm the independence of those directors.

Remote voting.

The recent introduction of the remote voting card for shareholders could have a major impact on boards. Public companies required to implement the new system should expect to see more flexibility and inclusion of minority shareholder-backed nominees on the ballot. While Brazil is making year-over-year progress toward minority shareholder protections, they continue to be a challenge.

Board effectiveness.

Experts anticipate increased pressure to upgrade board mechanics and processes, including establishing a nominations policy regarding board director and committee appointments, routine board evaluation processes, succession planning, and onboarding/training programs. CVM, along with B3 (the Brazilian stock exchange), continues to push for higher governance standards and processes. There is an increased focus on board and director assessment (whether internally or externally led) to ensure board effectiveness and the right board composition. Under the Corporate Governance Code, companies will have to comply or explain why they do not have a board assessment process.

Compensation disclosure.

For almost a decade, Brazilian companies used a court injunction (known as the “IBEF Injunction”) to avoid having to disclose the remuneration of their highest-paid executives. Now that this has been overturned, public companies will be expected to start disclosing compensation information for their highest-paid executives and board members. Companies are concerned that the disclosure may trigger a backlash among minority shareholders and negative votes against remuneration.

India

Regulatory reform.

Motivated by a desire to attract global investments, curb corruption, and strengthen corporate governance, India is continuing to push for regulatory reform. In the spring of 2018, much to the surprise of many, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) adopted many of the 81 provisions put forward by the Kotak Committee. The adoption of the recommendations has caused many companies to consider and aspire to meet this new standard. Kotak implementation has triggered a significant wave of governance implications centered around improving transparency and financial reporting. The adoption of these governance reforms is staggered, with most companies striving to reach compliance between April 2019 and April 2020.

Board composition, leadership, and independence.

Boards will face enhanced disclosure rules regarding the skills and experience of directors, which has triggered many companies to engage in board composition assessments. Directors will also be limited in the number of boards they can serve on simultaneously: eight in 2019; seven in 2020. The top 1,000 listed companies in India will need to ensure they have a minimum of six directors on their boards by April 2019, with the next 1,000 having an additional year to comply. Among other changes are new criteria for independence determinations and changes to director compensation. Additionally, the CEO or managing director role and the chair role must be separated and cannot be held by the same person for the top 500 listed companies by market capitalization. This will significantly change board leadership and control in many companies where the role was held by the same person, and it will boost overall independence. To further drive board and director independence, the definition of independence was strengthened, and board interlocks will receive greater scrutiny.

Board diversity.

India continues to make improvements toward gender diversity five years after the Companies Act of 2013 and ongoing pressure from investors and policymakers. Nevertheless, institutional investors and proxy advisors are calling for more progress, as a quarter of women appointments are held by family members of the business owners (and are thus not independent). Starting in 2019, boards of the top 500 listed companies will need to ensure they have at least one independent woman director; by 2020, the top 1,000 listed companies will need to comply.

Board effectiveness.

The reforms also include a requirement for the implementation of an oversight process for succession planning and updating the board evaluation and director review process.

Investor expectations.

Governance stakeholders are eager to see how much progress Indian companies will make during the next 18 months, but many are not overly optimistic given the magnitude of change required in such a short period of time. Investors are setting their expectations accordingly and understand that regional governance norms will not transform overnight. While it is unclear exactly how the government and regulators will respond to noncompliance, companies and their boards are feeling anxious about the potential repercussions and penalties.

Japan

Continued focus on governance.

The Japanese government continues to be a driving force for corporate governance improvements. To make Japan more attractive to global investors, policymakers are increasingly focused on improving board accountability. Despite a trend toward more proactive investor stewardship, regulatory bodies including the Financial Services Agency continue to lead reforms, with several new comply-or-explain guidelines added to the Amended Corporate Governance Code that came into effect in 2018. These guidelines, such as minimum independence requirements, establishing an objective CEO succession and dismissal process, and the unloading of cross-shareholdings, are aimed at enhancing transparency.

Director independence.

Director independence has been a concern for investors, with outside directors taking only about 31 percent of board seats. Though some observers perceive a weakening of language in the code regarding independence, investors are unlikely to lower their expectations and standards. The amended code now calls for at least one-third of the board to be composed of outside directors (up from the quota requirement of two directors that existed previously). The change is intended to encourage transparency and accountability around the board’s decision-making process. Starting next year, ISS will adopt a similar approach to its Japanese governance policies, employing a one-third independence threshold as well.

Executive compensation.

Given recent scandals, institutional investors and regulators will continue to pay close attention to the structure of executive compensation. Performance-based compensation plans will be a major area of focus in 2019. More companies are introducing new types of equity-based compensation schemes, such as restricted stock, and are expected to follow the trend into next year. Board diversity. Over 50 percent of listed companies still have no women on their boards. To upgrade board quality and performance, investors will likely engage more forcefully on gender diversity, board composition and processes, board oversight duties and roles, and the board director evaluation process.

ESG.

In 2019, boards can expect more shareholder interest in sustainability metrics and strategy. Investors are keen to see enhanced disclosure that aids their understanding of value creation and the link to performance targets, as well as explanations concerning board monitoring.

Activist investing.

Activism continues to rise in Japan, and we expect that trend to continue. Activists are showing a willingness to demand a board seat and engage in proxy battles, and institutional investors are increasingly willing to support the activist recommendations.

Governance practices.

Investors also will be paying close attention to several other governance practices, such as the earlier disclosure of proxy materials and delivery in digital format, and protecting the interest of minority shareholders. The code further emphasizes succession planning by requiring companies to implement a fair and transparent process for the CEO’s removal and succession. As a result, more companies are introducing nominating committees and discussing

CEO succession.

Companies are also being urged to unload their cross-shareholdings (when a listed company owns stock of another company in the same listing) and adopt controls that will determine whether the ownership of such equity is appropriate. Such holdings are likely to be policed more by regulators due to the tendency of such holdings to insulate boards from external pressure, including takeover bids.

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*Jack “Rusty” O’Kelley, III is Global Leader of the Board Advisory & Effectiveness Practice, Anthony Goodman is a member of the Board Consulting and Effectiveness Practice, and Melissa Martin is a Board and CEO Advisory Group Specialist at Russell Reynolds Associates.at Russell Reynolds Associates. This post is based on a Russell Reynolds memorandum by Mr. O’Kelley, Mr. Goodman, and Ms. Martin.

 

Recommandations des firmes de conseils en votation pour l’année 2019


Comme à chaque fin d’année, le blogue du Harvard Law School on Corporate Governance Forum, présente un sommaire des grandes tendances en gouvernance.

Voici les recommandations que les firmes-conseils en votation Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) et Glass Lewis & Co. font aux actionnaires qui voteront lors des assemblées annuelles de 2019.

Ces changements aux politiques de votation nous offrent une belle occasion de constater l’évolution des pratiques de saine gouvernance.

Bonne lecture !

 

ISS and Glass Lewis Policy Updates for the 2019 Proxy Season

 

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The key changes to ISS’ proxy voting policies for 2019 relate to:

Board Gender Diversity—Beginning in 2020, ISS will generally recommend voting against nominating committee chairs (and potentially other directors) at companies with no female directors unless certain mitigating factors apply.

Economic Value Added Data for Pay-For-Performance Evaluation—In 2019, solely for informational purposes, ISS will include on a phased-in basis Economic Value Added (EVA) data in its proxy research reports as a supplement to GAAP/accounting performance measures to provide additional insight into company performance when evaluating pay-for-performance alignment. ISS will continue to explore the potential future use of EVA data as part of its pay-for-performance evaluation.

Management Ratification Proposals

Under a new policy, ISS will generally recommend voting against management proposals to ratify provisions of the company’s existing charter or bylaws, unless such provisions align with best practice.

ISS will also recommend voting against or withholding from individual directors, members of the governance committee or the full board, where boards ask shareholders to ratify existing charter or bylaw provisions considering specified factors.

Under a revised policy, if a management proposal to ratify existing charter or bylaw provisions fails to receive majority support, ISS will conduct a board responsiveness analysis for the next annual meeting.

Chronic Poor Attendance by Directors—In cases of “chronic poor attendance” by a director (defined as three or more consecutive years of poor attendance without reasonable explanation), in addition to recommending votes against the director(s) with chronic poor attendance, ISS will generally recommend voting against or withholding from appropriate members of the nominating/governance committee or the full board.

Director Performance Evaluation—Under a revised policy, when evaluating director performance, ISS will assess a company’s 5-year total shareholder returns (TSR) as part of the initial screen for underperformance rather than during the second step of its evaluation.

Reverse Stock Splits—Under a revised policy, ISS will evaluate on a case-by-case basis certain management proposals to implement reverse stock splits, taking into consideration (i) disclosure of substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern without additional financing, (ii) the company’s rationale or (iii) other factors as applicable.

Shareholder Proposals on Environmental and Social (E&S) Issues—Under a revised policy, ISS expanded the factors it will consider when analyzing E&S shareholder proposals to include whether there are significant controversies, fines, penalties or litigation associated with the company’s E&S practices.

Excessive Non-Employee Director Compensation—ISS will delay until at least 2020 its previously-announced new policy of potentially issuing negative vote recommendations against members of the board committee responsible for setting or approving excessive non-employee director compensation in two or more consecutive years without a compelling rationale or other mitigating factors.

Nouvelles perspectives pour la gouvernance en 2018


Aujourd’hui, je vous propose la lecture d’un excellent article de Martin Lipton* sur les nouvelles perspectives de la gouvernance en 2018. Cet article est publié sur le site du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

Après une brève introduction portant sur les meilleures pratiques observées dans les entreprises cotées, l’auteur se penche sur les paramètres les plus significatifs de la nouvelle gouvernance.

Les thèmes suivants sont abordés dans un contexte de renouvellement de la gouvernance pour le futur :

  1. La notion de l’actionnariat élargie pour tenir compte des parties prenantes ;
  2. L’importance de considérer le développement durable et la responsabilité sociale des entreprises ;
  3. L’adoption de stratégies favorisant l’engagement à long terme ;
  4. La nécessité de se préoccuper de la composition des membres du CA ;
  5. L’approche à adopter eu égard aux comportements d’actionnaires/investisseurs activistes ;
  6. Les attentes eu égard aux rôles et responsabilités des administrateurs.

À l’approche de la nouvelle année 2018, cette lecture devrait compter parmi les plus utiles pour les administrateurs et les dirigeants d’entreprises ainsi que pour toute personne intéressée par l’évolution des pratiques de gouvernance.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont appréciés.

 

Some Thoughts for Boards of Directors in 2018

 

 

Introduction

 

As 2017 draws to a conclusion and we reflect on the evolution of corporate governance since the turn of the millennium, a recurring question percolating in boardrooms and among shareholders and other stakeholders, academics and politicians is: what’s next on the horizon for corporate governance? In many respects, we seem to have reached a point of relative stasis. The governance and takeover defense profiles of U.S. public companies have been transformed by the widespread adoption of virtually all of the “best practices” advocated to enhance the rights of shareholders and weaken takeover defenses.

While the future issues of corporate governance remain murky, there are some emerging themes that portend a potentially profound shift in the way that boards will need to think about their roles and priorities in guiding the corporate enterprise. While these themes are hardly new, they have been gaining momentum in prompting a rethinking of some of the most basic assumptions about corporations, corporate governance and the path forward.

First, while corporate governance continues to be focused on the relationship between boards and shareholders, there has been a shift toward a more expansive view that is prompting questions about the broader role and purpose of corporations. Most of the governance reforms of the past few decades targeted the ways in which boards are structured and held accountable to the interests of shareholders, with debates often boiling down to trade-offs between a board-centric versus a more shareholder-centric framework and what will best create shareholder value. Recently, efforts to invigorate a more long-term perspective among both corporations and their investors have been laying the groundwork for a shift from these process-oriented debates to elemental questions about the basic purpose of corporations and how their success should be measured and defined.

In particular, sustainability has become a major, mainstream governance topic that encompasses a wide range of issues such as climate change and other environmental risks, systemic financial stability, labor standards, and consumer and product safety. Relatedly, an expanded notion of stakeholder interests that includes employees, customers, communities, and the economy and society as a whole has been a developing theme in policymaking and academic spheres as well as with investors. As summarized in a 2017 report issued by State Street Global Advisor,

“Today’s investors are looking for ways to put their capital to work in a more sustainable way, one focused on long-term value creation that enables them to address their financial goals and responsible investing needs. So, for a growing number of institutional investors, the environmental, social and governance (ESG) characteristics of their portfolio are key to their investment strategy.”

While both sustainability and expanded constituency considerations have been emphasized most frequently in terms of their impact on long-term shareholder value, they have also been prompting fresh dialogue about the societal role and purpose of corporations.

Another common theme that underscores many of the corporate governance issues facing boards today is that corporate governance is inherently complex and nuanced, and less amenable to the benchmarking and quantification that was a significant driver in the widespread adoption of corporate governance “best practices.” Prevailing views about what constitutes effective governance have morphed from a relatively binary, check-the-box mentality—such as whether a board is declassified, whether shareholders can act by written consent and whether companies have adopted majority voting standards—to tackling questions such as how to craft a well-rounded board with the skills and experiences that are most relevant to a particular corporation, how to effectively oversee the company’s management of risk, and how to forge relationships with shareholders that meaningfully enhance the company’s credibility. Companies and investors alike have sought to formulate these “next generation” governance issues in a way that facilitates comparability, objective assessment and accountability. For example, many companies have been including skills matrices in their proxy statements to show, in a visual snapshot, that their board composition encompasses appropriate skills and experiences. Yet, to the extent that complicated governance issues cannot be reduced to simple, user-friendly metrics, it remains to be seen whether this will prompt new ways of defining “good” corporate governance that require a deeper understanding of companies and their businesses, and the impact that could have on the expectations and practices of stakeholders.

Against this backdrop, a few of the more significant issues that boards of directors will face in the coming year, as well as an overview of some key roles and responsibilities, are highlighted below. Parts II through VI contain brief summaries of some of the leading proposals and thinking for corporate governance of the future. In Part VII, we turn to the issues boards of directors will face in 2018 and suggestions as to how to prepare to deal with them.

 

Expanded Stakeholders

 

The primacy of shareholder value as the exclusive objective of corporations, as articulated by Milton Friedman and then thoroughly embraced by Wall Street, has come under scrutiny by regulators, academics, politicians and even investors. While the corporate governance initiatives of the past year cannot be categorized as an abandonment of the shareholder primacy agenda, there are signs that academic commentators, legislators and some investors are looking at more nuanced and tempered approaches to creating shareholder value.

In his 2013 book, Firm Commitment: Why the Corporation is Failing Us and How to Restore Trust in It, and a series of brilliant articles and lectures, Colin Mayer of the University of Oxford has convincingly rejected shareholder value primacy and put forth proposals to reconceive the business corporation so that it is committed to all its stakeholders, including the community and the general economy. His new book, Prosperity: Better Business Makes the Greater Good, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2018, continues the theme of his earlier publications and will be required reading.

Similarly, an influential working paper by Oliver Hart and Luigi Zingales argues that the appropriate objective of the corporation is shareholder welfare rather than shareholder wealth. Hart and Zingales advocate that corporations and asset managers should pursue policies consistent with the preferences of their investors, specifically because corporations may be able to accomplish objectives that shareholders acting individually cannot. In such a setting, the implicit separability assumption underlying Milton Friedman’s theory of the purpose of the firm fails to produce the best outcome for shareholders. Indeed, even though Hart and Zingales propose a revision that remains shareholder-centered, by recognizing the unique capability of corporations to engage in certain kinds of activities, their theory invites a careful consideration of other goals such as sustainability, board diversity and employee welfare, and even such social concerns, as, for example, reducing mass violence or promoting environmental stewardship. Such a model of corporate decision-making emphasizes the importance of boards establishing a relationship with significant shareholders to understand shareholder goals, beyond simply assuming that an elementary wealth maximization framework is the optimal path.

Perhaps closer to a wholesale rejection of the shareholder primacy agenda, an article by Joseph L. Bower and Lynn S. Paine, featured in the May-June 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review, attacks the fallacies of the economic theories that have been used since 1970 to justify shareholder-centric corporate governance, short-termism and activist attacks on corporations. In questioning the benefits of hedge fund activism, Bower and Paine argue that some of the value purportedly created for shareholders by activists is not actually value created, but rather value transferred from other parties or from the public purse, such as shifting a company’s tax domicile to a lower-tax jurisdiction or eliminating exploratory research and development. The article supports the common sense notion that boards have a fiduciary duty not just to shareholders, but also to employees, customers and the community—a constituency theory of governance penned into law in a number of states’ business corporation laws.

Moreover, this theme has been metastasizing from a theoretical debate into specific reform initiatives that, if implemented, could have a direct impact on boards. For example, Delaware and 32 other states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation approving a new corporate form—the benefit corporation —a for-profit corporate entity with expanded fiduciary obligations of boards to consider other stakeholders in addition to shareholders. Benefit corporations are mandated by law to consider their overall positive impact on society, their workers, the communities in which they operate and the environment, in addition to the goal of maximizing shareholder profit.

This broader sense of corporate purpose has been gaining traction among shareholders. For example, the endorsement form for the Principles published by the Investor Stewardship Group in 2017 includes:

“[I]t is the fiduciary responsibility of all asset managers to conduct themselves in accordance with the preconditions for responsible engagement in a manner that accrues to the best interests of stakeholders and society in general, and that in so doing they’ll help to build a framework for promoting long-term value creation on behalf of U.S. companies and the broader U.S. economy.”

Notions of expanded stakeholder interests have often been incorporated into the concept of long-termism, and advocating a long-term approach has also entailed the promotion of a broader range of stakeholder interests without explicitly eroding the primacy of shareholder value. Recently, however, the interests of other stakeholders have increasingly been articulated in their own right rather than as an adjunct to the shareholder-centric model of corporate governance. Ideas about the broader social purpose of corporations have the potential to drive corporate governance reforms into uncharted territory requiring navigation of new questions about how to measure and compare corporate performance, how to hold companies accountable and how to incentivize managers.

 

Sustainability

 

The meaning of sustainability is no longer limited to describing environmental practices, but rather more broadly encompasses the sustainability of a corporation’s business model in today’s fast-changing world. The focus on sustainability encompasses the systemic sustainability of public markets and pressures boards to think about corporate strategy and how governance should be structured to respond to and compete in this environment.

Recently, the investing world has seen a rise of ESG-oriented funds—previously a small, niche segment of the investment community. Even beyond these specialized funds, ESG has also become a focus of a broad range of traditional investment funds and institutional investors. For instance, BlackRock and State Street both offer their investors products that specifically focus on ESG-oriented topics like climate change and impact investing—investing with an intention of generating a specific social or environmental outcome alongside financial returns.

At the beginning of 2017, State Street’s CEO Ronald P. O’Hanley wrote a letter advising the boards of the companies in which State Street invests that State Street defines sustainability “as encompassing a broad range of environmental, social and governance issues that include, for example, effective independent board leadership and board composition, diversity and talent development, safety issues, and climate change.” The letter was a reminder that broader issues that impact all of a company’s stakeholders may have a material effect on a company’s ability to generate returns. Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Laurence D. Fink remarked similarly in his January 2017 letter that

“[e]nvironmental, social and governance factors relevant to a company’s business can provide essential insights into management effectiveness and thus a company’s long-term prospects. We look to see that a company is attuned to the key factors that contribute to long-term growth: sustainability of the business model and its operations, attention to external and environmental factors that could impact the company, and recognition of the company’s role as a member of the communities in which it operates.”

Similarly, the UN Principles for Responsible Investment remind corporations that ESG factors should be incorporated into all investment decisions to better manage risk and generate sustainable, long-term returns.

Shareholders’ engagement with ESG issues has also increased. Previously, ESG was somewhat of a fringe issue with ESG-related shareholder proxy proposals rarely receiving significant shareholder support. This is no longer the case. In the 2017 proxy season, the two most common shareholder proposal topics related to social (201 proposals) and environmental (144 proposals, including 69 on climate change) issues, as opposed to 2016’s top two topics of proxy access (201) and social issues (160). Similar to cybersecurity and other risk management issues, sustainability practices involve the nuts and bolts of operations—e.g., life-cycle assessments of a product and management of key performance indicators (KPIs) using management information systems that facilitate internal and public reporting—and provide another example of an operational issue that has become a board/governance issue.

The expansion of sustainability requires all boards—not just boards of companies with environmentally sensitive businesses—to be aware of and be ready to respond to ESG-related concerns. The salient question is whether “best” sustainability practices will involve simply the “right” messaging and disclosures, or whether investors and companies will converge on a method to measure sustainability practices that affords real impact on capital allocation, risk-taking and proactive—as opposed to reactive—strategy.

Indeed, measurement and accountability are perhaps the elephants in the room when it comes to sustainability. Many investors appear to factor sustainability into their investing decisions. Other ways to measure sustainability practices include the presence of a Chief Sustainability Officer or Corporate Responsibility Committee. However, while there are numerous disclosure frameworks relating to sustainability and ESG practices, there is no centralized ESG rating system. Further, rating methodologies and assessments of materiality vary widely across ESG data providers and disclosure requirements vary across jurisdictions.

Pending the development of clear and agreed standards to benchmark performance on ESG issues, boards of directors should focus on understanding how their significant investors value and measure ESG issues, including through continued outreach and engagement with investors focusing on these issues, and should seek tangible agreed-upon methodologies to address these areas, while also promoting the development of improved metrics and disclosure.

Promoting a Long-Term Perspective

 

As the past year’s corporate governance conversation has explored considerations outside the goal of maximizing shareholder value, the conversation within the shareholder value maximization framework has also continued to shift toward an emphasis on long-term value rather than short term. A February 2017 discussion paper from the McKinsey Global Institute in cooperation with Focusing Capital on the Long Term found that long-term focused companies, as measured by a number of factors including investment, earnings quality and margin growth, generally outperformed shorter-term focused companies in both financial and other performance measures. Long-term focused companies had greater, and less volatile, revenue growth, more spending on research and development, greater total returns to shareholders and more employment than other firms.

This empirical evidence that corporations focused on stakeholders and long-term investment contribute to greater economic growth and higher GDP is consistent with innovative corporate governance initiatives. A new startup, comprised of veterans of the NYSE and U.S. Treasury Department, is working on creating the “Long-Term Stock Exchange”—a proposal to build and operate an entirely new stock exchange where listed companies would have to satisfy not only all of the normal SEC requirements to allow shares to trade on other regulated U.S. stock markets but, in addition, other requirements such as tenured shareholder voting power (permitting shareholder voting to be proportionately weighted by the length of time the shares have been held), mandated ties between executive pay and long-term business performance and disclosure requirements informing companies who their long-term shareholders are and informing investors of what companies’ long-term investments are.

In addition to innovative alternatives, numerous institutional investors and corporate governance thought leaders are rethinking the mainstream relationship between all boards of directors and institutional investors to promote a healthier focus on long-term investment. While legislative reform has taken a stronger hold in the U.K. and Europe, leading American companies and institutional investors are pushing for a private sector solution to increase long-term economic growth. Commonsense Corporate Governance Principles and The New Paradigm: A Roadmap for an Implicit Corporate Governance Partnership Between Corporations and Investors to Achieve Sustainable Long-Term Investment and Growth were published in hopes of recalibrating the relationship between boards and institutional investors to protect the economy against the short-term myopic approach to management and investing that promises to impede long-term economic prosperity. Under a similar aim, the Investor Stewardship Group published its Stewardship Principles and Corporate Governance Principles, set to become effective in January 2018, to establish a framework with six principles for investor stewardship and six principles for corporate governance to promote long-term value creation in American business. A Synthesized Paradigm for Corporate Governance, Investor Stewardship, and Engagement provides a synthesis of these and others in the hope that companies and investors would agree on a common approach. In fact, over 100 companies to date have signed The Compact for Responsive and Responsible Leadership: A Roadmap for Sustainable Long-Term Growth and Opportunity, sponsored by the World Economic Forum, which includes the key features of The New Paradigm.

Similarly, the BlackRock Investment Stewardship team has proactively outlined five focus areas for its engagement efforts: Governance, Corporate Strategy for the Long-Term, Executive Compensation that Promotes Long-Termism, Disclosure of Climate Risks, and Human Capital Management. BlackRock’s outline reflects a number of key trends, including heightened transparency by institutional investors, more engagement by “passive” investors, and continued disintermediation of proxy advisory firms. In the United Kingdom, The Investor Forum was founded to provide an intermediary to represent the views of its investor members to investee companies in the hope of reducing activism, and appears to have achieved a successful start.

Similarly, in June 2017, the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism and Ernst & Young jointly announced the launch of a project on long-term value creation. Noting among other elements that trust and social cohesion are necessary ingredients for the long-term success of capitalism, the project will emphasize reporting mechanisms and credible measurements supporting long-term value, developing and testing a framework to better reflect the full value companies create beyond simply financial value. There is widespread agreement that focusing on long-term investment will promote long-term economic growth. The next step is a consensus between companies and investors on a common path of action that will lead to restored trust and cohesion around long-term goals.

 

Board Composition

 

The corporate governance conversation has become increasingly focused on board composition, including board diversity. Recent academic studies have confirmed and expanded upon existing empirical evidence that hedge fund activism has been notably counterproductive in increasing gender diversity—yet another negative externality of this type of activism. Statistical evidence supports the hypothesis that the rate of shareholder activism is higher toward female CEOs holding all else equal, including industries, company sizes and levels of performance. A study forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology investigated the reasons that hedge fund activists seemingly ignore the evidence for gender-diverse boards in their choices for director nominees and disproportionately target female CEOs. The authors suggest these reasons may include subconscious biases of hedge funds against women leaders due to perceptions and cultural attitudes.

In the United Kingdom, the focus on board diversity has spread into policy. The House of Commons Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee report on Corporate Governance, issued in 2017, included recommendations for improving ethnic, gender and social diversity of boards, noting that “[to] be an effective board, individual directors need different skills, experience, personal attributes and approaches.” The U.K. government’s response to this report issued in September 2017 notes its agreement on various diversity-related issues, stating that the “Government agrees with the Committee that it makes business sense to recruit directors from as broad a base as possible across the demographic of the UK” and further, tying into themes of stakeholder capitalism, that the “Government believes that greater diversity within the boardroom can help companies connect with their workforces, supply chains, customers and shareholders.”

In the United States, institutional investors are focused on a range of board composition issues, including term limits, board refreshment, diversity, skills matrices and board evaluation processes, as well as disclosures regarding these issues. In a recent letter, Vanguard explained that it considers the board to be “one of a company’s most critical strategic assets” and looks for a “high-functioning, well-composed, independent, diverse, and experienced board with effective ongoing evaluation practices,” stating that “Good governance starts with a great Board.” The New York Comptroller’s Boardroom Accountability Project 2.0 is focused on increasing diversity of boards in order to strengthen their independence and competency. In connection with launching this campaign, the NYC Pension Funds asked the boards of 151 U.S. companies to disclose the race and gender of their directors alongside board members’ skills in a standardized matrix format. And yet, similar to the difficulty of measuring and comparing sustainability efforts of companies, investors and companies alike continue to struggle with how to measure and judge a board’s diversity, and board composition generally, as the conversation becomes more nuanced. Board composition and diversity aimed at increasing board independence and competency is not a topic that lends itself to a “check-the-box” type measurement.

In light of the heightened emphasis on board composition, boards should consider increasing their communications with their major shareholders about their director selection and nomination processes to show the board understands the importance of its composition. Boards should consider disclosing how new director candidates are identified and evaluated, how committee chairs and the lead director are determined, and how the operations of the board as a whole and the performance of each director are assessed. Boards may also focus on increasing tutorials, facility visits, strategic retreats and other opportunities to increase the directors’ understanding of the company’s business—and communicate such efforts to key shareholders and constituents.

 

Activism

 

Despite the developments and initiatives striving to protect and promote long-term investment, the most dangerous threat to long-term economic prosperity has continued to surge in the past year. There has been a significant increase in activism activity in countries around the world and no slowdown in the United States. The headlines of 2017 were filled with activists who do not fit the description of good stewards of the long-term interests of the corporation. A must-read Bloombergarticle described Paul Singer, founder of Elliott Management Corp., which manages $34 billion of assets, as “aggressive, tenacious and litigious to a fault” and perhaps “the most feared activist investor in the world.” Numerous recent activist attacks underscore that the CEO remains a favored activist target. Several major funds have become more nuanced and taken a merchant banker approach of requesting board representation to assist a company to improve operations and strategy for long-term success. No company is too big for an activist attack. Substantial new capital has been raised by activist hedge funds and several activists have created special purpose funds for investment in a single target. As long as activism remains a serious threat, the economy will continue to experience the negative externalities of this approach to investing—companies attempting to avoid an activist attack are increasingly managed for the short term, cutting important spending on research and development and focusing on short-term profits by effecting share buybacks and paying dividends at the expense of investing in a strategy for long-term growth.

To minimize the impact of activist attacks, boards must focus on building relationships with major institutional investors. The measure of corporate governance success has shifted from checking the right boxes to building the right relationships. Major institutional investors have reiterated their commitment to bringing a long-term perspective to public companies, including, for example, Vanguard, which sent an open letter to directors of public companies world-wide explaining that a long-term perspective informed every aspect of its investment approach. Only by forging relationships of trust and credibility with long-term shareholders can a company expect to gain support for its long-term strategy when it needs it. In many instances, when an activist does approach, a previously established relationship provides a foundation for management and the board to persuade key shareholders that short-term activism is not in their best interest—an effort that is already showing some promise. General Motors’ resounding defeat of Greenlight Capital’s attempt to gain shareholder approval to convert its common stock into two classes shows a large successful company’s ability to garner the

support of its institutional investors against financial engineering. Trian’s recent proxy fight against Procter & Gamble shows the importance of proactively establishing relationships with long-term shareholders. Given Trian’s proven track record of success in urging changes in long-term strategy, Nelson Peltz was able to gain support for a seat on P&G’s board from proxy advisors and major institutional investors. We called attention to importantlessons from this proxy fight (discussed on the Forum here and here).

 

Spotlight on Boards

 

The ever-evolving challenges facing corporate boards prompts an updated snapshot of what is expected from the board of directors of a major public company—not just the legal rules, but also the aspirational “best practices” that have come to have equivalent influence on board and company behavior. In the coming year, boards will be expected to:

Oversee corporate strategy and the communication of that strategy to investors;

Set the tone at the top to create a corporate culture that gives priority to ethical standards, professionalism, integrity and compliance in setting and implementing strategic goals;

Choose the CEO, monitor the CEO’s and management’s performance and develop a succession plan;

Determine the agendas for board and committee meetings and work with management to assure appropriate information and sufficient time are available for full consideration of all matters;

Determine the appropriate level of executive compensation and incentive structures, with awareness of the potential impact of compensation structures on business priorities and risk-taking, as well as investor and proxy advisor views on compensation;

Develop a working partnership with the CEO and management and serve as a resource for management in charting the appropriate course for the corporation;

Oversee and understand the corporation’s risk management and compliance efforts, and how risk is taken into account in the corporation’s business decision-making; respond to red flags when and if they arise (see Risk Management and the Board of Directors, discussed on the Forum here);

Monitor and participate, as appropriate, in shareholder engagement efforts, evaluate potential corporate governance proposals and anticipate possible activist attacks in order to be able to address them more effectively;

Evaluate the board’s performance on a regular basis and consider the optimal board and committee composition and structure, including board refreshment, expertise and skill sets, independence and diversity, as well as the best way to communicate with investors regarding these issues;

Review corporate governance guidelines and committee charters and tailor them to promote effective board functioning;

Be prepared to deal with crises; and

Be prepared to take an active role in matters where the CEO may have a real or perceived conflict, including takeovers and attacks by activist hedge funds focused on the CEO.

To meet these expectations, major public companies should seek to:

Have a sufficient number of directors to staff the requisite standing and special committees and to meet expectations for diversity;

Have directors who have knowledge of, and experience with, the company’s businesses, even if this results in the board having more than one director who is not “independent”;

Have directors who are able to devote sufficient time to preparing for and attending board and committee meetings;

Meet investor expectations for director age, diversity and periodic refreshment;

Provide the directors with the data that is critical to making sound decisions on strategy, compensation and capital allocation;

Provide the directors with regular tutorials by internal and external experts as part of expanded director education; and

Maintain a truly collegial relationship among and between the company’s senior executives and the members of the board that enhances the board’s role both as strategic partner and as monitor.

______________________________________

*Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton publication by Mr. Lipton, Steven A. Rosenblum, Karessa L. Cain, Sabastian V. Niles, Vishal Chanani, and Kathleen C. Iannone.

Une saine tension entre le CA et la direction : Gage d’une bonne gouvernance | Billet revisité


Dans son édition d’avril 2016, le magazine Financier Worldwide présente une excellente analyse de la dynamique d’un conseil d’administration efficace.

Pour l’auteur, il est important que le président du conseil soit habileté à exercer un niveau de saine tension entre les administrateurs et la direction de l’entreprise.

Il n’y a pas de place pour la complaisance au conseil. Les membres doivent comprendre que leur rôle est de veiller aux « intérêts supérieurs » de l’entreprise, notamment des propriétaires-actionnaires, mais aussi d’autres parties prenantes.

Le PDG de l’entreprise est recruté par le CA pour faire croître l’entreprise et exécuter une stratégie liée à son modèle d’affaires. Lui aussi doit travailler en fonction des intérêts des actionnaires… mais c’est la responsabilité fiduciaire du CA de s’en assurer en mettant en place les mécanismes de surveillance appropriés.

La théorie de l’agence stipule que le CA représente l’autorité souveraine de l’entreprise (puisqu’il possède la légitimité que lui confèrent les actionnaires). Le CA confie à un PDG (et à son équipe de gestion) le soin de réaliser les objectifs stratégiques retenus. Les deux parties — le Board et le Management — doivent bien comprendre leurs rôles respectifs, et trouver les bons moyens pour gérer la tension inhérente à l’exercice de la gouvernance et de la gestion.

Les administrateurs doivent s’efforcer d’apporter une valeur ajoutée à la gestion en conseillant la direction sur les meilleures orientations à adopter, et en instaurant un climat d’ouverture, de soutien et de transparence propice à la réalisation de performances élevées.

Il est important de noter que les actionnaires s’attendent à la loyauté des administrateurs ainsi qu’à leur indépendance d’esprit face à la direction. Les administrateurs sont élus par les actionnaires et sont donc imputables envers eux. C’est la raison pour laquelle le conseil d’administration doit absolument mettre en place un processus d’évaluation de ces membres et divulguer sa méthodologie.

Également, comme mentionné dans un billet daté du 5 juillet 2016 (la séparation des fonctions de président du conseil et de président de l’entreprise [CEO] est-elle généralement bénéfique ?), les autorités réglementaires, les firmes spécialisées en votation et les experts en gouvernance suggèrent que les rôles et les fonctions de président du conseil d’administration soient distincts des attributions des PDG (CEO).

En fait, on suppose que la séparation des fonctions, entre la présidence du conseil et la présidence de l’entreprise (CEO), est généralement bénéfique à l’exercice de la responsabilité de fiduciaire des administrateurs, c’est-à-dire que des pouvoirs distincts permettent d’éviter les conflits d’intérêts, tout en rassurant les actionnaires.

Cependant, cette pratique cède trop souvent sa place à la volonté bien arrêtée de plusieurs PDG d’exercer le pouvoir absolu, comme c’est encore le cas pour plusieurs entreprises américaines. Pour plus d’information sur ce sujet, je vous invite à consulter l’article suivant : Séparation des fonctions de PDG et de président du conseil d’administration | Signe de saine gouvernance !

Le Collège des administrateurs de sociétés (CAS) offre une formation spécialisée de deux jours sur le leadership à la présidence.

 

Banque des ASC
Gouvernance et leadership à la présidence

 

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, l’article du Financier Worldwide qui illustre assez clairement les tensions existantes entre le CA et la direction, ainsi que les moyens proposés pour assurer la collaboration entre les deux parties.

J’ai souligné en gras les passages clés.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont appréciés.

 

In this age of heightened risk, the need for effective governance has caused a dynamic shift in the role of the board of directors. Cyber security, rapid technological growth and a number of corporate scandals resulting from the financial crisis of 2008, all underscore the necessity of boards working constructively with management to ensure efficient oversight, rather than simply providing strategic direction. This is, perhaps, no more critical than in the middle market, where many companies often don’t have the resources larger organisations have to attract board members, but yet their size requires more structure and governance than smaller companies might need.

Following the best practices of high-performing boards can help lead to healthy tension between management and directors for improved results and better risk management. We all know conflict in the boardroom might sometimes be unavoidable, as the interests of directors and management don’t necessarily always align. Add various personalities and management styles to the mix, and discussions can sometimes get heated. It’s important to deal with situations when they occur in order to constructively manage potential differences of opinion to create a healthy tension that makes the entire organisation stronger.

Various conflict management styles can be employed to ensure that any potential boardroom tension within your organisation is healthy. If an issue seems minor to one person but vital to the rest of the group, accommodation can be an effective way to handle tension. If minor issues arise, it might be best to simply avoid those issues, whereas collaboration should be used with important matters. Arguably, this is the best solution for most situations and it allows the board to effectively address varying opinions. If consensus can’t be reached, however, it might become necessary for the chairman or the lead director to use authoritarian style to manage tension and make decisions. Compromise might be the best approach when the board is pressed for time and needs to take immediate action.

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The board chairperson can be integral to the resolution process, helping monitor and manage boardroom conflict. With this in mind, boards should elect chairs with the proven ability to manage all personality types. The chairperson might also be the one to initiate difficult conversations on topics requiring deeper scrutiny. That said, the chairperson cannot be the only enforcer; directors need to assist in conflict resolution to maintain a proper level of trust throughout the group. And the CEO should be proactive in raising difficult issues as well, and boards are typically most effective when the CEO is confident, takes the initiative in learning board best practices and works collaboratively.

Gone are the days of the charismatic, autocratic CEO. Many organisations have separated the role of CEO and chairperson, and have introduced vice chairs and lead directors to achieve a better balance of power. Another way to ensure a proper distribution of authority is for the board to pay attention to any red flags that might be raised by the CEO’s behaviour. For example, if a CEO feels they have all the answers, doesn’t respect the oversight of the board, or attempts to manage or marginalise the board, the chairperson and board members will likely need to be assertive, rather than simply following the CEO’s lead. Initially this might seem counterintuitive, however, in the long-run, this approach will likely create a healthier tension than if they simply ‘followed the leader’.

Everyone in the boardroom needs to understand their basic functions for an effective relationship -executives should manage, while the board oversees. In overseeing, the board’s major responsibilities include approving strategic plans and goals, selecting a CEO, determining a mission or purpose, identifying key risks, and providing oversight of the compliance of corporate policies and regulations. Clearly understanding the line between operations and strategy is also important.

Organisations with the highest performing boards are clear on the appropriate level of engagement for the companies they represent – and that varies from one organisation to the next. Determining how involved the board will be and what type of model the board will follow is key to effective governance and a good relationship with management. For example, an entity that is struggling financially might require a more engaged board to help put it back on track.

Many elements, such as tension, trust, diversity of thought, gender, culture and expertise can impact the delicate relationship between the board and management. Good communication is vital to healthy tension. Following best practices for interaction before, during and after board meetings can enhance conflict resolution and board success.

Before each board meeting, management should prepare themselves and board members by distributing materials and the board package in a timely manner. These materials should be reviewed by each member, with errors or concerns forwarded to the appropriate member of management, and areas of discussion highlighted for the chair. An agenda focused on strategic issues and prioritised by importance of matters can also increase productivity.

During the meeting, board members should treat one another with courtesy and respect, holding questions held until after presentations (or as the presenter directs). Board-level matters should be discussed and debated if necessary, and a consensus reached. Time spent on less strategic or pressing topics should be limited to ensure effective meetings. If appropriate, non-board-level matters might be handed to management for follow-up.

Open communication should also continue after board meetings. Sometimes topics discussed during board meetings take time to digest. When this happens, board members should connect with appropriate management team members to further discuss or clarify. There are also various board committee meetings that need to occur between board meetings. Board committees should be doing the ‘heavy lifting’ for the full board, making the larger group more efficient and effective. Other more informal interactions can further strengthen the relationship between directors and management.

Throughout the year, the board’s engagement with management can be broadened to include discussions with more key players. Gaining multiple perspectives by interacting with other areas of the organisation, such as general counsels, external and internal auditors, public relations and human resources, can help the board identify and address key risks. By participating in internal and external company events, board members get to know management and the company’s customers on a first-hand basis.

Of course, a strategy is necessary for the board as well, as regulatory requirements have increased, leading to greater pressure for high-quality performance. Effective boards maintain a plan for development and succession. They also implement CEO and board evaluation processes to ensure goals are being met and board members are performing optimally. In addition to the evaluation process, however, board members must hold themselves totally accountable for instilling trust in the boardroom.

Competition in today’s increasingly global and complex business environment is fierce, and calls for new approaches for success. Today’s boards need to build on established best practices and create good relationships with management to outperform competitors. The highest performing boards are clear on their functions, and understand the level of engagement appropriate for the companies they support. They are accountable and set the right tone, while being able to discern true goals and aspirations from trendiness. They are capable of understanding and dealing with the ‘big issues’ and are strategic in their planning and implementation of approaches that work for the companies they serve. With the ever-changing risk universe, the ability to work with the right amount of healthy tension is essential to effective governance.

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Hussain T. Hasan is on the Consulting Leadership team as well as a board member at RSM US LLP.

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


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

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

Les sept défis abordés dans le rapport sont les suivants :

– talent et capital humain ;

– technologie et cybersécurité ;

– perturbation des modèles d’affaires ;

– paysage réglementaire en évolution ;

– incertitude politique et économique ;

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

– environnement et changements climatiques.

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

Bonne lecture !

 

Tendances en audit

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Éléments clés à considérer par les administrateurs dans la gouvernance des organisations


Récemment, je suis intervenu auprès du conseil d’administration d’une OBNL et j’ai animé une discussion tournant autour des thèmes suivants en affirmant certains principes de gouvernance que je pense être incontournable.

J’ai regroupé les thèmes en 15 volets :

(1) Le conseil d’administration est souverain — il est l’ultime organe décisionnel.

(2) Le rôle des administrateurs est d’assurer la saine gestion de l’organisation en fonction d’objectifs établis. L’administrateur a un rôle de fiduciaire, non seulement envers les membres qui les ont élus, mais aussi envers les parties prenantes de toute l’organisation. Son rôle comporte des devoirs et des responsabilités envers celle-ci.

(3) Les administrateurs ont un devoir de surveillance et de diligence ; ils doivent cependant s’assurer de ne pas s’immiscer dans la gestion de l’organisation (« nose in, fingers out »).

(4) La décision la plus importante du conseil d’administration est le choix du premier dirigeant, c’est-à-dire le directeur général de l’organisation.

(5) Les administrateurs élus par l’assemblée générale ne sont pas porteurs des intérêts propres à leur groupe ; ce sont les intérêts supérieurs de l’organisation qui priment.

(6) Le président du conseil est le chef d’orchestre du groupe d’administrateurs ; il doit être en étroite relation avec le premier dirigeant et bien comprendre les coulisses du pouvoir. Il doit de plus s’assurer que chaque administrateur apporte une valeur ajoutée aux décisions du CA.

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « gouvernance des organisations »

(7) Les membres du conseil doivent entretenir des relations de collaboration et de respect entre eux ; ils doivent viser les consensus et exprimer leur solidarité, notamment par la confidentialité des échanges.

(8) Les administrateurs doivent être bien préparés pour les réunions du conseil et ils doivent poser les bonnes questions afin de bien comprendre les enjeux et de décider en toute indépendance d’esprit. Pour ce faire, ils peuvent tirer profit de l’avis d’experts indépendants.

(9) La composition du conseil devrait refléter la diversité de l’organisation. On doit privilégier l’expertise, la connaissance de l’industrie et la complémentarité.

(10) Le conseil d’administration doit accorder toute son attention aux orientations stratégiques de l’organisation et passer le plus clair de son temps dans un rôle de conseil stratégique.

(11) Le rôle des comités du conseil (Ressources humaines, audit, gouvernance) est crucial ; ceux-ci doivent alimenter la réflexion des membres du conseil et faire des recommandations.

(12) La nécessité de fonctionner avec un comité exécutif varie selon la configuration du conseil d’administration de l’organisation.

(13) Chaque réunion devrait se conclure par un huis clos, systématiquement inscrit à l’ordre du jour de toutes les rencontres.

(14) Le président du comité de gouvernance doit mettre en place une évaluation du fonctionnement et de la dynamique du conseil.

(15) Les administrateurs doivent prévoir des activités de formation en gouvernance et en éthique.

 

Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

Quelles sont les tendances en gouvernance qui se sont avérées au cours des 4 dernières années ?


Dans un premier temps, j’ai tenté de répondre à cette question en renvoyant le lecteur à deux publications que j’ai faites sur le sujet. C’est du genre check-list !

Puis, dans un deuxième temps, je vous invite à consulter les documents suivants qui me semblent très pertinents pour répondre à la question. Il s’agit en quelque sorte d’une revue de la littérature sur le sujet.

  1. La gouvernance relative aux sociétés en 2017 | Un « Survey » des entreprises du SV 150 et de la S&P 100
  2. Principales tendances en gouvernance à l’échelle internationale en 2017
  3. Séparation des fonctions de PDG et de président du conseil d’administration | Signe de saine gouvernance !
  4. Six mesures pour améliorer la gouvernance des organismes publics au Québec | Yvan Allaire
  5. Cadre de référence pour évaluer la gouvernance des sociétés | Questionnaire de 100 items
  6. La gouvernance française suit-elle la tendance mondiale ?
  7. Enquête mondiale sur les conseils d’administration et la gouvernance

 

J’espère que ces commentaires vous seront utiles, même si mon intervention est colorée par la situation canadienne et américaine !

Bonne lecture !

 

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

 

Gouvernance : 12 tendances à surveiller

 

J’ai réalisé une entrevue avec le Journal des Affaires le 17 mars 2014. Une rédactrice au sein de l’Hebdo des AG, un média numérique qui se consacre au traitement des sujets touchant à la gouvernance des entreprises françaises, m’a contacté afin de connaître mon opinion sur quelles « prédictions » se sont effectivement avérées, et lesquelles restent encore à améliorer.

J’ai préparé quelques réflexions en référence aux douze tendances que j’avais identifiées le 17 mars 2014. J’ai donc revisité les tendances afin de vérifier comment la situation avait évolué en quatre ans. J’ai indiqué en rouge mon point de vue eu égard à ces tendances.

 « Si la gouvernance des entreprises a fait beaucoup de chemin depuis quelques années, son évolution se poursuit. Afin d’imaginer la direction qu’elle prendra au cours des prochaines années, nous avons consulté l’expert en gouvernance Jacques Grisé, ex- directeur des programmes du Collège des administrateurs de sociétés, de l’Université Laval. Toujours affilié au Collège, M. Grisé publie depuis plusieurs années le blogue www.jacquesgrisegouvernance.com, un site incontournable pour rester à l’affût des bonnes pratiques et tendances en gouvernance. Voici les 12 tendances dont il faut suivre l’évolution, selon Jacques Grisé »

 

  1. Les conseils d’administration réaffirmeront leur autorité. « Auparavant, la gouvernance était une affaire qui concernait davantage le management », explique M. Grisé. La professionnalisation de la fonction d’administrateur amène une modification et un élargissement du rôle et des responsabilités des conseils. Les CA sont de plus en plus sollicités et questionnés au sujet de leurs décisions et de l’entreprise. Cette affirmation est de plus en plus vraie. La formation certifiée en gouvernance est de plus en plus prisée. Les CA, et notamment les présidents de CA, sont de plus en plus sollicités pour expliquer leurs décisions, leurs erreurs et les problèmes de gestion de crise.
  2. La formation des administrateurs prendra de l’importance. À l’avenir, on exigera toujours plus des administrateurs. C’est pourquoi la formation est essentielle et devient même une exigence pour certains organismes. De plus, la formation continue se généralise ; elle devient plus formelle. Il va de soi que la formation en gouvernance prendra plus d’importance, mais les compétences et les expériences reliées au secteur d’activité de l’entreprise seront toujours très recherchées.
  3. L’affirmation du droit des actionnaires et celle du rôle du conseil s’imposeront. Le débat autour du droit des actionnaires par rapport à celui des conseils d’administration devra mener à une compréhension de ces droits conflictuels. Aujourd’hui, les conseils doivent tenir compte des parties prenantes en tout temps. Il existe toujours une situation potentiellement conflictuelle entre les intérêts des actionnaires et la responsabilité des administrateurs envers toutes les parties prenantes.
  4. La montée des investisseurs activistes se poursuivra. L’arrivée de l’activisme apporte une nouvelle dimension au travail des administrateurs. Les investisseurs activistes s’adressent directement aux actionnaires, ce qui mine l’autorité des conseils d’administration. Est-ce bon ou mauvais ? La vision à court terme des activistes peut être néfaste, mais toutes leurs actions ne sont pas négatives, notamment parce qu’ils s’intéressent souvent à des entreprises qui ont besoin d’un redressement sous une forme ou une autre. Pour bien des gens, les fonds activistes sont une façon d’améliorer la gouvernance. Le débat demeure ouvert. Le débat est toujours ouvert, mais force est de constater que l’actionnariat activiste est en pleine croissance partout dans le monde. Les effets souvent décriés des activistes sont de plus en plus acceptés comme bénéfiques dans plusieurs situations de gestion déficiente.
  5. La recherche de compétences clés deviendra la norme. De plus en plus, les organisations chercheront à augmenter la qualité de leur conseil en recrutant des administrateurs aux expertises précises, qui sont des atouts dans certains domaines ou secteurs névralgiques. Cette tendance est très nette. Les CA cherchent à recruter des membres aux expertises complémentaires.
  6. Les règles de bonne gouvernance vont s’étendre à plus d’entreprises. Les grands principes de la gouvernance sont les mêmes, peu importe le type d’organisation, de la PME à la société ouverte (ou cotée), en passant par les sociétés d’État, les organismes à but non lucratif et les entreprises familiales. Ici également, l’application des grands principes de gouvernance se généralise et s’applique à tous les types d’organisation, en les adaptant au contexte.
  7. Le rôle du président du conseil sera davantage valorisé. La tendance veut que deux personnes distinctes occupent les postes de président du conseil et de PDG, au lieu qu’une seule personne cumule les deux, comme c’est encore trop souvent le cas. Un bon conseil a besoin d’un solide leader, indépendant du PDG. Le rôle du Chairman est de plus en plus mis en évidence, car c’est lui qui représente le conseil auprès des différents publics. Il est de plus en plus indépendant de la direction. Les É.U. sont plus lents à adopter la séparation des fonctions entre Chairman et CEO.
  8. La diversité deviendra incontournable. Même s’il y a un plus grand nombre de femmes au sein des conseils, le déficit est encore énorme. Pourtant, certaines études montrent que les entreprises qui font une place aux femmes au sein de leur conseil sont plus rentables. Et la diversité doit s’étendre à d’autres origines culturelles, à des gens de tous âges et d’horizons divers. La diversité dans la composition des conseils d’administration est de plus en plus la norme. On a fait des progrès remarquables à ce chapitre, mais la tendance à la diminution de la taille des CA ralentit quelque peu l’accession des femmes aux postes d’administratrices.
  9. Le rôle stratégique du conseil dans l’entreprise s’imposera. Le temps où les CA ne faisaient qu’approuver les orientations stratégiques définies par la direction est révolu. Désormais, l’élaboration du plan stratégique de l’entreprise doit se faire en collaboration avec le conseil, en profitant de son expertise. Certes, l’un des rôles les plus importants des administrateurs est de voir à l’orientation de l’entreprise, en apportant une valeur ajoutée aux stratégies élaborées par la direction. Les CA sont toujours sollicités, sous une forme ou une autre, dans la conception de la stratégie.
  10. La réglementation continuera de se raffermir. Le resserrement des règles qui encadrent la gouvernance ne fait que commencer. Selon Jacques Grisé, il faut s’attendre à ce que les autorités réglementaires exercent une surveillance accrue partout dans le monde, y compris au Québec, avec l’Autorité des marchés financiers. En conséquence, les conseils doivent se plier aux règles, notamment en ce qui concerne la rémunération et la divulgation. Les responsabilités des comités au sein du conseil prendront de l’importance. Les conseils doivent mettre en place des politiques claires en ce qui concerne la gouvernance. Les conseils d’administration accordent une attention accrue à la gouvernance par l’intermédiaire de leur comité de gouvernance, mais aussi par leurs comités de RH et d’Audit. Les autorités réglementaires mondiales sont de plus en plus vigilantes eu égard à l’application des principes de saine gouvernance. La SEC, qui donnait souvent le ton dans ce domaine, est en mode révision de la réglementation parce que le gouvernement de Trump la juge trop contraignante pour les entreprises. À suivre !
  11. La composition des conseils d’administration s’adaptera aux nouvelles exigences et se transformera. Les CA seront plus petits, ce qui réduira le rôle prépondérant du comité exécutif, en donnant plus de pouvoir à tous les administrateurs. Ceux-ci seront mieux choisis et formés, plus indépendants, mieux rémunérés et plus redevables de leur gestion aux diverses parties prenantes. Les administrateurs auront davantage de responsabilités et seront plus engagés dans les comités aux fonctions plus stratégiques. Leur responsabilité légale s’élargira en même temps que leurs tâches gagnent en importance. Il faudra donc des membres plus engagés, un conseil plus diversifié, dirigé par un leader plus fort. C’est la voie que les CA ont empruntée. La taille des CA est de plus en plus réduite ; les conseils exécutifs sont en voie de disparition pour faire plus de place aux trois comités statutaires : Gouvernance, Ressources Humaines et Audit. Les administrateurs sont de plus en plus engagés et ils doivent investir plus de temps dans leurs fonctions.
  12. L’évaluation de la performance des conseils d’administration deviendra la norme. La tendance est déjà bien ancrée aux États-Unis, où les entreprises engagent souvent des firmes externes pour mener cette évaluation. Certaines choisissent l’auto-évaluation. Dans tous les cas, le processus est ouvert et si les résultats restent confidentiels, ils contribuent à l’amélioration de l’efficacité des conseils d’administration. Effectivement, l’évaluation de la performance des conseils d’administration est devenue une pratique quasi universelle dans les entreprises cotées. Celles-ci doivent d’ailleurs divulguer le processus dans le rapport aux actionnaires. On assiste à un énorme changement depuis les dix dernières années.

 

À ces 12 tendances, il faudrait en ajouter deux autres qui se sont révélées cruciales pour les conseils d’administration depuis quelques années :

(1) la mise en œuvre d’une politique de gestion des risques, l’identification des risques, l’évaluation des facteurs de risque eu égard à leur probabilité d’occurrence et d’impact sur l’organisation, le suivi effectué par le comité d’audit et par l’auditeur interne.

(2) le renforcement des ressources du conseil par l’ajout de compétences liées à la cybersécurité. La sécurité des données est l’un des plus grands risques des entreprises.

 

Aspects fondamentaux à considérer par les administrateurs dans la gouvernance des organisations

 

 

Récemment, je suis intervenu auprès du conseil d’administration d’une OBNL et j’ai animé une discussion tournant autour des thèmes suivants en affirmant certains principes de gouvernance que je pense être incontournables.

Vous serez certainement intéressé par les propositions suivantes :

(1) Le conseil d’administration est souverain — il est l’ultime organe décisionnel.

(2) Le rôle des administrateurs est d’assurer la saine gestion de l’organisation en fonction d’objectifs établis. L’administrateur a un rôle de fiduciaire, non seulement envers les membres qui les ont élus, mais aussi envers les parties prenantes de toute l’organisation. Son rôle comporte des devoirs et des responsabilités envers celle-ci.

(3) Les administrateurs ont un devoir de surveillance et de diligence ; ils doivent cependant s’assurer de ne pas s’immiscer dans la gestion de l’organisation (« nose in, fingers out »).

(4) Les administrateurs élus par l’assemblée générale ne sont pas porteurs des intérêts propres à leur groupe ; ce sont les intérêts supérieurs de l’organisation qui priment.

(5) Le président du conseil est le chef d’orchestre du groupe d’administrateurs ; il doit être en étroite relation avec le premier dirigeant et bien comprendre les coulisses du pouvoir.

(6) Les membres du conseil doivent entretenir des relations de collaboration et de respect entre eux ; ils doivent viser les consensus et exprimer leur solidarité, notamment par la confidentialité des échanges.

(7) Les administrateurs doivent être bien préparés pour les réunions du conseil et ils doivent poser les bonnes questions afin de bien comprendre les enjeux et de décider en toute indépendance d’esprit. Pour ce faire, ils peuvent tirer profit de l’avis d’experts indépendants.

(8) La composition du conseil devrait refléter la diversité de l’organisation. On doit privilégier l’expertise, la connaissance de l’industrie et la complémentarité.

(9) Le conseil d’administration doit accorder toute son attention aux orientations stratégiques de l’organisation et passer le plus clair de son temps dans un rôle de conseil stratégique.

(10) Chaque réunion devrait se conclure par un huis clos, systématiquement inscrit à l’ordre du jour de toutes les rencontres.

(11) Le président du CA doit procéder à l’évaluation du fonctionnement et de la dynamique du conseil.

(12) Les administrateurs doivent prévoir des activités de formation en gouvernance et en éthique.

 

Voici enfin une documentation utile pour bien appréhender les grandes tendances qui se dégagent dans le monde de la gouvernance aux É.U., au Canada et en France.

 

  1. La gouvernance relative aux sociétés en 2017 | Un « Survey » des entreprises du SV 150 et de la S&P 100
  2. Principales tendances en gouvernance à l’échelle internationale en 2017
  3. Séparation des fonctions de PDG et de président du conseil d’administration | Signe de saine gouvernance !
  4. Six mesures pour améliorer la gouvernance des organismes publics au Québec | Yvan Allaire
  5. Cadre de référence pour évaluer la gouvernance des sociétés | Questionnaire de 100 items
  6. La gouvernance française suit-elle la tendance mondiale ?
  7. Enquête mondiale sur les conseils d’administration et la gouvernance

 

Cadre de référence pour évaluer la gouvernance des sociétés – un questionnaire de 100 items | En rappel


Le Bureau de la vérification interne (BVI) de l’Université de Montréal (UdeM) a récemment développé un cadre de référence novateur pour l’évaluation de la gouvernance. La méthodologie, ainsi que le questionnaire qui en résulte, contribue, à mon avis, à l’avancement des connaissances dans le domaine de l’évaluation des caractéristiques et des pratiques de la gouvernance par les auditeurs internes.

Ayant eu l’occasion de collaborer à la conception de cet instrument de mesure de la gouvernance des sociétés, j’ai obtenu du BVI la permission de publier le résultat de cet exercice.

Cette version du cadre se veut « générique » et peut être utilisée pour l’évaluation de la gouvernance d’un projet, d’une activité, d’une unité ou d’une entité.

De ce fait, les termes, les intervenants ainsi que les structures attendues doivent être adaptés au contexte de l’évaluation. Il est à noter que ce cadre de référence correspond à une application optimale recherchée en matière de gouvernance. Certaines pratiques pourraient ne pas s’appliquer ou ne pas être retenues de façon consciente et transparente par l’organisation.

Le questionnaire se décline en dix thèmes, chacun comportant dix items :

 

 

Thème 1 — Structure et fonctionnement du Conseil

Thème 2 — Travail du président du Conseil

Thème 3 — Relation entre le Conseil et le directeur général (direction)

Thème 4 — Structure et travail des comités du Conseil

Thème 5 — Performance du Conseil et de ses comités

Thème 6 — Recrutement, rémunération et évaluation du rendement du directeur général

Thème 7 — Planification stratégique

Thème 8 — Performance et reddition de comptes

Thème 9 — Gestion des risques

Thème 10 — Éthique et culture organisationnelle

 


 

On retrouvera en Annexe une représentation graphique du cadre conceptuel qui permet d’illustrer les liens entre les thèmes à évaluer dans le présent référentiel.

L’évaluation s’effectue à l’aide d’un questionnaire de type Likert (document distinct du cadre de référence). L’échelle de Likert est une échelle de jugement par laquelle la personne interrogée exprime son degré d’accord ou de désaccord eu égard à une affirmation ou une question.

 

  1. Tout à fait d’accord
  2. D’accord
  3. Ni en désaccord ni d’accord
  4. Pas d’accord
  5. Pas du tout d’accord
  6. Ne s’applique pas (S.O.)

 

Une section commentaire est également incluse dans le questionnaire afin que les participants puissent exprimer des informations spécifiques à la question. L’audit interne doit réaliser son évaluation à l’aide de questionnaires ainsi que sur la base de la documentation qui lui sera fournie.

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « gouvernance d'entreprise »

 

Thème 1 — Structure et fonctionnement du Conseil

(Questions destinées au président du comité de gouvernance [PCG] et/ou au président du Conseil [PC])

 

1.       Le Conseil compte-t-il une proportion suffisante de membres indépendants pour lui permettre d’interagir de manière constructive avec la direction ?
2.       La taille du Conseil vous semble-t-elle raisonnable compte tenu des objectifs et de la charge de travail actuel ? (dans une fourchette idéale de 9 à 13 membres, avec une moyenne d’environ 10 membres)
3.       La composition du Conseil est-elle guidée par une politique sur la diversité des membres ?
4.       Le Conseil a-t-il conçu un processus rigoureux de recrutement de ses membres, basé sur une matrice des compétences complémentaires ?
5.       Le président et les membres du comité responsable du recrutement (comité de gouvernance) ont-ils clairement exprimé aux candidats potentiels les attentes de l’organisation en matière de temps, d’engagement et de contributions reliés avec leurs compétences ?
6.       Les réunions sont-elles bien organisées et structurées ? (durée, PV, taux de présence, documentation pertinente et à temps, etc.)
7.       Les échanges portent-ils sur surtout sur des questions stratégiques, sans porter sur les activités courantes (qui sont davantage du ressort de l’équipe de direction) ?
8.       Les membres sont-ils à l’aise d’émettre des propos qui vont à contre-courant des idées dominantes ?
9.       Une séance à huis clos est-elle systématiquement prévue à la fin de chacune des réunions afin de permettre aux membres indépendants de discuter des sujets sensibles ?
10.    Les membres ont-ils accès à la planification des rencontres sur une période idéale de 18 mois en y incluant certains items ou sujets récurrents qui seront abordés lors des réunions du Conseil (plan de travail) ?

 

 

Thème 2 — Travail du président du Conseil 

(Questions destinées à un administrateur indépendant, au PC [auto-évaluation] et au président du comité de gouvernance [PCG])

 

1.       Le président s’assure-t-il de former un solide tandem avec le directeur général et de partager avec lui une vision commune de l’organisation ?
2.       Le président promeut-il de hauts standards d’efficacité et d’intégrité afin de donner le ton à l’ensemble de l’organisation ?
3.       Le président, de concert avec le directeur général, prépare-t-il adéquatement les réunions du Conseil ?
4.       Le président préside-t-il avec compétence et doigté les réunions du Conseil ?
5.       Le président s’assure-t-il que les échanges portent surtout sur des questions stratégiques et que les réunions du Conseil ne versent pas dans la micro gestion ?
6.       Le président s’investit-il pleinement dans la sélection des présidents et des membres des comités du Conseil ?
7.       Le président s’assure-t-il de l’existence d’une formation et d’une trousse d’accueil destinées aux nouveaux membres afin qu’ils soient opérationnels dans les plus brefs délais ?
8.       Le président s’assure-t-il de l’existence d’un processus d’évaluation du rendement du Conseil et de ses membres ?
9.       Le président prend-il la peine d’aborder les membres non performants pour les aider à trouver des solutions ?
10.    Le président s’assure-t-il que les membres comprennent bien leurs devoirs de fiduciaire, c’est-à-dire qu’ils doivent veiller aux meilleurs intérêts de l’organisation et non aux intérêts de la base dont ils sont issus ?

 

 

Thème 3 — Relation entre le Conseil et le directeur général (direction)

(Questions destinées au PC et au Directeur général [DG])

 

1.       Le président du Conseil et le directeur général ont-ils des rencontres régulières et statutaires pour faire le point entre les réunions du Conseil ?
2.       Le président du Conseil et le directeur général maintiennent-ils une communication franche et ouverte ? (équilibre entre une saine tension et des relations harmonieuses et efficaces)
3.       Le Conseil résiste-t-il à la tentation de faire de la micro gestion lors de ses réunions et s’en tient-il à assumer les responsabilités qui lui incombent ?
4.       Le Conseil agit-il de façon respectueuse à l’endroit du directeur général lors des réunions du Conseil et cherche-t-il à l’aider à réussir ?
5.       Le Conseil procède-t-il à une évaluation annuelle du rendement du directeur général (par le comité de GRH) basée sur des critères objectifs et mutuellement acceptés ?
6.       Les membres du Conseil s’abstiennent-ils de donner des ordres ou des directives aux employés qui relèvent de l’autorité du directeur général ?
7.       Le président comprend-il que le directeur général ne relève pas de lui, mais plutôt du Conseil, et agit-il en conséquence ?
8.       Le directeur général aide-t-il adéquatement le président dans la préparation des réunions du Conseil, fournit-il aux membres l’information dont ils ont besoin et répond-il à leurs questions de manière satisfaisante ?
9.       Le directeur général s’assure-t-il de ne pas embourber les réunions du Conseil de sujets qui relèvent de sa propre compétence ?
10.    Le directeur général accepte-t-il de se rallier aux décisions prises par le Conseil, même dans les cas où il a exprimé des réserves ?

 

 

Thème 4 — Structure et travail des comités du Conseil

 (Questions destinées au PC et au président d’un des comités)

 

1.       Existe-t-il, au sein de votre organisation, les comités du Conseil suivants :

·         Audit ?

·         Gouvernance ?

·         Ressources humaines ?

·         Gestion des risques ?

·         Sinon, a-t-on inclus les responsabilités de ces comités dans le mandat du Conseil ou d’une autre instance indépendante ?

·         Autres comités reliés à la recherche (ex. éthique, scientifique) ?

 

2.       Les recommandations des comités du Conseil aident-elles le Conseil à bien s’acquitter de son rôle ?
3.       Les comités du Conseil sont-ils actifs et présentent-ils régulièrement des rapports au Conseil ?
4.       Estimez-vous que les comités créent de la valeur pour votre organisation ?
5.       Les comités du Conseil s’abstiennent-ils de s’immiscer dans la sphère de responsabilité du directeur général ?
6.       À l’heure actuelle, la séparation des rôles et responsabilités respectifs du Conseil, des comités et de la direction est-elle officiellement documentée, généralement comprise et mise en pratique ?
7.       Les membres qui siègent à un comité opérationnel comprennent-ils qu’ils travaillent sous l’autorité du directeur général ?
8.       Le directeur général est-il invité à assister aux réunions des comités du Conseil ?
9.       Chacun des comités et des groupes de travail du Conseil dispose-t-il d’un mandat clair et formulé par écrit ?
10.    S’il existe un comité exécutif dans votre organisation, son existence est-elle prévue dans le règlement de régie interne et, si oui, son rôle est-il clairement défini ?

 

 

Thème 5 — Performance du Conseil et de ses comités 

(Questions destinées au PC et au président du comité de gouvernance [PCG])

 

1.       Est-ce que la rémunération des membres du Conseil a été déterminée par le comité de gouvernance ou avec l’aide d’un processus indépendant ? (Jetons de présence ?)
2.       Par quels processus s’assure-t-on que le Conseil consacre suffisamment de temps et d’attention aux tendances émergentes et à la prévision des besoins futurs de la collectivité qu’il sert ?
3.       Est-ce que l’on procède à l’évaluation de la performance du Conseil, des comités et de ses membres au moins annuellement ?
4.       Est-ce que la logique et la démarche d’évaluation ont été expliquées aux membres du Conseil, et ceux-ci ont-ils pu donner leur point de vue avant de procéder à l’évaluation ?
5.       A-t-on convenu préalablement de la façon dont les données seront gérées de manière à fournir une garantie sur la confidentialité de l’information recueillie ?
6.       Est-ce que le président de Conseil croit que le directeur général et la haute direction font une évaluation positive de l’apport des membres du Conseil ?
7.       L’évaluation du Conseil et de ses comités mène-t-elle à un plan d’action réaliste pour prendre les mesures nécessaires selon leur priorité ?
8.       L’évaluation du Conseil permet-elle de relever les lacunes en matière de compétences et d’expérience qui pourraient être comblées par l’ajout de nouveaux membres ?
9.       Est-ce que les membres sont évalués en fonction des compétences et connaissances qu’ils sont censés apporter au Conseil ?
10.    Les membres sont-ils informés par le président du Conseil de leurs résultats d’évaluation dans le but d’aboutir à des mesures de perfectionnement ?

 

 

Thème 6 — Recrutement, rémunération et évaluation du rendement du DG

(Questions destinées au PC, au DG [auto-évaluation] et au président du comité des RH)

 

1.       Existe-t-il une description du poste de directeur général ? Cette description a-t-elle servi au moment de l’embauche du titulaire du poste ?
2.       Un comité du Conseil (comité de GRH) ou un groupe de membres indépendants est-il responsable de l’évaluation du rendement du directeur général (basé sur des critères objectifs) ?
3.       Le président du Conseil s’est-il vu confier un rôle prépondérant au sein du comité responsable de l’évaluation du rendement du directeur général afin qu’il exerce le leadership que l’on attend de lui ?
4.       Le comité responsable de l’évaluation du rendement et le directeur général ont-ils convenu d’objectifs de performance sur lesquels ce dernier sera évalué ?
5.       Le rendement du directeur général est-il évalué au moins une fois l’an en fonction de ces objectifs ?
6.       Les objectifs de rendement du directeur général sont-ils liés au plan stratégique ?
7.       Le comité responsable de l’évaluation du rendement s’est-il entretenu avec le directeur général en cours d’année pour lui donner une rétroaction préliminaire ?
8.       La rémunération du directeur général est-elle équitable par rapport à l’ensemble des employés et a-t-elle fait l’objet d’une analyse comparative avec le marché des organisations afin d’assurer un certain degré de compétitivité ?
9.       Les hausses salariales du directeur général sont-elles uniquement accordées en fonction de l’évaluation de son rendement ?
10.    Est-ce que le Conseil consacre l’attention nécessaire à la succession du directeur général et dispose-t-il d’un processus robuste d’identification d’un nouveau premier dirigeant, tant pour les transitions planifiées que non planifiées ?

 

 

Thème 7 — Planification stratégique 

(Questions destinées au PC et au DG)

 

1.       Votre organisation possède-t-elle un plan stratégique incluant notamment :

·         le contexte dans lequel évoluent la société et les principaux enjeux auxquels elle fait face ?

·         les objectifs et les orientations stratégiques de la société ?

·         les résultats visés au terme de la période couverte par le plan ?

·         les indicateurs de performance utilisés pour mesurer l’atteinte des résultats ?

2.       Le plan stratégique porte-t-il sur une période cohérente avec la mission et l’environnement dans lequel il œuvre ?
3.       La mission, les valeurs et l’énoncé de vision de l’organisation ont-ils été déterminés et réévalués périodiquement ?
4.       Est-ce qu’il y a eu une analyse Forces/faiblesses et opportunités/menaces ?
5.       L’ensemble des parties prenantes de l’organisation a-t-il été consulté notamment au moyen de sondages et d’entrevues, et lors d’un atelier de planification stratégique ?
6.       Les membres ont-ils été engagés dans le processus, notamment par la création d’un comité ad hoc chargé de piloter l’exercice et par des rapports périodiques aux réunions du Conseil ?
7.       Le Conseil évalue-t-il la stratégie proposée, notamment les hypothèses clés, les principaux risques, les ressources nécessaires et les résultats cibles, et s’assure-t-il qu’il traite les questions primordiales telles que l’émergence de la concurrence et l’évolution des préférences des clients ?
8.       Le président du Conseil s’assure-t-il que le plan stratégique soit débattu lors de réunions spéciales et que le Conseil dispose de suffisamment de temps pour être efficace ?
9.       Le Conseil est-il satisfait des plans de la direction pour la mise en œuvre de la stratégie approuvée ?
10.    Le Conseil surveille-t-il la viabilité permanente de la stratégie, et est-elle ajustée, si nécessaire, pour répondre aux évolutions de l’environnement ?

 

 

Thème 8 — Performance et reddition de comptes

 (Questions destinées au Président du comité d’audit ou au PC, au DG et au secrétaire corporatif)

 

1.       S’assure-t-on que les indicateurs de performance utilisés par la direction et présentés au Conseil sont reliés à la stratégie de l’organisation et aux objectifs à atteindre ?
2.       S’assure-t-on que les indicateurs de la performance sont équilibrés entre indicateurs financiers et non financiers, qu’ils comprennent des indicateurs prévisionnels et permettent une comparaison des activités similaires ?
3.       A-t-on une assurance raisonnable de la fiabilité des indicateurs de performance qui sont soumis au Conseil ?
4.       Utilise-t-on des informations de sources externes afin de mieux évaluer la performance de l’organisation ?
5.       Le Conseil et les comités réexaminent-ils régulièrement la pertinence de l’information qu’il reçoit ?
6.       Le Conseil examine-t-il d’un œil critique les informations à fournir aux parties prenantes ?
7.       Le Conseil est-il satisfait du processus de communication de crise de la société et est-il à même de surveiller de près son efficacité si une crise survient ?
8.       Le Conseil est-il satisfait de son implication actuelle dans la communication avec les parties prenantes externes et comprend-il les évolutions susceptibles de l’inciter à modifier son degré de participation ?
9.       Est-ce que la direction transmet suffisamment d’information opérationnelle au Conseil afin que celui-ci puisse bien s’acquitter de ses responsabilités de surveillance ?
10.    Est-ce que le Conseil s’assure que les informations sont fournies aux parties prenantes telles que les organismes réglementaires, les organismes subventionnaires et les partenaires d’affaires ?

 

 

Thème 9 — Gestion des risques

 (Questions destinées au PC et au Président du comité de Gestion des risques ou au Président du comité d’audit)

 

1.       L’organisation a-t-elle une politique de gestion des risques et obtient-elle l’adhésion de l’ensemble des dirigeants et des employés ?
2.       L’organisation a-t-elle identifié et évalué les principaux risques susceptibles de menacer sa réputation, son intégrité, ses programmes et sa pérennité ainsi que les principaux mécanismes d’atténuation ?
3.       L’organisation a-t-elle un plan de gestion de la continuité advenant un sinistre ?
4.       Est-ce que les risques les plus élevés font l’objet de mandats d’audit interne afin de donner un niveau d’assurance suffisant aux membres du Conseil ?
5.       L’organisation se penche-t-elle occasionnellement sur les processus de contrôle des transactions, par exemple l’autorisation des dépenses, l’achat de biens et services, la vérification et l’approbation des factures et des frais de déplacement, l’émission des paiements, etc. ?
6.       Existe-t-il une délégation d’autorité documentée et comprise par tous les intervenants ?
7.       Le Conseil a-t-il convenu avec la direction de l’appétit pour le risque ? (le niveau de risque que l’organisation est prête à assumer)
8.       Le Conseil est-il informé en temps utile lors de la matérialisation d’un risque critique et s’assure-t-il que la direction les gère convenablement ?
9.       S’assure-t-on que la direction entretient une culture qui encourage l’identification et la gestion des risques ?
10.   Le Conseil s’est-il assuré que la direction a pris les mesures nécessaires pour se prémunir des risques émergents, notamment ceux reliés à la cybersécurité et aux cyberattaques ?

 

Thème 10 — Éthique et culture organisationnelle

 (Questions destinées au DG et au PC)

 

1.       Les politiques de votre organisation visant à favoriser l’éthique sont-elles bien connues et appliquées par ses employés, partenaires et bénévoles ?
2.       Le Conseil de votre organisation aborde-t-il régulièrement la question de l’éthique, notamment en recevant des rapports sur les plaintes, les dénonciations ?
3.       Le Conseil et l’équipe de direction de votre organisation participent-ils régulièrement à des activités de formation visant à parfaire leurs connaissances et leurs compétences en matière d’éthique ?
4.       S’assure-t-on que la direction générale est exemplaire et a développé une culture fondée sur des valeurs qui se déclinent dans l’ensemble de l’organisation ?
5.       S’assure-t-on que la direction prend au sérieux les manquements à l’éthique et les gère promptement et de façon cohérente ?
6.       S’assure-t-on que la direction a élaboré un code de conduite efficace auquel elle adhère, et veille à ce que tous les membres du personnel en comprennent la teneur, la pertinence et l’importance ?
7.       S’assure-t-on de l’existence de canaux de communication efficaces (ligne d’alerte téléphonique dédiée, assistance téléphonique, etc.) pour permettre aux membres du personnel et partenaires de signaler les problèmes ?
8.       Le Conseil reconnaît-il l’impact sur la réputation de l’organisation du comportement de ses principaux fournisseurs et autres partenaires ?
9.       Est-ce que le président du Conseil donne le ton au même titre que le DG au niveau des opérations sur la culture organisationnelle au nom de ses croyances, son attitude et ses valeurs ?
10.    Est-ce que l’organisation a la capacité d’intégrer des changements à même ses processus, outils ou comportements dans un délai raisonnable ?

 

 

Annexe

Présentation du schéma conceptuel

 

 

Thème (1) — Structure et fonctionnement du Conseil

Thème (2) — Travail du président du Conseil

Thème (3) — Relation entre le Conseil et le directeur général (direction)

Thème (4) — Structure et travail des comités du Conseil

Thème (5) — Performance du Conseil et de ses comités

Thème (6) — Recrutement, rémunération et évaluation du rendement du directeur général

Thème (7) — Planification stratégique

Thème (8) — Performance et reddition de comptes

Thème (9) — Gestion des risques

Thème (10) — Éthique et culture organisationnelle

Le comité exécutif et le conseil d’administration


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

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

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

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

Qu’en pensez-vous ?

____________________________________________________

 

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

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

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « comité exécutif »

 

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

 

Alan Kershaw

Chair of Regulatory Board

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

 

John Dinner

John T,  Dinner Board Governance Services

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

 

Chuck Molina

Chief Technology Officer at DHI

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

 

Dave Chapman

CHM and CEO of NorthPoint ERM

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

Experienced CEO & Board member of Domestic and European companies.

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

 

Al Errington

Entrepreneur & Governance Advocate

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

 

Emerson Galfo

Consulting CFO/COO / Board Member/Advisor

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

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

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

 

Terry Tormey

President & CEO at Prevention Pharmaceuticals Inc.

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

 

John Baily

Board of Directors at RLI Corp

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

 

Chinyere Nze

Chief Executive Officer

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

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

 

STEPHEN KOSMALSKI

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

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

 

Thomas Brattle « Toby » Gannett

President and CEO at BCR Managment

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

Bonne lecture. ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

The Purpose of the Corporation

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « actionnaires définition »

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

(1) Courriels envoyés par de faux dirigeants ;

(2) Courriels envoyés par de faux vendeurs.

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

Bonne lecture !

 

Implementing Internal Controls in Cyberspace—Old Wine, New Skins

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « contrôle interne et cybersécurité »

 

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

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

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

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

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

Considerations for Public Companies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Endnotes

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

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